Covid-19: The ‘Statue’

By Tom Ketlogetswe, Thapong Visual Arts Center, Botswana

Back in my childhood we used to play a game called ‘statue’. Played as a group, the game coordinator, situated in the middle, will ask us to run or walk. Whenever he/she uttered the word ‘statue’ everyone would freeze their motions immediately. Failure to freeze ones motion would lead to some kind of reprimand.

The Coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly flipped a ‘statue’ switch in our lives. Normal life has been frozen. Thapong Visual Art Centre in Gaborone, Botswana has not been spared the ‘statue’ moment. It has been more than two months since the centre tried to open its doors to art lovers to view a collection of 38 artworks themed around the Coronavirus. The exhibition comprises of paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, ceramics and mixed media.

Majority of the works are a narrative of the pandemic. In majority of the works, the mask has become the symbol of the pandemic. Kedumetse Tshidiso’s painting titled ‘Run’ depicts the Coronavirus as a gigantic bird that unleashes pandemonium on the masses. Thabo Keorapetse’s ‘Waiting on the pandemic’ is a photograph showing dejected woman and child at a bus stop. In Gofaone Thebeetsile’s ‘Tourism’ painting, he paints a bleak future for the industry. Emmanuel Senamolela, a ceramist, uses pottery to represent the ‘feeling’ under the corona virus.

Other artists, such as Wailer Motsumi and Gabriel Puskas, are optimistic in their works. Motsumi’s sculpture titled ‘Education continues after  lockdown’ shows a girl in full school gear confidently walking to school. Puskas’s ‘Light in the dark’ painting is one of the few nonrepresentational pieces that suggest that amidst the dark and gloom there is a ray of light. In an effort to outwit the ‘statue’ coordinator, Thapong is working around the clock to showcase the exhibition in social media platforms.


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.


Corona

By Tom Ketlogetswe, Thapong Visual Arts Centre, Botswana

 

Your strength is not in doubt
You are stronger than many imagined

Nations are perishing
Locals are hiding in fear

Your strength knows no boundaries
Your sweeping powers are unimaginable

Leaders across the globe shiver
Heroes are neither spared

The poor have no place to hide
The rich are contemplating hiding in cosy closets

You have unleashed your strength
Indeed you have surpassed your immediate predecessors

Copyright: Tom Ketlogetswe 2020


COVID-19 and Rethinking the Unsustainable “Normal”

By Dr Deepa Pullanikkatil, Co-Director, Sustainable Futures in Africa

Reconsidering Development Pathways: What is the “New Normal”?

“Sustainable Development”, that often overused term in development work, calls us to action to end poverty, protect the environment and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. However, our development pathways have been far from that ideal. With rising inequality, increasing carbon emissions, pollution, wildlife crime, and the exploitation of natural resources and environmental degradation, we have continued our immoral growth beyond the carrying capacity of our earth. COVID-19 may be a wake-up call to humanity to stop this self-destruction of our home planet, lest our actions eliminate us as a species.

Reflecting on the status of the world

With the majority of us under lockdown in our homes, this is a good time to pause and look at our lives, our countries’ priorities, global development and the meaning of sustainability. While we have advanced our knowledge about green economic models, good practices for reducing extreme poverty and the use of technologies to promote wellbeing, we still have 700 million people living on less than $1.90 a day. Our consumerism and continued emissions are compromising our chances of limiting global warming to 1.5°C, and our global health care inequalities have come to haunt us.

Should we go back to “normal”?

Many of us can’t wait to get back to the same “normal” that got us into this predicament. COVID-19 has revealed that this pathway of unsustainable consumption, growth, ecological degradation and inequality simply cannot continue. In an increasingly interconnected world, the pandemic has taught us that none of us is safe unless all of us are safe. Business-as-usual may not be the “normal” we want to return to.

