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’


Art and Development walking hand in hand

by Stewart Paul

I was fortunate to be amongst those who helped organize and participate at the workshop on “Exploring the role of Arts in Development Projects” held in Lilongwe at the beautiful Child Legacy International premises on 17th of January this year. As part of the Sustainable Futures in Africa (SFA) network, this workshop was amongst the many activities done in Uganda, Malawi, Botswana and Nigeria where SFA members are based. For Malawi, I felt it was high time that artists and development practitioners work together on sustainability issues. This will help them to think out-of-the-box and come up with new and creative ideas to solve sustainability challenges. As part of Abundance, I attended the workshop with Abundance’s Director, Ruth Mumba and felt that it was very well organized and participants appreciated this endeavor. Initially, we had no clue what the workshop outcomes would be as it was such a novel concept. But after the workshop ended and when we reflected on it, we have realized that it was indeed an enriching experience.

Elson Kambalu, a visual artist who is also a film-maker introduced the workshop and talked about the need for artists and other partners in the development sector to work together and he explained his plan to produce a documentary of the workshop for the next SFA meeting which was to be held in Lagos, Nigeria. The ice-breaker session was interesting and Sharon Kalima got the participants to play games and get to know each other. I had a chance to present about the SFA network and share some views from the SFA meeting I attended in Botswana last year.

Helen Todd of Arts and Global Health Center Africa (ArtGlo) introduced the World Café method of participants working together and developing ideas. We all sat in mixed groups of artists, development practitioners and academicians and brainstormed on sustainability topics and how arts can play a role in such work. Some of the ideas that emanated were that Government should incorporate arts into basic education, introduce more art trainings and provide funds to artists. Organizations must include art through engaging creativity of artists into development projects, we felt.

One challenge discussed was that of how art could solve ecological and social challenges Malawi faces. Solutions aired by participants were many including composing traffic jingles for civic education, imparting knowledge through art on cultural heritage and importance of ecological sites, documenting cultural art and disseminating it through libraries, etc. Overall, participants agreed that artists must be included right from inception of any project, after all art is close to people and people can relate to art. We must promote arts as a platform for discussion of development issues. Local songs, dramas and creative messages can help advocate for sustainability issues such as promotion of renewable energy.

Ruth Mumba got a chance to present about Abundance’s work and Helen Todd presented about how ArtGlo had successfully incorporated art into development projects in Malawi. The participants were treated to a tour of the Child Legacy International premises which is a sustainably-built center. On our way back to our homes, we all felt that we made new friends and learnt a lot. I hope this is just a starting point and a lot of projects can be generated from the ideas generated from this workshop.


After Lagos: Reflections and New Horizons in the SFA

The line between the personal and the professional is one that is more defined for some than others - what we feel versus what we think, what we love versus what we do. The line between the past and future is also held (in the present moment) differently from person to person. For some, the present is contingent on the past, seen through the eyes of, and felt through the experiences of, the past. For others, the present is made up of what is seen around you now; and is a stance that is looking towards the future, able to see it best if looking directly at it, with one’s back to the past. As I reflect on my work in international contexts, with development and sustainability related projects and partners, and in particular with my colleagues across the Sustainable Futures in Africa Network over the past weeks and years, I realise that those lines between personal and professional, and between past and future, become ever harder to make out, ever more slippery. My personal, my history and inheritance, my instincts and emotions, my profession and my expertise seem entirely entangled. It is with this recognition that I share the following statement, taken in part from an opening address to our recent symposium, and in part from a period of reflection in the immediate aftermath.

Read more


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.


This January, SFA ran a Community Awareness event in Kampala, Uganda, to develop a deeper understanding of the impact of plastic waste on the environment and community life.
UG1
In the recent years, Kampala, the capital city of Uganda, has witnessed an alarming growth of waste that equals to 730,000 tons a day, of which only 1% is currently recycled. SFA researchers from Makerere University and representatives of the Ugandan Art Trusts met the local community in Banda, Kampala city, to find possible solutions to plastic waste disposal through the art and culture practical tools. This event was hosted by EcoAction, a non-government organisation led by Reagan Kandole, an eco-artist and lecturer at Kyambogo University.
The participants gathered in the community space, designed out of plastic bottles, to find the answer to the question on how cultural practices can help to address the problem of waste disposal. The community members came out with some sketches on waste management, followed by the group discussion facilitated by the SFA researchers from the Makerere University.
At the end of the workshop, the community came up with various solutions on waste utilisation that we would be happy to share shortly.

ecoAction

EcoAction works in the field of waste management and environmental problems that threaten the health and quality of li
fe of the communities in the region for many years.  One example of a recent project delivered by EcoAction involved the local community in the creation of a mural aimed at educating community members about different recycling practices.  For more information, please visit the EcoAction website.

