The University of Eswatini will host the new SFA Eswatini hub

By Dr Sizwe Mabasa, Hub Director of the Eswatini hub

The Department of Geography, Environmental Science and Planning (GEP), that is hosting the SFA Eswatini hub is under the Faculty of Science and Engineering of the University of Eswatini (Formerly the University of Swaziland). The University consist of three campuses, namely; Kwaluseni Campus (Faculties of Education, Humanities, Science and Engineering, and Social Sciences), Luyengo Campus (Faculties of Agriculture and Consumer Sciences) and Mbabane Campus (Faculty of Health Sciences).

The GEP Department strives to be a centre of academic excellence in both theory and application pertaining to in economic, urban and development geography, geo-information science, environmental social science, natural resource management, geomorphology and climate change. Its mission is to build a sound foundation for geography teaching in schools and to provide expertise, practical solutions and insight in the areas of land-use, spatial planning and the management of environmental resources through the spectrum of effective teaching, research, consultancy and community outreach.

Research in the department is founded on applying sound interdisciplinary principles and methodologically diverse scientific approaches relevant to both the natural and social sciences, in order to address key geographical and environmental questions. Much of our research has an applied and policy relevant focus applicable to a developing country context. With regards to the areas of focus, specific departmental research focus areas of the hugely diverse team include (but not exhaustive): urbanization and settlement patterns, agricultural geography, sustainability and food security, human and social geography, socio-economic analysis and surveys, climate science/modelling, climate change (adaptation and mitigation), land use and land cover change, environmental and spatial modelling, natural hazards and disasters, pure and applied wetland geomorphology (rehabilitation and management), soil erosion and land degradation (and appropriate rehabilitation),  soil/land and water resources management, drainage basin studies, waste management.


Embracing the new normal

By Professor Oitshepile MmaB Modise, Director of the SFA Botswana Hub

Covid-19’s greatest lesson is that it has taught us that we are all one, humanity interdependent by all means practical. We are more aware of common things that bind us together irrespective of our nationalities. We feel for each other, care for each other and wish all good life. This togetherness can be likened though at a macro level to SFA family, an international network of researchers, practitioners and communities of practice which has brought together people from different educational and geographic regions. Though to a greater extent virtual, Covid-19 has propelled the need to think together, think of each other and has driven concerted international commitment to seek solutions to combat the disease. Countries of the world have realised more than ever before that they need each other to win the war against this disease.

The network did not suffer adverse effects because sooner than later, members came to the party and acclimatised to the new normal in an encouraging manner. SFA Botswana Hub has been equally affected by corona and its offshoots like lockdown. However, with members’ determination to keep together, we quickly established a WhatsApp group for ease of communication in addition to our usual e-mail. By the first week of lockdown, it was apparent that there was fear, uncertainty and a feeling of loneliness and sharing our experiences eased these emotions. All could not help but feel the pressure of Covid-19, we talked about it, shared our fears and supported each other. We sooner realised that work has to continue under our new normal. The team continued the normal business such as looking for grant applications and other opportunities for growth coming along with this pandemic. Creating time for work at home with family members around became a source of support and where necessary flexibility was exercised on work-hours based on home circumstances.

Our ‘new normal’, (referring to emerging and new ways of adapting to life forced on us by the Corona Virus) is working away from official premises using internet, for example, communicating to each other online and through phone calls. Practical steps to create a new normal such as ensuring internet connectivity and securing devices that will facilitate our work were taken. This proved to work for the Hub as we continued to share information and communicate with our administrator and the larger network. The current circumstances also enabled us to think outside the box. We became aware of the fact that some areas of Botswana are not benefiting from the government information dissemination channels like television, newspaper and some cannot even afford to buy a radio. These people get very little or no reliable information about Covid-19. The Hub then thought it would be prudent to initiate the process of securing support for community lifelong learning radios as crisis tools for disseminating and providing education during a time of crisis as well instil lifelong learning principles especially on issues that affect communities. We were able to successfully create a new relationships with colleagues in the Health Sciences and Engineering departments of the University of Botswana. This was meant to facilitate successful implementation of the Rapid Response to Covid 19 project recently submitted to the SFC-GCRF internal scheme at the University of Glasgow. Unfortunately, this application was not successful. Nevertheless, these new connections for the Hub was a great step because the two departments have expressed interest in working with us in the future. We also saw our team members exercise their creative capacity in sharing the Covid-19 message with the Network through art. Finally, while home online connectivity can be a challenge, access has made coping better. We experienced a model of coordinating activities that ensured resilience in the Network.


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.


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.


A 'short and sweet' visit to the SFA Hub, Kampala

By Molly Gilmour, SFA Administrator, Glasgow

From the 14th to 17th May, Sustainable Futures in Africa Principal Investigator Dr Mia Perry and Sustainable Futures in Africa  (SFA) Glasgow Hub Administrator Molly Gilmour traveled to Kampala, Uganda for what can only be described as the definition of a ‘short and sweet´ meeting.

Tuesday 15th May 2018: Makerere University

On May 14th Mia and I arrived to the University Guest house where we stayed during our visit. Arriving at almost midnight, we could still see the buzz of the city – people sharing meals by the road, small traders bustling around the city’s streets, a city that felt inviting, warm and friendly.

