Nature Based Solutions Challenge

In the Nature Based Solutions Challenge, 8 teams have been selected by the jury to implement their Nature-based Solutions project. With mentoring from experts in the field and funding (2500 euro), they have worked on their projects from May untill September 2022. Read more about the teams, their nature-based solutions and the details of this student challenge below!

The challenge

Nature based solutions are actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural or modified ecosystems, that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits. Nature-based solutions are part of the answer to the biggest challenges of the 21st century, being climate change and biodiversity loss. 

In this challenge, student teams from around the world have worked on a nature-based solution in their own local context, addressing climate change mitigation, climate change adaptation and biodiversity restoration, and thereby improving the quality of life. Furthermore, societal and economic impact had to be addressed.

The Teams

Green Armour

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The Green Armour team (The Netherlands) aims towards a more successful ecological integration of wind turbines within the anthropogenic and natural landscape. This project offers the chance to test out the proposed concept of making an existing wind turbine physically greener by adding substrate. Some advantages of regreening wind turbines are that they will become more attractive in the scenery and more locations will have the potential to house wind turbines. Even more, in a world where monoculture dominates the landscape, this biodiversity hub will aid in diversifying nature once again.

B.O.M. (BovenDigoel Organic Mushrooms)

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Team B.O.M. (Indonesia) aims to contribute to a world in which people live side by side with nature. They work on mushroom cultivation; mushrooms can namely grow productively under the protection of the tree canopy. By promoting mushroom cultivation, the team aims to subsitute the consumption of wild game meat with mushrooms, while also benefiting the local economy and protecting the forest.

School Meets The Reef

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Team School Meets The Reefs (Sri Lanka) works on the rehabilitation of coral reefs in the Kayaker Coral cove by building in situ coral nurseries. Furthermore, the team creates awareness within the schools about Nature-Based solutions specific to coastal areas. This approach will make the team contributing both in the short and long run.

Green Dream Team

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The Green Dream Team (The Netherlands) works on a green holistic system which integrates the benefits of blue-green-roofs and vertical farming. The Green Holistic System is meant to support biodiversity, circular and sustainable use of water, and low-impact food provision.



Team Regenerae (Brazil) aims to foster the connections among different actors, in a socio-technical and socio-ecological network, through workshops and the implementation of reference agroforestry modules in different locations in the city of São Francisco de Paula.

Wetlands for Nepal

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Team Wetlands for Nepal works on wetland restoration in Nepal, more specifically on lake Nagdaha in the sub-urban area of Lalitpur district. Nagdaha is facing problems that come with rapid urbanisation including catchment land-use change, pollution, sediment run-off, and lake resources overexploitation. With a focus on biodiversity and water quality, they are currently working on a sediment and nutrient retention pond. The teams’ main objective is to reduce the effects of pollutants, sedimentation, and nutrients runoff on the lake originating from the activities at the stone spout and agricultural land-use in the catchment. The secondary aim is to show the local authorities and community members the advantages of nature based solutions for lake restoration over conventional interventions such as dredging with heavy machinery.

Bees of Hope

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Team Bees of Hope (Uganda) aims to raise awareness about the need to coexist with nature. The team does so by training farmers about apiary management in combination with creation a farmer apiary group. The group is provided with modern bee hives for initial installation in the Mt. Elgon national park.



Team MabelAgric (DR Congo) works on agroforestry on the Plateau des Bateke. The teams hopes to turn the Plateau des Bateke into an economically productive forest. With their Food Forest concept, they aim to improve smallholders resilience thourgh better environmental management and high economic returns.


You cannot register anymore for this challenge. The deadline was April 13 (9.00 AM CET).


The jury will judge the proposed projects based on:

Panel of experts of Wageningen University & Research

  • Tim van Hattum - Program Leader Green Climate Solutions
  • Liesje Mommer – Leading the Wageningen Biodiversity Initiative
  • Cora van Oosten – Landscape Governance & Natural Resources Management Expert
  • Ivo Demmers - Head of Programme Food Security and Valuing Water Program


Thaísa Pessanha (Witteveen+Bos) | Mentor of Green Armour

Thaísa is an architect, urban designer and urban planner, with specialization in solar and wind energy. At the Sustainable Energy Department of Witteveen+Bos, Thaísa has worked in the last 5 years with solar parks, onshore and offshore wind parks and high-voltage infrastructure in projects involving project development and landscape integration, where nature is a starting point. For varied solar parks and high-voltage stations, Thaísa has designed the landscape integration plan where Nature-Inclusive Design (NID) is the key element. She has interest in further exploring NBS at wind parks, seen that this is yet of much requested for wind energy projects due to the large scale on the vertical infrastructure onto the landscape.