Economic slowdown may not be all that bad

This is also a good time to reflect on what life looks like when we slow down economic growth. With air travel grinding to a halt and a large number of people working from home, we are seeing the prevalence of digital conferences and meetings taking off, making us wonder why working remotely and meeting locally wasn’t already a norm? With the lockdown, the burning of fossil fuels has dropped, causing air quality to improve significantly, triggering social media posts of beautiful clear skies and views of mountains kilometres away. With humans locked in, animals and birds are courageously stepping out and enjoying their newfound freedom. The earth is healing.

We can work together

All sectors are working hand in hand to tackle this pandemic: funds are flowing from various sources; the private sector which hitherto cared mostly about profits is stepping in and helping the health sector. Governments are realising that spending on key sectors such as health and education is more important. Scientists and doctors are collaborating for the greater good, development partners are giving NGOs flexibility to divert their funding to COVID response, and each of us is checking in on our friends and family. It took this pandemic to ignite our sense of community, to get us to make sacrifices, recognise our priorities, work for a common purpose and cherish solidarity. We now realise that we’re all in this together and we can work together.

Three lessons learnt

Three things have become clear since the emergence of COVID-19. First, we are an interconnected world and only if all of us are safe, will each once of us become safe. In that regard, the virus is an equaliser because it does not discriminate. Second, although the virus has impacted every country, regardless of wealth or power, it has also made us realise how unequal our society is. There will be many who will not be able to recover at all or recover as fast as some others. Our global interconnectivity should wake us up to our responsibility for ensuring that each and every country recovers from this shock (not just our own country). We can no longer afford to be selfish, we have to broaden our minds and assume a global identity.

Finally, the unsustainable “normal” that has caused so many challenges to the world is a social construction; that means, we can change it. We, as a society, have been able to come together and make drastic changes to our lives and economy to respond to COVID-19. This proves that it is possible to take action to create a changed future for the better. After the pandemic ends, we must not slip back to the old normal, but consciously strive towards a “new normal” that is more sustainable, climate-proof, equitable, compassionate and humane.

What is your idea of the “new normal”?

How would you envision this “new normal”? Drop your answers/comments below.


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.

DOI 10.17605/OSF.IO/DJTN4

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.


A Cry from the Wetlands of Africa

By Anthony Kadoma, PhD Student and SFA member

Wetlands oh wetlands! Here we are, the wetlands of Africa, hear us on our World Wetland Day - https://www.worldwetlandsday.org

God created us to serve the needs of humans and their surroundings. We meet almost all their needs: Fresh drinking water we give, food we give, clean air to breathe we give. This enables them not only to live healthy, but happily as well.

We have given that and more forever, diligently and without complaining. But humans seem not to value and appreciate the goods and services derived from us.

‘Why, why?’ we ask ourselves.

Humans started by encroaching on us because they wanted to expand grazing land for the domestic animals, and we accepted. We supported seasonal vegetables such as cabbages and rice which do well in our fertile soil and conserved water, now we have been over-harvested over the years. We have endured the shame of being stripped naked until it’s too much for us to bear. That was not enough to satisfy the needs of human beings: Oh, who will ever satisfy human needs?

Because of your need to expand housing and factories, we have become the first victim and now we are being denied our original role and reason for existence; you are filling and dumping  in us soil and other debris as if there are no other places left for that. You don’t show any care or respect to us!

With your increased greed you have now decided to eliminate us! Completely ignoring the rights of the other peaceful and harmless organisms that live in us by directing your industrial wastes to us which chokes us badly. Oh, what did we do to you to deserve this?

Because of the pressure and burden you have placed on us, we have had to let go of some of our functions such as controlling floods, and now humans are crying that we no longer care. Harmful weeds and pests have occupied us because we can’t fight them as our capacity has reduced to fight for ourselves. However, we are blamed for that as well and some even suggest to completely do away with us in order to protect humans from vectors that cause disease, especially malaria.

We still want to exist and serve you as we have done before – you and your generations to come. All we are asking is that you show some care for us, help us to regenerate and use us wisely. Do not over-harvest us and leave our surrounding environment bare as this makes us too weak to defend ourselves and to support you well. Help us to restore and we will forever be your obedient servant, offering you your essential goods and services. Hear our cry, oh humans of Africa.

