A Critical Resource for Ethical International Partnerships

A Critical Resource for Ethical International Partnerships

When we start a new project with partners in a different context, it is never truly a “new start.” Historically it has been experts from the Global North who have studied and interpreted the South. This means that international research partnerships are inevitably imbued with power relations and possibly the assumption that it is northern knowledge that will lead transformations of in the South. Without a clear recognition of that context, it is inevitable that existing inequities, injustices, and imbalances of knowledge and power, will continue to pervade our work.

We designed this resource to help make explicit the practices and dynamics that underpin partnerships, to support the development of more equitable working relations.

Download the resource >

A Call for Funding in Botswana

By Goitsemang Mmeko

In 2017, the Botswana SFA Hub explored the issue of human-wildlife interaction in the Mmadinare area in Botswana. The study was titled Unearthing the Dynamics of Human and Wildlife Interactions: The Case of Mmadinare Community in the Central Region of Botswana. Human-wildlife interaction is a topical issue that affects the development of grassroots livelihood, the tourism industry, food production and wildlife management. In this study, the hub explored human-wildlife conflict between the Mmadinare community and the elephant rampages that destroy crops and equipment in the ploughing fields. The findings of the study revealed the significant need for Sustainable Community Partnership in addressing human-wildlife conflict in Mmadinare. Therefore, a stakeholder dissemination workshop was held in Mmadinare on 14 August 2018 with the aim of creating sustainable partnerships to address socio-economic issues, such as human-wildlife conflict.

From the local community’s perspective, an educational game park was the best strategy to tackle the problem of human-wildlife conflict. While this idea may sound feasible, it requires a lot of resources, including an in-depth needs assessment involving experts on the environment, wildlife and natural resources as well as education. Since sufficient funds are not available, the idea was halted.

Then, on 22 March 2019, The SFA Botswana research team revisited the community of Mmadinare to look into the community assets that are unexploited and can be used to help alleviate the effects of the challenges posed by wildlife on the community’s livelihoods. The following community assets and resources were identified:

• Lehokojwe and Makome hills
• Matlotla-historic monuments/buildings
• Eco-lodge
• Fish hatchery unit
• Leased land/plots
• Letsibogo Dam
• Dikgathong Dam

To maximize the use of these assets to benefit the residents, community asset training would be ideal in order to help locals learn how to best utilize their resources and assets for their own benefit (income, job creation, etc.). However, although a plan has been arrived at to create a reserve in the area, the lack of funds remains a major constraint. The team would welcome assistance from any donor or friend of the SFA Network.


The Life of an Artisanal Miner

By Grace Awosanmi

Artisanal and small scale mining (ASM) accounts for more than 90% of solid mining in Nigeria. The sector is informal and serves as a means of livelihood for more than 2 million people in Nigeria, including women and children. There has been a recent upsurge in workers in this sector as a result of unemployment and poverty. Artisanal miners are uneducated and unskilled, with no legal permit or qualification to work in the mines. They employ crude methods, using local or household implements for mineral exploration. For their daily sustenance, artisanal miners depend on the minerals they find, such as gold, tourmaline, silver, tin, dolomite, emerald, topaz, columbite etc.

The cool breeze brushed my face as I approached an open shed to wait for one or two miners to speak with. It was almost sunset and most miners were returning to their homes. I observed several bag-packs hung on the wall, the bare floor littered with debris and long benches that serve as beds for the miners. Then I noticed Abubakar Mamuda, a 29-year-old artisanal miner from Kebbi State in the Northern part of Nigeria, sitting on a slab of one of the stores in the market. Speaking his local dialect, I greeted him: ‘Ina wuni, yaya aiki,' and he replied, ‘lafia.’ We further exchanged pleasantries as I enquired  and chatted with him about his activities as a miner.

Below, in his own words (minimally edited for clarity), is what he told me:

I had been a farmer all my life before I ventured into mining about 6 years ago. I stay with five other miners in a room rented for us by our Oga [meaning boss]. I leave the room at 6 a.m and it takes me about 25 minutes to trek to the farmland where I work. On getting there, I change into my working clothes, which l always leave at the site. I start digging and keep digging for at least four hours, after which I pack up the soils I have dug up to wash in the river. If I notice any gold deposit in the soil as I wash it, I go back to dig some more. But if the soil is washed and there is no gold deposit, I move to another spot to start the digging process all over again. Since we are into illegal mining, we go into farmlands within the community unlawfully to dig for gold deposits. Whoever is caught by the landowners is charged and sentenced to days, months or years in prison unless help comes from a dealer who’s willing to bail him out.