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However, it also means that the landscape effects are higher and that nature can here play an important role in the transition between infrastructure and landscape, contributing to nature enhancement and public acceptance towards wind energy. In this topic, Thaísa is supervising a WUR-student who is developing a catalogue of NID-options for onshore wind, solar parks and high voltage infrastructure. A decision making tool for the project developer is also being developed in this study for providing insight on costs, technical & ecological risks and benefits. Thaísa has previously also supervised a group of WUR-students in an ACT-program (Academic Consultancy Training). They have researched the effect of solar panels on soil and crop quality with focus on agrivoltaics (combining solar energy with organic farming).

Thaísa also has interest in the incorporation of nature in the urban environment seen the problem of lack of space and need for multifunctional areas. Thaísa has supervised a WUR-student in a research on options for biodiversity enhancement in cities, which resulted in an inventory of options and in a multi-criteria analysis for the selection of options.

Internally, Thaísa contributed in the creation of the Witteveen+Bos NBS-index, an inventory of several NBS-solutions to be used in projects varying from infrastructure, energy, built and offshore environment. Thaísa also takes part in the Biodiversity Group of the sector Built Environment of Witteveen+Bos, a group focused on sharing knowledge and experience on biodiversity-enhancement in projects. Thaísa has a green-yellow profile, which means she appreciates working in team, brainstorming and creative processes. In this aspect, she likes supervising students in providing solutions for research questions related to sustainable energy, biodiversity and climate adaptation. With this spirit, Thaísa supervised the winning group of the first Urban Greenhouse Challenge at the WUR, having a great experience by guiding and learning with the students.

Dennis Kamperman (Witteveen+Bos) | Mentor of B.O.M.

Dennis is an expert in facilitating integral decision making for both governments and private parties. For supporting integral decision making in projects at the Explorations and Plan Elaboration Department of Witteveen+Bos. Dennis has worked in the last 3 years on Environmental and Social Impact Assessments (ESIAs), Environmental and Social Cost-Benefit Analysis (SCBA) and Value Management (VM). Value management is a value and function-oriented thinking process of how well an organization, project, or product satisfies the needs of stakeholders, considering the impacts, uncertainties and resources required to fulfil these needs. Through an area-based approach, Dennis identifies the needs of different stakeholders, facilitates a process to create design alternatives jointly and evaluates these through a multi-criteria analysis. Dennis has been involved as an expert Value manager in several Value Management studies, including, Re-development of urban areas in the Hague, port and bridge construction projects, waste and drinking water projects and nature restoration projects.

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Dennis graduated as an environmental economist at Wageningen University & Research. Dennis was responsible for the Environmental and Social Cost-Benefit analysis in 2019 to expand the critical waterways in Friesland, The Netherlands. In 2021 he was project leader for an environmental economic feasibility study in Langedijk, the Netherlands, for creating new and expanding old waterways. Recently, he was involved in the Environmental and Social due diligence to expand Sokhna Port in Egypt. Currently, he is working on an environmental and Social Impact Assessment for the expansion of a motorway near the city of Rotterdam. Dennis is very passionate about implementing sustainable, nature enhancing and circular solutions in his work. He is a team player, analytical and a strong communicator. He is fluent in Dutch English and understands German and Spanish.

Within Witteveen+Bos Dennis is leading a NBS workgroup that works with NBS in projects and facilitates the uptake of NBS within the company. Dennis was responsible for the NBS-index, an inventory of several NBS-solutions to be used in projects varying from infrastructure, energy, built and offshore environment. As well as the NBS-factsheets and NBS-QuickScan designed to identify possibilities for NBS in an early stage of the project. Dennis is an ambassador of one of seven Sustainable Design Principles of Witteveen+Bos, called ‘Multifunctional design’. The ‘Multifunctional design' principle encourages searching for multiple functions and a maximum combination of functions which can best be fulfilled with the design. The crux of the matter is to surprise stakeholders with an extra function, and therefore extra added societal value achieved by a relatively small design modification.

Cas Dinjens (Arcadis) | Mentor of School Meets The Reef

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Cas Dinjens is a marine ecologist at Arcadis where he works, among others, on projects that deal with biodiversity and Nature-based solutions. Before his job at Arcadis, he studied aquaculture and marine resource management and forest and nature conservation at the Wageningen University. During his studies his focus was on the ecology marine and terrestrial environment, but he also started to explore a field like Building with Nature. For his theses he went to Kenya to study the effects of coral restoration and he went to Ecuador to study the effects of climate change on lakes.

