Dr Mia Perry's Note on Lira's Symposium (2019)

How can we innovate our practices as individuals and collectives that “walk the walk” as well as “talk the talk”?

Mia Perry, SFA Co-Director – Opening remark

For our third major SFA symposium, we traveled to Lira in Northern Uganda: members from Nigeria, Malawi, Botswana, Swaziland and Glasgow met in Kampala on February 13, 2019 to begin the 8-hour road journey to the vicinity of the ongoing research projects led by the Ugandan hub. This was to be the first international symposium in collective memory to be held in this small town, we were hosted in a beautiful hall at the Brownstone Country Home, built especially for our event. The venue was an apt choice, echoing our idea of sustainability, as it was completely running on solar power, locally inspired architecture with thatched roofs, did not have any unnecessary frills such as air conditioning and offered locally produced food.

We set out this year to establish strategic planning for the network and expand the scope and nature of our partnerships. Along with the academics, administrators and artists of our network, this year our participants included journalists, business people, and farmers from our various international hubs, along with community members, teachers, and district officials from the nearby Apala subcounty, Alebtong district.

In a recent newspaper report, Stephen Buryani provoked me with the following statement: “This is the paradox of plastic: learning about the scale of the problem moved us to act, but the more we push against it, the more it begins to seem just as boundless and intractable as all the other environmental problems we have failed to solve. And it brings us up against the same obstacles: unregulatable business, the globalised world, and our own unsustainable way of life” (2018, The Guardian). This resonates with me intensely, I replace “plastic” with “socio-ecological sustainability,” and feel this sentiment reflects many moments I have had over the past three years of working with the SFA network.

So, I began the symposium this year by foregrounding my awareness and conflict with the unsustainability of my own way of life. As a founder and co-director of this network, I acknowledge the compromises I make on a daily basis — of the times I reach for the convenience of a plastic packet of processed food or a cheap t-shirt, and of the resources (non-renewable natural resources, carbon emissions, inequitable labour) that were expended for us all to meet in Lira this year.

There is no high ground in this work, no clear “right” and “wrong”, “us” and “them” – and perhaps that is why it is so challenging and has such powerful potential. Unlike conceptions of education (I have knowledges and skills that I can share and teach to others), unlike conceptions of biomedical research (there is a medicine can cure this disease), the issues that we are facing and addressing in our work (all of us in different ways) are issues that we are also simultaneously implicated in creating and sustaining. With the briefest of reflection, I can see that we are part of the problem just as we are committed to being part of the solution.

I ask myself and our network how we enact sustainability and equity in our engagements with one another and our work and initiatives. How can we innovate our practices as individuals and collectives that “walk the walk” as well as “talk the talk”? How many plastic bottles would we get through over the course of our meeting, how many air and road miles would we collectively rack up, and of course, as always, who are the beneficiaries of our work? Our third symposium was exciting! Our hubs are gaining capacity, focus, and confidence; our research is taking root and finding pathways to impact; our vision and planning is finding form; and our motivation and commitment to the work we are forging is as vibrant as ever. The next chapter of the SFA is not certain by any means – but uncertainty in our methods of research, as in our communities of practice is what we need to embrace and improvise with in ethical ways if we are to continue to work with innovation and imagination towards sustainable futures.


Impact Story: A Solar Dryer Tent to Support Farmers in Nigeria

The Problem

For the farmers of Adogo, a community in Nigeria’s Mbaya district, sun drying was the only way to preserve produce. Local women would lay fruits and vegetables on the ground to dehydrate them for future use. But sun drying brings problems: it’s weather-dependent, it exposes the food to contaminants like dust and insects, and it’s surprisingly time-consuming, as the women need to guard their produce from scavenging animals, both wild and domestic. In Adogo, where the majority of Benue State’s peppers and tomatoes originate but which has no nearby market or processing industry, the smallholder farmers faced a lose-lose situation: either inefficiently dry their produce in the sun, or sell it at giveaway prices before it rotted. All too often the food went bad, just because the farmers lacked a safe, sanitary, reliable method of preserving their produce.

The Idea

Enter Pricilla Achakpa, a celebrated environmentalist and Executive Director of Women Environmental Programme (WEP) in Nigeria. In 2017, Achakpa was invited to the University of Glasgow for a meeting of Sustainable Futures in Africa (SFA). There she heard a fellow SFA member, Dr. Deepa Pullanikkatil, present on climate change adaptation technologies that were used in a project in Malawi. One technology mentioned by Dr. Pullanikkatil made a particular impression on Achakpa: the Solar Dryer Tent. Here was a simple construction, similar to a greenhouse, that would not only allow produce to be dried quickly, safely and hygienically, but which had already been successfully implemented in Malawi, where it was used to dry fish. Achakpa knew at once that she was on to something that could change lives in rural Nigerian communities like Adogo.