Before now, miners used to pay a fee of ₦200 to enter anywhere in the town to mine, but that has been cancelled. However, when we find a mineral deposit without getting caught, we inform our Ogas. Then the Ogas look for the owners of the land and buy it off them. Wherever land is bought from the owners, we are hired to sample the land for gold deposits. We are paid enough to feed us for each day of work: an average of $2.86 per miner. I have many Ogas. I was paid ₦200,000 when I found a gold deposit some time ago.

Life as a miner is full of risks and very challenging. A single mistake can end the life of a miner and those of his colleagues at the site; for example there could be a sudden fall of pits as we dig, and other times it could just be part of the pit caving in and causing serious injuries to some part of our bodies. We have lost many miners as a result of this.

There’s no rest for me; rest comes when I sleep in the night. The motto here is ‘until you get money, no rest’. I only rest when I go for lunch since I don’t take breakfast.

Sometimes I don’t go home but sleep on the bare ground at the farmland when l have a lot to do. Some of us spend days and nights on the sites while using burning wood to scare away animals at night. The last time I saw my family was a year ago.

I am not at work today because I am not feeling good.

As we interacted further, many of his friends came around to contribute to our discussion. I realised that it was getting late and I had to be on my way home. But before leaving, I asked if I could take a picture of Abubakar and his friends who had just returned from work. It was then that I noticed Abubakar’s swollen feet and a sore on one of his toes.

‘I have been carrying this wound around for the past three months,’ he lamented.  He remarked that he had no money to go to the Community Health Centre for treatment. It wasn’t part of my assignment, but I couldn’t just leave him the way I met him. I offered to pay for his treatment, which he accepted joyfully. We made our way slowly to the Health Centre, where he commenced treatment after the payment of his bill. I then headed home knowing that he was in safe hands.

The story of Abubakar reflects the lives of over 2 million artisanal miners in various mining communities in Nigeria. Interventions on health and safety issues will be the key to help save people like Abubakar from danger and untimely death.


Reporting on: Future Experiences | Glasgow School of Art (Expert Day 2)

By Vanessa Duclos, Research Manager of the SFA Network

Today (Nov 7th, 2019) was the second opportunity for the emerging designers to engage with the experts in Sustainable Development & the Global South. For more information about the project itself, please read this post.
The students presented the concept scenario they had developed as a team, as well as their individual direction which is a specific aspect of the future world they have created. These individual parts will lead to the design of distinct, imaginative and interrelated products, services and experiences. While designing, the students must keep in mind who they are designing for – future workers/future citizens – with consideration for how Sustainable Development work might evolve to enable/afford/alter the dynamics of people, process and practice in the Global South.

As most of them have never travelled to a destination in the Global South, they largely rely on the experts’ lived-experiences to grasp the reality of those living in developing countries. I was pleased to realise that as the emerging designers broaden their research and interact/interview the experts, they also start integrating what working across difference means, that there is more than often no “right” or “wrong”, “bad” or “good”, “them” and “us”, which are too easy and simplistic labels used to describe the disparity between the North and the South. I notice that they all felt more comfortable exploring the grey zone between both worlds where ideas and concepts can emerge, instead of stagnating in a criticism loop. While they learn from our experience, we also greatly learn from their creativity, flexibility, and open-mindedness which are skills that requires time and exposure to develop but which seem to be well built-in and natural for this group.


Impact Story from Nigeria: Policymakers Engagement on Artisanal Gold Mining

By Grace Idowu Awosanmi and Deepa Pullanikkatil

Dr Sola Ajayi, a Professor of Agricultural Science in Ile-Ife, Nigeria, got interested in agriculture through his experiences and observations growing up in a farming community. He is now the Director of the Nigerian hub of the Sustainable Futures in Africa (SFA) Network, a global network comprising members from the United Kingdom, Nigeria, Uganda, Malawi and Botswana. “Being auniversity teacher and a Professor of Agriculture gave me the desire to understand communities in a holistic manner,” says Ajayi. “I look at the issue of community development more than just that of agriculture because I know that the development of communities is a result of so many interwoven factors. This was my attraction for joining SFA.”

