Natalie

Natalie

Natalie Topa was working as an urban and regional planner, based in Washington, DC, primarily focused in Transit Oriented Development (TOD), sustainable urban revitalisation and post-disaster recovery planning when she moved to South Sudan to work on post-war town planning and reconstruction in 2005. She then became Sudan Country Director and then East Africa Regional Representative for a large agency. Natalie quickly began to recognise patterns that were common in many of the contexts throughout Africa, especially in drought- and flood-prone dry-land and arid contexts. All countries in the region seemed to suffer from increasingly extreme cycles of weather and climate events. Each year people faced food, water and energy insecurity despite decades of investment. Year after year, donors and NGOs didn’t seem to address root causes of issues that caused the greatest vulnerability that can also lead to instability and conflict. Ms. Topa was seeing strong links between extreme weather events and ecological degradation, including biodiversity loss and soil erosion which undermined livelihoods and community wellbeing. This came with the realisation that extreme events were spurred from ecological degradation as much if not more than climate change at large. Since then, Ms. Topa embarked on a learning journey to build her technical skills to address the challenges she witnessed in the region. Among the courses, Natalie did her first PDC at the Greening the Desert site in Jordan with Tom Kendall, followed by a PDC with Warren Brush at Quail Springs in California, Water Harvesting Earthworks courses with Brad Lancaster and Warren Brush in Arizona, with Geoff Lawton and Glenn Armstrong at Zaytuna farm as well as with David Spicer in Portugal. Natalie has traveled to India three times for courses with Dr. Vandana Shiva and is personally moved by the atrocities of ushering people in to seed slavery. Natalie has since dedicated her life to supporting efforts to heal and restore community agro-ecosystems as a basis of circular bio-economy at the bioregional level. Ms. Topa believes that building systems-based resilience for households, communities and regions can happen by applying design and regenerative thinking to all contexts, including the natural, built, social and economic environments, particularly in this transformative COVID-19 era. The video and article represent Natalie’s efforts to bring restorative thinking and practices to her agency’s work with displacement affected populations.
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