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Development Works Here with Brian App

| 3 Minute Read
Environment and Natural Resources | Combatting Environmental Crimes | Environmental and Climate Risk Management | Biodiversity Conservation and Natural Resource Management | Water and Sustainable Cities | Water Security, Sanitation, and Hygiene | Natural Climate Solutions
Development works here because great people work here. We’re excited to introduce you to our team.

We’d like you to meet Brian App! Brian is a natural resource management specialist with nearly 20 years of experience working in the environmental sector. From flipping through the pages of National Geographic to building more water-secure communities in Africa, he shares some of the highlights of his development journey. Brian is one reason #DevelopmentWorksHere.

1. Can you tell us about your background in natural resources management and what draws you to development work?

I came to development work because of an interest in the environment and wildlife. Growing up on Long Island, New York, we did not have much in the way of wildlife, but I was always fascinated by Africa’s megafauna and was an avid reader of National Geographic magazine, which gave me a window into some of the work that I’m engaged in now. At the time, I wouldn’t have imagined that I would eventually be combatting wildlife crime in southern Africa. When I went to college, I studied business. It was only after graduation and meeting my wife that we decided to join the Peace Corps, which set the direction my life has taken since.

After working for the Peace Corps as an agroforestry volunteer in Cameroon, I completed my master’s degree in international natural resource management from the School of Forestry at the University of Montana. I then joined Chemonics, where I’ve worked in various roles, including two stints as a deputy chief of party – once for an agricultural program in Ghana and once for a Botswana-based regional environmental program, which increased access to safe drinking water and protected the Okavango River Basin’s ecosystem.

Brian App and project partners standing next to chartered plane
Brian (left) and project staff on the Southern Africa Regional Environmental Program charter a plane to visit remote communities in the Cubango-Okavango River Basin.

I am now a director for Chemonics’ East and Southern Africa regional business unit focusing on the environmental sector. My portfolio includes a regional watershed management program and a regional combatting wildlife crime program, both based out of South Africa. Looking at the work itself, I find it not only satisfying that I can contribute to wildlife conservation, while supporting nearby communities, but also interesting to travel and to meet and live among people from other places. I get to see things that many people only dream about seeing.

" ... [We] need to support and guide development to make it more sustainable so that it has the greatest impact on the people and systems we’re working with."

Brian App

2. What makes you believe that development works?

“Development” is an interesting term. Development is happening everywhere, but we need to support and guide development to make it more sustainable so that it has the greatest impact on the people and systems we’re working with. My experience has undeniably shown that we can do this. I proudly witnessed, for example, the first time village members turned on clean, running water in their community. I have also seen governments dedicate protected area status to sensitive areas for which we had developed requisite management plans. In these and other cases, we worked hand in hand with governments, partners, and communities to make their efforts more efficient and impactful.

It is the timing of our work that is, perhaps, the more critical aspect. The difference, for example, between developing and implementing a management plan now — with assistance from our programs — or later without that assistance could be that there are no longer resources and wildlife to conserve in the “later” scenario.

Brian App in a field speaking team members
Brian (right) discusses the encroachment of invasive species with community members while conducting a biodiversity survey in southern Ethiopia.

3. What has been the highlight of your development journey so far?

From a personal perspective, living with my wife and two small daughters in Botswana for more than four years has been the highlight. The opportunity to expose our daughters to different cultures, languages, people, and perspectives — not to mention visiting the nearby wildlife parks — was an amazing and unique experience.

The moment when the magnitude and importance of development work hit me, however, was when I was visiting a small community in northern Botswana to see the sanitation work we were doing together. While touring several compounds — where people were proud to show us the new latrines and handwashing stations they had built — a woman approached me. She explained that, before working with the program, members of her village did not know why their children would sometimes die, but now they knew why and could do something to prevent it. This moment is one that I often think about, and it always reminds me of the importance of the work we do and the impact it can have.

Brian App standing on a river crossing comprised of logs
Brian makes use of a river crossing during a conservancy visit in Namibia’s Zambezi Province.

A professional headshot of Brian App.

About Brian App

Brian App is an international natural resource management specialist with over 20 years of experience working in the climate and environmental sectors. Brian currently serves as a Senior Climate Services Director in Chemonics’ Climate Group where he helps identify and better understand climate risks and opportunities to improve climate integration into programs and proposals across…