Since 2014, Ajayi has been researching the nexus between artisanal gold mining and agriculture. He has conducted several field visits and partnered with other universities (notably Goethe University in Germany and Murdoch University in Australia) on issues relating to mining, community relationships and social engagement. So at the inaugural SFA meeting in Botswana in 2016, where hub countries were offered seed grants and asked to come up with projects, Ajayi presented the idea of ‘Prioritizing developmental needs in agrarian and mining communities’. The research question was: What is the priority for artisanal mining communities in the face of limited resources? A variety of methods were used by Ajayi and his interdisciplinary team, which included Prof. Akande from Adult Literacy and Lifelong Education and Prof. Torimiro from Agricultural Sociology.

Ajayi recalls, “As we progressed, there came an escalation in the problem of artisanal mining per se, which also extended to both my immediate environment at Ile-Ife and to the community where I was born. The issue of artisanal mining in Nigeria spiralled to become a security issue that was also threatening the social fabric of communities where these issues were taking place. Therefore we decided to narrow it down and then look at it in context.”

Prof Sola Ajayi meeting with youth

Mining in Itagunmodi

About a year after the start of the SFA project, the government of Nigeria came up with the idea of changing its developmental paradigm to focus on agriculture and mining. They wanted to reduce the dependence of the Nigerian economy on oil, targeting other aspects of the economy instead. This prompted the SFA team to ask, “If the government considers mining and agriculture to hold the key to economic diversification, why are the communities where these activities take place poor?”

Their interest in this question led them to the village of Igbojaye, located in Oyo State.  The community is strategically located within a strongly traditional institutional environment. Itagunmodi is less than 20 km from Ile-Ife, which is regarded as the source/origin of the Yoruba race. However, with the rise of mining and the influx of migrants it brought to the area, the Itagunmodi Kabiyesi (king) had been displaced and had to leave the community. The Yorubas are predominantly farmers, traders and learned people. Therefore, migrants from the north of the country came for the jobs, displacing the original members of the community. Two in every three occupants of the community is a migrant Northerner who does not speak the local language. Prof Ajayi recalls an instance in Itagunmodi when the Jumat prayer was spoken in the migrants’ language. “The migrants were no longer learning the native language. Rather the few natives that were there were learning the language of the migrant miners. We also saw a shift in the kinds of business activities, in the kinds of food in circulation, culture and even the music played on the street. All these no longer reflected the culture of the people.” It was alarming to the locals that Itagunmodi was now being taken over by people of another tribe, and it was seen which was now a major security concern.

As tensions rose in Itagunmodi, Prof. Ajayi spoke with various concerned parties, including the Honourable Commissioner for Environment and Community Leaders and Traditional Rulers, the Deputy Governor of the State and the Chief of Staff of the State. The Chief of Staff was very glad that the SFA team had come to provide research-based perspectives and to draw the government’s attention to the issue, and eventually some of the information they provided led to the convening of a security meeting.

Ajayi also spoke to the Commissioner of Police for Osun State, who was not aware of the security implication nor that the situation had degenerated so much. The Commissioner later informed Ajayi that there would be a Security Summit, which was widely covered in the national dailies. Ajayi also spoke to a very significant and influential indigenous personality, who is presently the Director-General of the National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (and was previously Nigeria’s ambassador to Australia), whom he had met during a research project collaboration. This led to the SFA group being put in charge of mining-related issues for the Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

At that time, the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission, a group tasked with the sustainable development of the predominantly Yoruba-speaking southwest region, asked the SFA hub to prepare a presentation that would inform the policy of the commission on the issue of mining and artisanal mining. Ajayi is happy that through SFA, he has been able for the first time to engage with policy makers and provide empirical evidence that can form the opinions and positions of both government and traditional institutions. He says, The goal of the project is not just research. The way I understand it, research is not an end in SFA, research is a means to an end and the end is the development of the community. We want to facilitate development not just as an academic exercise but as a daily experiential activity. So research is only a component of it to the extent that it serves to provide solutions, understanding and index analysis that will bring out solutions to problems. The development will involve members of the community, whether they are natives or migrants. Everyone that lives, everyone that transacts, everyone that has a stake in the community is a stakeholder so they need to be actively engaged. It will involve regulatory authorities, government authorities, traditional institutions and the people. It is important to engage people since the facilitation of development is something that can not be done alone.”