TRENDS2017 | Between Cities and the Rural: The Role of Universities in Developing our Societies

Reflection on Conference Attendance

Conference Name:          TRENDS2017

Location & Date:              Pretoria, South Africa – October 17-19 2017

Paper Presented:             A Cross-disciplinary Approach to Locating Human Wildlife Interaction in the Mmadinare Region of Botswana

Authors:                              Modise OM. Lekoko RN , Thakadu O & Mpotokwane M.; University of Botswana

Presenters:                         Profs. Modise & Lekoko

TRENDS2017 marked the 14th year of PASCAL International conference and the first to be held in South Africa. The theme of the conference was Between Cities and the Rural: The Role of Universities in Developing our Societies. Team Botswana was particularly attracted to the conferences strands that weaved around important areas of (i) the role of nation state versus the global economic power (ii) Cities would be like countries with global power and (iii) Rethinking the role of universities. The theme of interest for the Botswana team was the third strand because it wanted participants to dialogue about and gauge the present and future responsibilities of universities in collaborating with communities to address community or national development. Botswana’s paper on human-wildlife interactions fitted well in this strand calling universities to team up with communities to address local challenges using traditional community approaches such as Kgotla and story-telling thus connecting ‘with the old and modern African tradition’, as was one main theme of the conference. Proceedings were thus tailored to take a form of everyday life consultation and dialogue as used in “the Kgotla or Lekgotla in Botswana and South Africa”(TRENDS2017).  To this respect, our paper was able to bring unique practical perspectives on the importance of using traditional indigenous community practices in dealing with human-wildlife conflict.

The paper we presented was enlightening, shedding light on how universities can make themselves valued by the communities. Like the Sustainable Futures Network, the Pascal 2017 Pretoria Statement stated that “Pascal’s Learning City Network must be sustained in order to provide a platform for inter-cultural, inter-disciplinary and international exchange between cities/regions”.  It unpacked how worldwide perspectives generated through research in universities could be prolifically applied on local possibilities. This we believe echoes the sentiments expressed by the Sustainable Futures Network.

 Our paper attracted constructive feedback:

Suggestions for improvement

Explore in detailed elephants migration routes

  • Correlation analysis and comparison with experiences elsewhere may add value
  • A broader geographical sampling (within Botswana) may be considered to allow comparison
  • Construct a robust sampling of study site
  • Collect more publicly available data e.g. through informal discussion of the villagers.

Commendation

  • The use of familiar and non-traditional research techniques like community forum (Kgotla) and story-telling
  • Cultural sensitivity of respecting community leaders (Dikgosi & elders) as principal investigators
  • Approaching the study with an interdisciplinary/multidisciplinary mind-set and respect for community members
  • Robust data selection and analysis to bring out what conflict meant for the villagers
  • Presenting the interviews with more authority from the voices of community members

With all these comments our study will continue to improve and advance into a more holistic exploration of this challenge of human-wildlife conflict.

The Research Team in Botswana would like to appreciate the support and thank Mia Perry (coordinator of University Court of University of Glasgow - Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) for this opportunity to present at TRENDS2017 conference, which in our opinion is a giant step on a journey to Building Connections for Sustainable Futures in Africa.

The comments given will be taken into consideration as the research advances.

For more information please visit: http://pascalobservatory.org/ & http://cradall.org/resources/links/pascal-international-observatory

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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/


Reproductive Health at Mbando Village: Dispelling Myths

Making informed choices regarding reproductive health is something that is taken for granted in developed countries with good access to health services. This is often not the case in developing countries, and particularly so at Mbando village which is located by the shores of Lake Chilwa, in Machinga District, southern Malawi. Being one of the poorest countries in the world, Malawi faces a number of challenges, including poor access to reproductive health services and inadequate awareness. Mbando is a small village with 95 households consisting of mostly subsistence farmers and fishermen. It is vulnerable due to being prone to droughts and having few livelihood options. However, there is a vibrant youth community at the village. They have organized themselves into a club called “Wonderful Youth Club”. Being concerned about the high number of teenage pregnancies and many misconceptions regarding reproductive health, this club requested Abundance to hold a training session to discuss sexual and reproductive health.

Stewart Paul, Secretary of Abundance and a person of multiple talents, offered to undertake the training and was the right choice, being a youth himself (22 years old). On the 22nd of July 2017, Stewart joined Ruth Mumba (Director of Abundance) and others to Mbando village to meet with the youth to discuss this important yet often neglected topic. The youth face many challenges including poor access to contraceptives. They said that the nearest clinic was 3 km away and contraceptives were often unavailable and when it is available they were distributed to more established youth clubs in surrounding villages. Youth could not access any “counselling” or knowledge on sexual and reproductive health. Often girls were uncomfortable approaching older women to request for contraceptives at the clinic because they feared being judged immoral.

Stewart Paul talks to the youth, as Ruth Mumba (left) looks on.

It was surprising for Stewart to hear about the myths and misconceptions regarding this topic from the youth:

“Artificial contraception methods lead such as using pills lead to sterility or infertility.”

“When boys use contraception, over a given period of time they lack sexual prowess and stamina”.

Through the training Stewart dispelled some of the myths and provided much needed information to youth about sexual and reproductive health and how contraceptives work. The need for family planning was emphasized and he explained that good sexual and reproductive health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being in all matters relating to the reproductive system. The importance of taking care of the reproductive system to avoid injuries and infection was also emphasized.

The session was only for a few hours and the youth requested for more such sessions to be organized for continued awareness raising on these matters. The access to contraceptives remains a challenge to be overcome. Abundance hopes to collaborate with organizations that provide these services and work towards improving access for youth at Mbando village. We envision a Malawi where all youth will be free to take informed decisions regarding reproductive health. This training was a small step towards that vision, but many more needs to be taken.

 

For more information visit: http://www.abundanceworldwide.org

 @abundanceworldwide

 @Abundance_ww