We spent the morning having coffee with Alex and Anthony, SFA Hub Coordinator and Administrator respectfully, when we then walked to the College of Education and External Studies. It was fantastic to see where my counterpart, whom I work so closely with, spends his 9-5. After having the privilege to meet many of the respective Makerere University Deans and Heads of School, we embarked on a SFA Uganda hub meeting. At this meeting  we caught up with network plans which have developed, especially those that were made during the recent meeting at the University of Glasgow – which our Ugandan partners were unfortunately unable to attend due to (what I would describe as draconian) UK Immigration authorities. We looked back at recent events in order to look forward; how can the SFA network develop - concerning research as we ask ‘how can we develop methodologies through arts based practices’, and ‘how can we ensure the core coordination of this network continues’, as it was evident through our short visit how imperative SFA Administrator Anthony is to our Ugandan colleagues.

That afternoon SFA spoke at the weekly lunchtime seminar. It was attended by both students and academic staff from across the college. PI Dr Mia Perry spoke about the SFA Network and shared a presentation about the methodologies created and used by SFA. This had a fantastic impact on the attendees, as PhD students enquired as to how they could undertake a PhD placement with the network, and the Dean of Education outlining that he will introduce the SFA ‘Reporting Back Method’ to the Board of Directors  for the Makerere University Graduate School.

Wednesday 16th May: ECOaction

One of the highlights for me - So many serendipitous moments, uncomfortable moments, moments of realisation … dancing and laughing moments...

Walking through the slum-like-squatted area of Kampala, the smell of burning plastics and the dust being kicked up by school aged kids reminded me of my former missions with Save the Children and Médecins Sans Frontières; Something I wasn’t expecting which brought both a sense of familiarity and discomfort. Yet, arriving to the bright, warm and safe space which is ECOaction, and hearing the music, seeing the dancing, I felt right at home! Reagan welcomed us wholeheartedly as we arrived; Mia, Anthony, Alex, Vincent, Richard and I.  Reagan, as accurately reflected in his projects, is an energetic, warm and a colourful character.

Sitting in a room, one constructed by the community of recycled bottles, Reagan facilitated an introduction to SFA, SFA’s partners and introductions were conducted around this room. We met with Nilotika Cultral Ensemble, who performed for SFA partners alongside the community’s youth. Nilotika Cultural Ensemble shared their experiences of working with Western Organisations, and one member shared the challenges he endured during his previous partnerships with a quote ‘I am asked to sign at the expense of my culture’, that the financial stipulations by Western funding bodies allow for little/no autonomy for African partners. Being in this space as a University of Glasgow representative, an institution who have historically wholeheartedly embodied these extractive partnerships, I was faced with discomfort, but also the realisation that these partnerships must change: That there is a lot of work to do in building both trust and real relationships. There were countless examples of these damaged power relations throughout the three day visit which I experienced, and will continue to reflect and learn from.

The evening was spent conducting ‘strategic planning’ with key stakeholders at ECOaction. More will be shared come on this in the coming months!

Thursday 17th May: 32 Degrees East

Another cool, colourful and creative space in Kampala, SFA Partner 32 Degrees East is a multi-purpose resource centre including hosting artist in residence, meeting centres and art studios. Mia and Is final day, Thursday, was spent on future planning. What future research projects is SFA going to undertake next? What funding is best suited? What partners will be involved? Anthony and I, the SFA Glasgow and Uganda research administrators, created communications strategies and Impact toolkits for the research hubs.

Mia and I finished the day sitting by Victoria Lake with Richard, Alex, Twine, Reagan and Arnold conducting ‘Knowledge Exchange’ on ‘how to take the perfect selfie’


Panel Event: Moving towards a new approach to development-related research

From the 26th to the 28th March 2018 the Sustainable Futures in Africa Hub Coordinators and Administrators from Scotland, Malawi, Nigeria and Botswana met at the University of Glasgow.

The following items were on the agenda:

  1. Successes and Challenges of running the administration/infrastructure of the SFA Network Hubs
  2. Open Panel Presentation at the University of Glasgow
  3. Harmonization of Administrative Structures of the Network
  4. Strategic Needs and Direction for the Network

For more information you can read the report: Report SFA Hub Coordinators and Administrator Meeting April 2018

Glasgow Workshop
SFA Hub Coordinators and Administrators, University of Glasgow April 2018

 


Panel presentation

Sustainable Futures in Africa: Moving towards a new approach to development-related research

The Sustainable Futures in Africa (SFA) Network brings together researchers, practitioners, and communities from the Global North and Global South in one platform for learning, partnerships, and new approaches to research and development. Network hub coordinators from Malawi, Nigeria, Uganda, and Botswana join us for a panel discussion on the evolving practices of the SFA. In particular, the presentations and discussion will revolve around the challenges and possibilities of working across differences of discipline, sector, and geography. We promise a lively discussion, open to many perspectives, contexts, and questions.