Reporting on: Future Experiences | Glasgow School of Art (Expert Day 1)

By Vanessa Duclos, lead Research Administrator of the SFA Network
David Gerow, SFA Intern and PhD student

This fall, the Sustainable Futures in Africa Network is collaborating with the Glasgow School of Art’s (GSA) Innovation School. Over the semester, the 4th year product design students will work on a project on the theme of “Future Experiences: Sustainable Development & the Global South”. During this 8-week project, the cohort will investigate future forms and functions of sustainable development work in relation to the Global South, ultimately developing a future scenario and designing the artefacts, services and experiences associated with it 10 years from now.

Today, contemporary product design is not only an industrial or production-focused occupation; rather, it is becoming an epistemological practice, which explores the future, generates new knowledge and formulates hypotheses about how people may live or work in the years to come. Whether they are designing an artefact, service or experience, it is fundamental for a designer to know how to understand what drives people, what their needs are and why.

Dr Mia Perry worked with Dr Kirsty Ross, lecturer at the GSA and final year coordinator, to build the structure of this project. Over the last couple of weeks, the students split into seven groups worked together to conduct research in the domains of Health, Energy, Mobility, Economies, Education, Societal Structures and Environment. Each of these domains was examined through various lenses: Social, Technological, Economic, Ethical, Educational, Values, Political, Legal and Ecological. Then, based on this research, the students mapped societal shifts and identified emerging themes or scenarios.

This morning, the students shared their initial future scenarios with “the experts”: academics and professionals working within the field of sustainable development in the Global South, and members of the SFA Network. By sharing their work, the students had the opportunity to validate certain aspects of their research, as well as the chance to ask technical questions and benefit from the experts’ real-world experiences to further shape their scenarios/designs. The team of experts will meet with the cohort of emerging designers throughout the duration of the project, which will culminate later this year in an exhibition of the designed future artefacts, services and experiences.

I was happy to be in the expert cohort, along with my University of Glasgow colleagues: Stewart Paul, Anthony Kadoma, Prof Jude Robinson, Dr Raihana Ferdous, Dr Neil Burnside, Prof James Conroy, and SFA Network partners Prof Sola Ajayi (First-Tech University, Ibadan), Andrew Vincent (Classrooms for Malawi and Nu Blvck), Diarmuid O’Neill (DFID), Prof Jo Sharp (University of St Andrews) and Dr Christian Micha Ehret (McGill University).

The initial research presented by the student groups was impressive both for its accuracy and for how it pin-pointed challenges related to sustainable development work. The students were genuinely interested in learning more about lived experiences and described how being exposed to this topic – and to the SFA Network by extension – had changed their perspectives on their roles as designers (progressing towards a more participatory approach with clients). I am certain that the expert team is also looking forward to the next experts input day, November 7th. It was a refreshing, inspiring, positive and thought-provoking experience for all, and a promising start to a successful collaboration.


Population, Health and Environment Nexus: Discussions at Mbando Village

By Bosco Chinkonda, Deepa Pullanikkatil, Helen Todd, Boyson Moyo and Stewart Paul

The environment has been degraded and the population is growing at higher rate. Because of high birthrates leading to high population growth, resources are depleted and people have no option but to go cut trees and burn charcoal up the hill.” These were the words of Chief Mbando at our meeting in Mbando village in April this year.

Chief Mbando had quite simply articulated the links between population growth, competition for resources and their impacts, including environmental degradation. On 9 April 2019, seated under a mango tree, about 35 people from Mbando village talked with visitors from the Sustainable Futures in Africa (SFA) network about the nexus of “Population, Health and Environment” (PHE) by focusing on a micro level: their village.

Discussion under a tree in Mbando village on the Population, Health and Environment nexus

The discussions were facilitated by Art and Global Health Center Africa (ArtGlo), a non-governmental organization which harnesses the power of the arts to nurture creative leadership and ignite bold conversations and actions in many sectors, including health. Here in Mbando, they used music and drama to provoke conservations. They were introduced to the community of Mbando community by Abundance, a small non-profit that has been working in this village since 2016. Both Abundance and ArtGlo are members of Sustainable Futures in Africa (SFA), an international network which believes in a multidisciplinary and integrated approach to development. Abundance has taken and advocated for an integrated approach to development. However, developmental and environmental projects have historically taken a sectoral approach, without integrating key aspects that shape the lives of the communities the projects aim to serve. Through the PHE discussion at Mbando village, many insights were revealed on the deeper relationships between population, health and environment.