CONSULTATIVEMEETING

Three months later, Achakpa and Pullanikkatil met again, this time at an SFA conference in Nigeria. This time Pullanikkatil brought along a model of a Solar Dryer Tent as well as a how-to construction video. Achakpa brought these to Adogo, where the farmers responded with overwhelming positivity. They recognized a priceless opportunity to stop their produce from rotting, meaning they would be able to dry enough food to last all year, and also to sell preserved goods at fair prices rather than offloading it dirt-cheap before it rotted. With the community whole-heartedly on board, WEP delegated a team to strategize with the villagers in a consultative meeting.

The Project

The people of Adogo committed to providing land for the tent as well as labour, wood, sand, water and cement. WEP would provide the necessary funds as well as bricks, tin roofing sheets, plastic sheets, nets and other materials. To oversee the construction of their tent, the community formed a project Implementation Committee consisting of local masons, carpenters, church leaders, enthusiastic youths and the community head, Zakki, who mobilised people and played a supervisory role.

Carpenters

Construction began in July 2018 and was completed a month later. The result was a tent built 21 feet wide and 32 feet long, with a 2-foot deep foundation. The walls, made of burnt bricks, stand 5 feet high, giving the tent a strong foundation and protecting it from animals, wind and flooding. The wooden pillars bring the height of the tent up to 7 feet, with galvanized aluminium sheets used for roofing. These sheets absorb sunlight, and the heat they generate is retained by hard polythene sheets used as walls, with vents for circulation. Inside the tent are double-decker racks, each 4 feet wide and 22 feet long, covered with polythene and netting on which produce can be left to dry with minimal monitoring from the farmers, freeing them up to tend to other duties.

HANDOVER

The Impact

The community have reported that their produce dries faster in the Solar Dryer Tent than it did outdoors, and that the nutritional properties of the produce are better retained. The Solar Tent Dryer is cost-effective, easy to build (requiring only semi-skilled labour), and suitable for rural areas of Nigeria where subsistence farming is highly concentrated. The widespread use of Solar Dryer Tents would have a huge impact, enhancing the storage of produce during harvests and reducing post-harvest losses, all of which means an increase in the availability of food and a major reduction in food waste.

PEPPER

Safer, healthier, more abundant food for the people of Adogo to consume and sell, and a permanent structure to ensure continued success into the future. It’s easy to see why Zaki Linus Asorzwa, the district head of Adogo, called the Solar Dryer Tent a “momentous milestone for the good of the community” as he expressed his gratitude to WEP for their efforts. But it was not WEP alone that turned the tide in Adogo; it was the result of a collaboration between WEP and the community, as well as a fortuitous meeting between Achakpa and Dr. Pullanikkatil. Thinking back on it, Pullanikkatil says, “It is heartening to know that a simple conversation and meeting through SFA in Glasgow helped transfer this technology to Nigeria and is now helping communities there.”

You can see a short documentary about Adogo’s Solar Dryer Tent here: https://youtu.be/jT4usNwpSkg


Dr Mia Perry | TedX Interview

Dr Mia Perry, SFA Co-Director, is interviewed at  TedX Glasgow about the Sustainable Futures in Africa Network.

At TedX Glasgow the SFA Network brought a snapshot of its work to the event; this includes a public poll which questioned the approach that we take on research sustainability, engaging with the binary choice of ‘Giving v.s. changing your own practice?’ In this interview, Mia discusses the SFA’s work on collaboration across knowledge systems, exemplifying our work as ‘a community member working with an academic’. As SFA is a network focusing on ‘methodologies’, Mia shares how it is important to be able to share what that means in ‘real life terms’ which is at the heart of TedX – world changing ideas made accessible; she described the event as giving her a sense of ‘enthusiasm, motivation, passion and integrity’.

“More and more we realize that if we made good decisions about sustainability here in Glasgow, our colleagues in Africa would have half as many problems to deal with.”


Publication: Modelling of Extension and Dyking-Induced Collapse Faults and Fissures in Rifts

This publication is an output of the research conducted by SFA researchers in Uganda on ‘Understanding the structure, permeability and activity of faults in and around the Rwenzori mountains, Albertine rift system’

Koehn, D., Steiner, A. and Aanyu, K. (2018). Modelling of extension and dyking-induced collapse faults and fissures in rifts. Journal of Structural Geology, 118, pp.21-31.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • This contribution presents modelling of fissures and faults in rifts induced by extension and dyking.
  • Faults nucleate as hybrid shear surfaces and migrate upwards as fissures and downwards as shear fractures.
  • Dyking tends to localize faults on top of dykes and produces narrow vertical collapse structures.
  • Collapse structures are rhomboid blocks that form along conjugate fault sets and move down with normal and reverse sense.
  • The most localized collapse structures develop on top of thin and shallowly intruding dykes.