Tabea Mueller (Arcadis) | Mentor of Green Dream Team


Tabea recently graduated from her MSc Program Environmental Sciences at Wageningen University and has worked as a consultant in Urban Water and Climate Adaptation at Arcadis ever since. She is specialized in the concept of circular economy as well as nature-based solutions and joined the challenge as a mentor. Tabea was born and raised in the city Wuppertal in Germany, where she has experienced issues such as heat stress, droughts and flooding firsthand. These experiences had a lasting impact on her and gave her the motivation to re-think and re-design city-concepts and neighborhoods. Some of her recent projects for Arcadis were focused on flood prevention measures in Rotterdam, blue-green measures against salination for a municipality in Zeeland and writing a whitepaper on nature-based solutions.

Marcel van Dorst (BWZ Engineers) | Mentor of Regenerae

Marcel van Dorst (1967) studied physical geography at the University of Utrecht and tropical civil engineering in Arnhem in The Netherlands. The first seven years of his career Marcel worked for a Dutch consulting company in South America (Brazil, Venezuela, Chili and Bolivia) as soil (land use qualification, geomorphology), water catchment management and spatial planning advisor in the Amazon and Andes region. Back in the Netherlands Marcel worked as consultant at different projects in water safety, water quality, climate adaptation and biodiversity. He is familiar with the use of GIS and database software in his work. He works already seven years for BWZ Engineers.

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BWZ Engineers is focused on the creation of functional, healthy and safe environments. This includes the design and development of both rural and urban areas. Important aspects in our approach are the relationships between people and their environment, water management, nature and ecology, living, working and recreation. Communication and project management are important components of our approach. We take an active role in new developments and innovative projects.

In his free time, Marcel cultivates different trees (e.g., walnuts, chestnuts, pecan, pawpaw) for the establishment of food forests or agroforestry. In general, Marcel is interested in sustainability and particularly in flora and plants.He speaks Dutch, English, Spanish, German and Portuguese.

Jitse Bijlmakers (WSP) | Mentor for Wetlands for Nepal

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Water can be followed as a trail in and next to Jitse’s studies. He spends his hours as physical geographer on water management issues for nature through science and consultancy. He is also engaged in making students enthusiastic about the role of water in ecosystems and the superpowers of data. His fascination lies on the interface of abiotics and biotics, as it is crucial to understand the relation between these two to understand how nature is challenged at present.

Jan Karel Mak (Wageningen Ambassadors) | Mentor of Bees for Hope

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After graduating in 1983 from the former Environmental Hygiene degree programme, Jan Karel Mak worked as an environmental consultant for DHV engineering. Seven years later, he moved to McKinsey & Company, where he was employed as a management consultant. In 1995, he joined the board of Heidemij Advies bv (now Arcadis), an engineering consultancy that specialises in urban development, traffic, environmental and spatial solutions, geo-information, land issues, and road infrastructure. In 1999, he came into contact with Deerns Raadgevende Ingenieurs bv, where he has been a partner and CEO since 2000. Deerns is a consultancy group that specialises in building physics and installation and energy technology with a view to developing technological facilities in the built environment. It currently has a 600-strong workforce spread across the Netherlands, Dubai, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the UK, and the USA.

Esther Wintraecken (WUR) | Mentor of MabeleAgric

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Esther Wintraecken is working as a learning professional and business developer sustainable agriculture at Wageningen Plant Research in Team International. Prior to this position she worked as a country manager of an agricultural consultancy firm in Myanmar focusing on value chain development in various crops and livestock. As a curious and positive minded promotor of learning and development, she gets excited and committed about facilitating growth and development among people, organisations and the wider society.


  • Maxime Eiselin, IUCN NL
  • Heloïse van Houten, Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality
  • Joyce Mbingo, SNV/CRAFT
  • Isabel Mukelabai, WWF Zambia
  • Sebastian Oggema, AECF
  • Marjolein Poelman, Future for Nature Acadamy
  • John Reich, FFAR
  • Wiebe Smit, Clim-Eat
  • Evi Vet, UN-Youth representative on Biodiversity and Food

Jury biographies

Maxime Eiselin

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As an expert in nature-based solutions, Maxime Eiselin pursues his dream of keeping nature healthy by offering green alternatives to grey development scenarios. He joined IUCN NL in 2014 after obtaining his research master’s degree in environmental science.

Maxime is leading the initiatives that use nature-based solutions to address societal challenges in Africa, South America and Asia. He advises on ecosystem management approaches in the design and implementation of climate and development policy.

Next to this, Maxime works on developing green business cases that tackle the impacts and consequences of climate change. He combines this work with impact monitoring for various programs using innovative digital technologies.

Maxime sees nature conservation as a multidisciplinary effort. He engages with organisations to bridge research, policy and practice gaps on nature-based solutions, while making sure that the best possible trade-offs are achieved for people and nature.