The population of Malawi has grown from 4 million in 1964 (when it attained independence from the British) to almost 19 million in 2017. The villagers of Mbando understand that some of the challenges they face stem from high population growth. “We are facing challenges because of high fertility rates. This has contributed to environmental degradation,” says Chief Mbando. When Abundance began working in Mbando in 2016, there were 95 households. “Today, hardly three years later, there are 105 households in the village,” said Moses Phulusa, Abundance’s Community Coordinator in Mbando. Family planning initiatives are present in the community, but there is high resistance to uptake, especially among the men, due to societal expectations and religious beliefs.

With increased population, the available farmland is shrinking, which the community observes is leading to food shortages and nutritional challenges. In addition to increasing pressure on land due to large numbers of people, the village faces extreme weather events. The community mentioned the recent Cyclone Idai and the heavy rains that followed, which caused many rice and maize fields to be flooded. Mbando village is near the shores of Lake Chilwa, Malawi’s second largest lake. “Lake Chilwa has been drying because in the past years we have got less rainfall. But still there is nothing good over there. Even catches of fish are very rare. Only a few species are available,” said a resident. “This is leading to malnutrition. As you know, there are proteins in fish,” said another resident. ArtGlo encouraged Mbando villagers to act out the challenges they face; some of the acts highlighted that Lake Chilwa is silting, a problem the community attributed to poor farming practices and deforestation.

Malawi’s deforestation trends are worrying: a rate of 33,000 hectares of forest lost per year. Chief Mbando pointed towards the Chikala hills, which border Mbando village. Due to unemployment and the lack of livelihood options, residents are resorting to making charcoal to eke out a living. “In the Chikala hills, trees are being depleted due to charcoal burning activities as a livelihood means. Times are so desperate that women are also burning charcoal.

Dramas were then performed to depict what the future might look like. ArtGlo facilitators pointed to a young child and provoked discussions about how the environment and human development status would be when that child is an adult. The participants said that there would be a strain on the public resources such as medicine in the nearby health facilities due to the large population increase. Others said Mbando would be a community without herbal medicine due to high levels of deforestation (many herbal medicines came from forests). They also pointed out that it is always the most vulnerable members of the community who are affected the most, such as the elderly. Some feared they would be abused due to the scramble for land – attributed to deforestation. They predicted high levels of deviance and crime due to increased population and a lack of resources for economic functions, which could cause increased conflicts. “The habitats of animals would be depleted”, said another participant.

The same community that listed the challenges were asked to create solutions and act them out in drama performances. Solutions included sensitizing the youth about these issues, starting in primary school. Two people who were part of this meeting were from a local drama group and took the lead to create dramatic performances to create awareness amongst the youth. “The adults in the community, they have experienced the better times and could be an inspiration for the younger ones to take initiative. Chiefs hold the authority over the community and can lead some of the initiatives,” said participants. They recognized the need for various sectors and players to work together to achieve greater synergy and be able to address the interconnections between the sectors. They also said that there is need for frequent community gatherings, as engaging the community to come up with solutions is the way forward. “Coming together regularly to discuss issues such as deforestation, drought and population growth would help the village recognize the urgency of solutions as simple as tree planting”, said one participant. “Even in terms of family planning, you could see that men were opposing it. So if men took part in family planning initiatives, population growth could be put in check”, said another participant. Ultimately, the key message that came out of this meeting was that Population, Health and Environment have many links and that all stakeholders need to engage in discussions and cooperate in an integrated manner.

The meeting ended with a brainstorming exercise, where the villagers listed NGOs that implement projects in their village. They included Safe, an NGO which built the Community Based Child Care Centre and engages the Chief and elderly on projects; the Family Planning Association of Malawi, which works with youth clubs on family planning and Sexual and Reproductive Health; the One Acre Fund, which works on reforestation; Goal Malawi, which works on reforestation and family planning; and Abundance, which works in a variety of areas including education, literacy, trainings, skills development, support for health services and environmental conservation. It was agreed that these institutions need to work together so as not to duplicate efforts and to facilitate greater synergy. This is the essence of the SFA network too: greater engagement with and within communities, working together for the greater good and locally driven solutions for a greater understanding of the complex nature of community development and sustainability.

To view Chanco TV – Malawi on the Rise coverage of the event, click here.