For more information, you can find the publication by using the DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsg.2018.09.017


Botswana Hub - Publication

The SFA Botswana Hub conducted a trial study titled Unearthing the Dynamics of Human and Wildlife Interactions: The Case of Mmadinare Community in the Central Region of Botswana. From this study a journal paper was extracted and submitted to Wildlife Interactions Journal. It is exciting to announce that finally the paper entitled “Toward Sustainable Conservation and Management of Human-Wildlife Interactions in the Mmadinare Region of Botswana: Villagers’ Perceptions on Challenges and Prospects” has been published and can be accessed from the below link:

HTTPS://DIGITALCOMMONS.USU.EDU/HWI/VOL12/ISS2/8


Unpacking the Imaginary in Literacies of Globality

by Dr Mia Perry 

As global mobility and communications proliferate, ever-increasing exchanges and influences occur across cultures, geographies, politics, and positions. This paper addresses the practice of literacy education in this context, and in particular the nature of engagement across difference and the role of the imaginary in literacies of globality. Grounded in a theorisation of difference and the imaginary in spaces of learning and inquiry, the paper proposes a methodological framework for working across difference that acknowledges and engages with the inevitable but enigmatic resource of often conflicting imaginaries in literacy practices.

Read Here: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/01596306.2018.1515064 

Reference: Perry, M.  (2018) Unpacking the imaginary in literacies of globality. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education,(doi:10.1080/01596306.2018.1515064)


SFA Documentary: Cultural Practices and Perspectives

By Elson Kambalu, Art House Africa

On the 17th January 2018, the Sustainable Futures in Africa hub in Malawi held a workshop on “Exploring the role of Arts in Development Projects” held in Lilongwe at the beautiful Child Legacy International premises.

Helen Todd of Arts and Global Health Center Africa (ArtGlo) introduced the World Café method of participants working together and developing ideas. Sitting in mixed groups of artists, development practitioners and academicians and brainstormed on sustainability topics and how arts can play a role in such work. Elson Kambalu, Lilongwe based artist created the below documentary on some of the work that SFA partners in Malawi do.

For more information about this event, read SFA Malawi’s Research Administrator Stewart Paul‘s reflection on the day here:  https://sustainablefuturesinafrica.com/2018/04/11/art-and-development-walking-hand-in-hand/


SFA Network Seeks New Ways of Managing Elephants

The University of Botswana’s Department of Adult Education led an interdisciplinary team of researchers from the Sustainable Futures in Africa (SFA) Network for a workshop on human-wildlife interactions at the Mmadinare Main Kgotla on August 14, 2018. The Patriot on Sunday, a Botswana national Sunday newspaper, has featured the Sustainable Futures in Africa’s research trial, community event and community partnerships in a recent article discussing wildlife management:

http://www.thepatriot.co.bw/news/item/6003-ub,-sfa-network-seek-new-ways-of-managing-elephants-in-mmadinare.html


Local Knowledge for Environmental Sustainability

By DrTwine Hannington Bananuka, Dr Alex Okot and Dr Mia Perry 

Sustainable Futures in Africa (SFA) hubs in Scotland and Uganda partnered together to publish in The Daily Monitor to celebrate World Environment Day.  The article discusses research conducted by SFA Ugandan hub in partnership with partners ECOaction and the community members of  both Apala and Albertine region.


North-South Research Partnerships Must Break Old Patterns For Real Change

By Dr Mia Perry and Dr Deepa Pullanikkatil

Since the 1940s major world powers like the US, the UK and the United Nations have made moves to spread their scientific, economic, industrial, and human rights progress to countries and regions that are seen as less developed, vulnerable or deprived in one way or another.

And yet from where we stand as individual researchers, with funding and passion to share, we see an unsettling and consistent characteristic of this development history. The global north has experienced a gradual increase of economic strength and environmental protection, through jobs, career development, cheap goods and services.

Meanwhile, the global south has undergone a sustained degradation of autonomy, fertile land, food security and cultural literacies. All this has occurred through an imposition of foreign ideas, materials, ideologies and knowledge systems. That’s why we’re trying to do things differently.

Read a recent publication by Sustainable Futures in Africa’s Co-Directors Dr Mia Perry and Deepa Pullanikkatil in The Conversation on why beating poverty needs partnerships and collaboration – not just money …