Heloïse van Houten

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Heloïse van Houten is a policy officer at the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality of the Netherlands and works at the intersection of climate and biodiversity policy. She is part of the Dutch delegation to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, negotiating the topics related to nature and biodiversity, and is also involved in the negotiations on climate issues in the context of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Joyce Mbingo

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Joyce Mbingo is a Climate Smart Agriculture advocate, agronomist and soil scientist, offering over 10+ years’ diverse experience on the interplay of climate change and sustainable development with applications to Agricultural Value Chain projects. She has practical experience in climate change and risks advisory and impact delivery, natural resources management, resilient agriculture, agribusiness management, change in behavior norms through trainings, development of modes of learning, communication and policy planning and practice. She is a versatile science-oriented agricultural professional with a passion for systems-based decision-making, emphasizing and promoting the use of innovative technology at the farm level to enable and empower different actors to advance their agribusiness and sustainable service delivery to the farmers.

Isabel Mukelabai

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With over 18 years of experience working in the NGO sector, Isabel currently serves as chief conservation officer for WWF Zambia. She is also a serving Board director for the Zambia Environmental Agency- ZEMA. She possesses a wealth of experience in programme management and policy advocacy across the NGO sector in Zambia having worked for both local and international NGOs that include World Vision Zambia, Children International, Diakonia Zambia, CSPR, CTPD and waterAid. She holds a BA in Public administration from the university of Zambia, advanced certificate from UNISA in rural development.

Sebastian Oggema


Sebastian joined The AECF from the SNV Netherlands Development Organisation where he served as Kenya Country Program Manager for the Euro 36 million Climate resilient Agribusiness for Tomorrow (CRAFT) programme. Prior to this position, Sebastian worked with various international development organizations including Research Triangle International, World Relief Canada and ACDI/VOCA. He has completed short term and long-term assignments in the US, Southern, West and North Africa, and Asia. He firmly believes that a combination of innovation forms and market system approaches is the key to sustained economic growth – with an eye on purposeful private and public investment in agriculture.

Marjolein Poelman

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Marjolein Poelman has been a part of the Future for Nature Academy since 2016. For the last couple of years, she has been active as an alumni member. She studied biology at the Wageningen University and has explored various fields of expertise during her studies, ranging from policy and ecology to Building with Nature. The interface between nature and society has grasped her attention, including areas such as biomimicry and Nature Based Solutions. Currently, she is working as an ecological consultant and researcher at Antea Group. In this job, she deals with, among others, projects on biodiversity and nature-inclusive design and living environments.

John Reich

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John Reich joined the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) in February 2016, as a Scientific Program Director. John joined FFAR because he strongly believes that advancements in agriculture will be key to maintaining our quality of life, and that the right investments at opportune moments will provide us with the necessary tools to overcome future challenges in agriculture. At FFAR, John works on building partnerships between the public and private sectors that targets pre-competitive research to advance agriculture science including FFAR’s first multi-stakeholder consortium, the Crops of the Future, creating a model for FFAR consortia, and his most recently announced consortium, the Precision Indoor Plants Collaborative. John continuously works on developing partnerships and programs that catalyze new areas of research and build on current investments to benefit the public.

Trained as a biomedical scientist, John applies his background in genetics, molecular biology, and biochemistry to a broad range of topics that support food security, health, and economic opportunities through scientific advancement.

Wiebe Smit

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As Program and Policy Specialist, Wiebe works on the institutional development of Clim-Eat as an organization, and leads Clim-Eat’s efforts towards key global platforms such as the UN’s Climate COP. Previously, Wiebe worked as Program Management Officer for the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) with experiences in programme development and management, policy engagement, and administration. He studied the Master International Development at Wageningen University & Research, with a specialization in Sociology of Development and Change, and is passionate about climate change and development challenges in Africa. He has served as Co-Convener of the Enabling Environment Action Group of The Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture (GACSA) and worked for the NWO (Dutch Research Council)'s WOTRO Science for Global Development department.

Evi Vet

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Evi Vet is the Dutch UN-Youth representative for biodiversity and food. This means she discusses all kinds of things related to food systems and biodiversity with the youth from the Netherlands. They tell her about their ideas, visions, plans, and concerns about the future, and she translates this to the policymakers, the private sector, and the United Nations. She was present at the Food Systems Summit in 2021 and will join the Convention on Biological Diversity this year in Kunming, China.

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Implementation Partners

The Implementation Partners provide mentorship, sponsorship and workshops for teams in the Nature Based Solutions Challenge.

Supporting Partners

The below partners are involved in jury duties and overall support through their networks.

Youth Network Partners

Involving and preparing the next generation is a core task of WUR throughout its history. In the past years WUR has organized several youth engagement activities to incorporate the voice of a diverse international group of young aspirational young people. WUR is pleased to partner with the below Youth Networks in this challenge.


To spark your creativity, we have collected some useful and interesting resources on nature-based solutions. They include many inspiring examples.