Personal Reflections on SFA Co-Director's Visit to Malawi

by Stewart Paul

The SFA Malawi hub was honored to be accorded a visit by the Network’s co-director, Dr. Deepa Pullanikkatil in April this year (2019). From Lilongwe to Mzuzu, back to Lilongwe and then Zomba and finally Machinga. It was a fulfilling and exciting journey. This visit couldn’t possibly come at a more opportune time, as our hub was named to host the next SFA Symposium in 2020. Aside from facilitating development of several grant proposals, Dr. Pullanikkatil substantially led the development of a photo essay on public spaces as well as the introduction of the SFA Network to diverse key and potential new partners and members. This piece reflects on the fruitfulness of this visit by highlighting the major achievements accomplished. You can watch a short documentary of our journey here.

Lilongwe

Deepa’s engagement with us started with our visit to UNICEF Malawi head offices in Lilongwe. This meeting was set up to brief UNICEF about our Network, both local and international, among others. In the end we made new connections with 8 UNICEF staff members working in various disciplines. Further e-mail communications led to SFA Malawi hub linking up with the Drone head at UNICEF which we hope will engender a collaboration on SFA Malawi hub’s upcoming Drone Project entitled Placing Communities at the Heart of Humanitarian and Environmental Drone Use: Issues, Challenges and Opportunities”. Funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), the project has many collaborator institutions and organizations such as Abundance Worldwide (NGO), the University of Glasgow (UK), UNICEF’s GIS and Remote Sensing Center, Malawi Civil Aviation Authority and Malawi Department of Surveys.

Next was a 2-day workshop on grant proposal writing which was held at Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR), where the Hub is based. During the activity, three proposals were developed, to be submitted shortly. This was followed by a presentation on a recent paper (about the tree Faidherbia albida)written by Deepa and the Hub director Dr Boyson Moyo. Students and staff from LUANAR attended the seminar.

Mzuzu

We had a different programme for the Northern part of Malawi. First, we held meetings with Mzuzu University and University of Livingstonia (UNILIA). At UNILIA we met with the Vice Chancellor, and they showed interest to join the SFA network. We also met with Moses Mkandawire, director of Church and Society which is a governance desk for the Synod of Livingstonia of the CCAP Church. The goal of these meetings revolved around introducing the Network to these institutions and personally inviting them to join the Network. Our engagements in the “green city” of Mzuzu further involved one of our Hub members, Elson Kambalu, of Art House Africa. His project was to take photos for an essay on Public Spaces, which together with outcomes from discussions with users of such spaces will soon be published.

A final activity was a visit to Chintheche on the beautiful sandy shores of Lake Malawi. More documentation of public spaces was done. Most importantly, Dr Pullanikkatil and Dr Moyo made final edits on the Faidherbia albida paper which was submitted for publication later that day.

Meeting with University of Livingstonia top Management (Vice Chancellor, Registrar)
Group photo after SFA Malawi hub’s meeting with Mzuzu University

Zomba

Upon arrival in Zomba we headed to Sunbird Kuchawe for a dinner meeting with the mission director for USAID in Malawi. This happened to be a very successful encounter as we held discussions on a wide range of topics. We found a contact for a staff member of USAID working on drones and hopefully should be very valuable in our future endeavours. Dr Moyo agreed to have an audience or give a talk to the head of USAID Agriculture section and his team. Our Public spaces photo sessions extended to Zomba Botanic Garden which was created to promote agricultural enterprise by displaying an experimental area for newly introduced plants. Since the DC for Zomba was engaged with other pressing matters, we delivered our letter of introduction to his office. The final engagement in Zomba was a meeting with LEAD who explained their projects, including one with University of Southampton on drones.

SFA Malawi team visiting ArtGlo’s offices in Zomba

Machinga

The climax of our journey across Malawi was our visit to Mbando village to explore the Population Health and Environment (PHE) nexus within the community. Using role plays and facilitated discussions, we were able to capture informative feedback from the community and ArtGlo has produced a report on this. Chanco TV covered the event and two documentaries were later beamed on their TV station.

SFA members later visited the E-Learning centre that was established by Abundance with funds raised through Global Giving. Relying entirely on solar energy, the centre has 8 laptop computers that are connected to the offline learning resources through a device called Rachel. A video link to a documentary about the centre is available here. We also met with Machinga District commissioner. At the end of our fruitful meeting, an opportunity arose to extend the drone project to the human-wildlife interactions at Liwonde National Park and surrounding communities. Consequently, the DC invited SFA to present their projects and updates at the District Executive Committee (DEC) meeting.