Scotland-Malawi Partnership: Further and Higher Education Forum

On Wednesday 20th September the Scotland Malawi Partner’s Further and Higher Education Forum met at the Edinburgh City Chambers. Here Dr Mia Perry shared the work that The Sustainable Futures in Africa Network is doing in Malawi including how both academics and NGOs from Malawi form part of this Network that is building capacity, infrastructure and research in socio-ecological sustainability in Africa. Dr Perry also represented colleagues from the University of Glasgow and shared information relating to MALBOP: Malawi – Biology of Parasitology, a interdisciplinary team based at the Institute of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation at the University of Glasgow. Their synergy arises from open flow of information and ideas, from high quality of training, and from close involvement in research communities in both the developed North and the developing South.‌

Dr Mia Perry presenting the Sustainable Futures in Africa Network

Attendees Included:

Dr Perry described the event: “An interesting group of experienced scholars, practitioners, and stakeholders with long ties and connections, both personally and professionally in most cases, with Malawi. The delegates on this occasion were primarily rooted in health sciences, and discussion was largely focused on contributing aid, equipment, programme development to Malawi. Little conversation or project content related to a reciprocal relationship, except for that of cultural and historical ties. In contrast to many international development related networks, the historical and cultural connections of Scotland and Malawi are palpable in this community”

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KBg06kOiHrE

For more information about the Scotland Malawi Partnership, visit: https://www.scotland-malawipartnership.org/

For more information about our partner Abundance, in Malawi - http://abundanceworldwide.weebly.com/malawi.html.

For more information about MALBOP: http://www.gla.ac.uk/researchinstitutes/iii/wtcmp/wellcometrustcentreforglobalhealthresearch/


Sustainable Futures in Africa Network Botswana Symposium

Building Connections: Sustainable Futures in Africa

Research Symposium

Department of Adult Education, University of Botswana

27th and 28th March

From March 27-29 2017 the University of Glasgow in partnership with the University of Botswana hosted the inaugural symposium of the Sustainable Futures in Africa Network in Gaborone. This document summarizes the inaugural meeting of this newly emerging Network and documents the plans of action and commitments that arose.

The symposium welcomed the founding members of the network from Nigeria, Uganda, Botswana, Malawi, and the UK. We include academics, environmental activists, artists, and administrators. The symposium was designed to develop our relationships with one another, our knowledge and understanding of each other's contexts, and our collective plans of action. This was tackled through a two day event that included panel presentations, workshops, discussions, and social activities.

DOWNLOAD: For further information, download the SFA Post Botswana Publication.


Building Connections: Community-Based Environmental Sustainability in Southern Africa

On the 15 and 16 of December 2016 an International Symposium was hosted at the University of Glasgow, funded by the ESRC.  Building Connections: Community-Based Environmental Sustainability in Southern Africa. The event was organised and run by the University of Glasgow scholars, Dr. Mia Perry (School of Education), and Prof. Deborah Dixon of (Geographical and Earth Sciences), and aimed at fostering research collaboration and knowledge-exchange across disciplines and between institutions based in Scotland, Wales, Malawi, and Botswana. Invited participants included Dr. Boyson Moyo (agronomist, Malawi), Prof. Rebecca Lekoko (community and adult education, Botswana), Dr. Olekae Thakadu (environmental management, Botswana), Dr. Deepa Pullanikkatil (environmental management, Malawi), as well as Elson Kambalu (artist and film maker from Lilongwe, Malawi). The UK based institutions were represented by Dr. Marc Welsh (remediation and resilience in Malawi, Aberystwyth University), and the University of Glasgow academics, including Dr. Neil Burnside (interdisciplinary geoscientist), Dr. Alan Britton (environmental education), Dr Carlos Galan Diaz (research impact), Dr. Margaret Smith (multidisciplinary agro-chemist), Dr. Ian Watson (applied physicist) and Kasia Uflewska (cultural sociologist and Ketso intern).

The Symposium opened with remarks by Prof. Mike Osborne, Director of Research for the School of Education, University of Glasgow, and was introduced by Dr. Mia Perry and Prof. Deborah Dixon. The activities, aimed at knowledge-sharing and presentations, commenced with a panel discussion addressing the environmental challenges in Southern Africa, and were followed by a briefing on funding opportunities for global challenges. The subsequent afternoon workshops focused on issues related to the community engagement, arts and public pedagogies, geographical and Earth sciences, as well as the research methodologies. The first day closed up with heated discussions on the challenges and opportunities for cross cultural, and cross discipline research in Southern African environmental sustainability, as well as on affordances and challenges of interdisciplinary research among academics, politicians and community members.

The second day of the Symposium commenced with introductions by Prof. John Briggs, (Professor of Geography, Vice-Principal for the University, and Clerk of Senate) and aimed at formalising ideas, and forming potential partnerships. The diverse ideas, perspectives, and interest areas were explored holistically and creatively through an employment of an engagement toolkit, Ketso. A brief Ketso introductory workshop was conducted by Kasia Uflewska to support participants in carrying out an extensive Ketso afternoon session aimed at formulating final ideas, collaborations and partnerships. The Symposium concluded with a formulation of actionable plans, including groundwork-planning, bid writing, and potential research collaborations.