 

Anthony Kadoma is a University of Glasgow PhD student focusing on Environmental Sustainability and a member of Sustainable Futures in Africa Network.


Mentoring impact story from Botswana Hub

By David Gerow

“I used to perceive myself as just a learner, but ever since I involved myself with the network, my worldview has really changed. Now I never see myself like an island. I just see myself as part of that bigger family, part of a bigger world. And I see myself as someone who can bring a change, whether big or small. I see that life is an exchange: you live together, you benefit from each other, you help each other.”

Goitse Mmeko, SFA Research Administrator for the Botswana Hub

Goitsemang Mmeko is the research administrator for Sustainable Futures in Africa’s (SFA) Botswana hub. She describes SFA as “a family of researchers from different backgrounds and disciplines with a common goal to achieve sustainable development by reaching out to communities and help solve problems through community engagement and involvement. A common goal is to have research impact, to leave impact out there in the communities.” But as well as impacting communities, Goitse credits SFA with having a positive impact on her own life, as she explained when she recently sat down with SFA co-director Dr. Deepa Pullanikkatil.

Goitse secured her Research Assistant (RA) position in March, 2017, just before SFA’s symposium in Botswana. She was a Masters student at the time, studying adult education. She graduated in 2018, an achievement she says was partly supported by her work with SFA, which has affected her worldview. “I used to perceive myself as just a learner,” Goitse says. “But ever since I involved myself with the network, my worldview has really changed. Now I never see myself like an island. I just see myself as part of that bigger family, part of a bigger world. And I see myself as someone who can bring a change, whether big or small. I see that life is an exchange: you live together, you benefit from each other, you help each other.”

The first major project Goitse collaborated on with SFA was the Botswana scoping study, which focused on human-wildlife conflict, particularly with elephants in a rural community at Mmadinare. Reflecting on her role in that project, Goitse says, “I’m so glad the hub coordinator involved me from the initial stage to the finish line. I was part of all the meetings, the community outreach, all the stages of the research trial.” Goitse was instrumental in establishing contacts with key stakeholders at Mmadinare. She contacted chiefs and sub-chiefs, members of the Village Development Committee, the Wildlife Department, Members of Parliament and non-governmental players. These contacts contributed not only to making the scoping study a success, but to Goitse’s own Masters: “It is out of this project, especially conducting the trials, that I started having my thesis idea.”

Goitse’s thesis is entitled Community Participation in Sustainable Tourism, and she considers her work on the Botswana scoping project an important factor in enabling her to conduct the necessary interviews for her research. “My entry point was the local leaders, whom I had already met (through the scoping project).

“That’s why my research was so fast-tracked, because I had already bonded, I had good relationships, I had established myself as a researcher.” These relationships made Goitse the only Masters student among the five in her department who managed to graduate within the projected time. “Indeed it was a miracle,” she says with confidence.

Goitse is quick to attribute some of the credit for her academic growth to her supervisor, SFA member MmaB Modise. “I’m grateful to MmaB because she mentored me in a lot of things. Nowadays, I am able to just draft a report and take it to her, then she edits and finishes it. Before I joined the SFA, I couldn’t even write a report.” Goitse also researches funding opportunities to present to MmaB and her colleagues, who make Goitse responsible for the application process. She then discusses her applications with MmaB and achieves a better understanding of how to find and obtain funding, another key skill that Goitse has developed with SFA.

Goitse also credits her SFA involvement with improving her communication skills and helping her learn about the world of IT-based communication platforms. Prior to securing her RA position, she primarily used IT to facilitate her learning, but she has now “seen the value” of e-platforms like Skype and has gained experience managing Google Drive, as well as blogging on behalf of SFA. Just as the SFA has benefitted Goitse, she has also benefitted the network with her hard work, her intelligence and her positive attitude. In the long-term, Goitse’s work with SFA has opened new horizons for her: “Now my worldview has expanded. I never thought I could be part of the academic world, but since I joined, I’m aspiring to do my PhD, I’m aspiring to write articles for journals. This has really developed me and I have no fear of doing my PhD. I’m so inspired.”


Botswana Hub - Publication

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

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