Learning for Sustainability: University-Community Nexus

By Anthony Kadoma, Research Administrator of the Ugandan hub; Reagan Kandole, ECOaction; and David Gerow

On 13 April, 2019, members of SFA’s Uganda hub jointed staff and students from Makerere University’s Department of Adult and Community Education for an environmental education field study tour. Two lecturers and 90 students participated along with SFA members Joseph Watuleke, Kevin Aanyu, Kellen Aganyira, Richard Kagolobya and Anthony Kadoma. The idea of the hub members collaborating with the university staff grew out of a monthly meeting held on 19 March.

The team visited three different but related innovation sites: ECOaction, an SFA partner in Uganda; United Innovations Development Centre (UIDC), a leading innovation and waste incubation centre in Kireka, a suburb of Kampala; and finally, Sezibwa, an eco-tourism site in the district of Mukono, Central Uganda.

The field study was guided by, but not limited to the following objectives:

  • To learn and appreciate innovative ways of turning waste into a resource;
  • To understand the ecotourism activities promoted at Sezibwa conservation area;
  • To explore the relationship between innovative conservation projects and their adjacent communities;
  • To generate ways of achieving environmental, economic and social sustainability in the areas visited;
  • To identify opportunities for recruiting new members to the SFA network

During this field study, observations were made by the SFA members, and interviews were conducted with key organization staff to learn more about what they did and the impact of their activities on the environment and on neighboring communities. Data was collected by taking photographs and short video recordings, especially during presentations. At the end of the tour, all 90 students filled out evaluation forms and handed them to the SFA team. This data will be analysed and will inform future actions and relationships with the visited organizations.

SFA believes in and promotes a multidisciplinary approach, and this field study offered the team a range of options on how to interact with different community members in various settings. Of interest was the presence of cultural healing sites at Sezibwa, where patients from different parts of the region came for prayers and healing. The waste incubation centre offered insights on how agricultural waste could be used to produce eco-friendly products such as briquettes, paper bags and envelopes. Beyond their environmental benefits, these innovations created employment for the youth and the neighboring communities, thus contributing to poverty reduction. The idea of exposing students to local environmental concerns when they are about to graduate university is important because it not only prepares them to become ambassadors of sustainable development in their respective communities, but it also challenges them to think critically and practice more sustainable and innovative ways of dealing with environmental waste.

For instance, in his address to the team, ECOaction’s founder, Mr. Kandole Reagan, painted a mind-opening, artistic picture, likening irresponsibly dumped plastics to “vomit” from excessive intake. This is a spot-on description: “vomit” consists only of what has been consumed! Who on earth ever liked their own vomit, let alone somebody else’s, except perhaps a dog? Logically speaking, why should we let the environment choke on our vomit?

At both ECOaction and at United Innovations Development Centre, an economic perspective was encouraged; the emphasis was on looking beyond waste. The economic value that lies in or beyond environmental waste can create an intrinsic motivation for preserving and conserving the physical environment while reducing poverty and unemployment through reusing, recycling and upcycling waste for economic benefits. What these organizations offer are innovative methods of environmental sustainability. Meanwhile, Sezibwa Eco-Tourism focuses more on conserving the natural green environment and cultural practices that ensure responsible use of natural resources such as tree spices, rocks, birds and water bodies, among other things. The students, lecturers and SFA members benefitted from visiting each of these sites, which demonstrate practical, innovative methods of sustainability.


“Development”: Rethinking an Overused Word

By Dr Mia Perry, Dr Deepa Pullanikkatil and David Gerow

“Development” is one of the most overused words in any language, often reflecting progress, aspiration and something that ought to happen. But is there consensus on what development really means? Thirty-eight members of Sustainable Futures in Africa (SFA) discussed this question during an eight-hour bus journey from Entebbe to Lira, Uganda in February 2019. We were in Uganda for the third annual symposium of SFA, an interdisciplinary network across the UK and Africa that aims to build understanding, research, and practice in socio-ecological sustainability in Africa. This word cloud was made from the keywords that emerged in our discussion.

Word Cloud: keywords used by members discussing “development”

The word “development” originated in the 16th century from the Old French développer and/or desveloper, meaning “unroll”, “unfold”, “unveil”. It is no longer used in this sense, and it has acquired many definitions in modern usage.

One of the earliest definitions was given in 1978 by the French economist François Perroux. He defined development[1] as “the combination of mental and social changes among the population which decides to increase its real and global products, cumulatively and in a sustainable manner.” In A New Concept of Development (1983), Perroux argued that development “represents a dramatic growth of awareness, a promise, a matter of survival”, and he identified its root as personal development – “the freedom of persons fulfilling their potential in the context of the values to which they subscribe and which they experience in their actions”. His understanding of development places importance on the role of human/cultural values in progress, either economic or otherwise.

The words “growth” and “development” have often been used interchangeably in economic discussion. Some might say that development is positive growth. Members of SFA mentioned “growth”, “growing”, “steady-growth”, “positive”, “positive action”, “positive change”, and “positive transformation” when they discussed the word “development”.

A wider definition related to social, economic and political changes in society was put forth by scholars such as Todarro (1981) and Tayebwa (1992), who discussed development as a multi-dimensional process beyond economic development, economic welfare or material wellbeing that includes improvements in economic, social and political aspects of a whole society, such as its security, culture, social activities and political institutions.

Participation and Equity

This people-centred approach to development has been promoted by many organizations, such as the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), where local people participate in their development process. SFA members seem to agree on the participatory and people-centred aspects of “development”. Such keywords emerged as “Community-specific”, “Collaboration”, “Community-owned”, “Teamwork”, “People-driven”, “People-managed”, “Capacity development”, “People-focused”, “Co-developed”, “Participatory”, “People-driven”, “Bottom-up”, “Working together”, “Stakeholder-driven”, “Homegrown” and “Community-driven”. Members felt that development should be “Culturally appropriate”. They also mentioned that “Cultural hegemony” – the dominance of one social group over another – must not be part of development. In the same vein, the words “Equality”, “Equity”, “Common good”, “Diversity” and “Inclusive” were mentioned, implying that development must be just and fair. As well, the politics of a country has profound implications on development and it is important to understand the political drivers behind development. This aspect was evoked by some members who mentioned “Good governance”, “Political will”, “Ownership” and “Government-owned”.

SFA members during the journey to Lira, Uganda

Quality of life and sustainability

Tackling inequity is a development goal on its own and it may ell start with poverty reduction, the focus of most development agencies. Members mentioned “Wellbeing”, “Improve life”, “Needs-based”, “Basic needs”, “Livelihoods enhancement”, “Better way of life”, “Quality of life”, “Improving lifestyles”, “Decent livelihood” and “Empowerment”. To achieve improvements in human well-being, the natural environment is key as it provides the necessary resources. We have realised that development which exploits the environment is wreaking havoc on the planet and we need to find a balance between growth and environmental sustainability. Development must take place alongside caring for the environment and in this light, “Environmentally sustainable”, “Balanced” and “Resource use” were mentioned by members.

 Capacity strengthening and positive change

Innovation, learning and knowledge-sharing are key enablers of development. Members mentioned “Share knowledge”, “Innovation”, “Mindset change”, “Innovative practices” and “Capacity development”. But acquired knowledge and skills are not the only important things; the softer aspects also matter. In Amartya Sen’s highly acclaimed Development as Freedom (1999), he argues that human development is about the expansion of citizens’ capabilities. For Sen, freedom means increasing citizens’ opportunities and access to things they have reason to value. SFA members identified “Freedom”, “Aspired transformation”, “Transformation”, “Positive transformation”, “Self-Actualization”, “Satisfaction”, “Peace” and “Happiness” as aspects of development that they valued, all of which are worthwhile goals for development.

The SFA team about to board the buses at Makerere University to travel to Lira

The majority of the definitions of “development” have come from economists and politicians. SFA is a multi-disciplinary network and believes that “development” is a multi-layered word and can mean different things in different contexts. Defining this word using a narrow economic lens or implying that increased consumption equals development has led the world to unsustainable exploitation that threatens the planet itself.

There are numerous definitions of the word “development” and SFA does not aim to add another to the pile. However, we would like to stress that when we use this word, we do not presume that any worldview or culture is superior to another or that all countries should follow a set pattern or have common indicators of “development”. Instead, we like to think that development must be defined by communities themselves, and each country, each community and each person may define it differently. Ultimately, development has to lead to a better outcome for the globe, humans and the environment. It ought to reduce poverty, reduce inequities, be culturally appropriate and community specific, nurture nature, and be owned by and relevant to people and place. Let us rethink the word “development” in order to enhance the well-being, freedom, peace and happiness of each and every one of us and the planet as a whole.


[1] 1978, L’équilibre des unités passives et l’équilibration générale des unités actives”, Economie Appliquee.