SFA Documentary: Cultural Practices and Perspectives

By Elson Kambalu, Art House Africa

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

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

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


SFA Network Seeks New Ways of Managing Elephants

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

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


Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

Skills Development for Community Youth

ECOaction has partnered with a local girls school, Nabisunsa Girls School, to motivate youth in the community to reduce, reuse and recycle! Reagan has described how their school grounds have been transformed into a colorful urban garden with greenhouses for growing crops.  It is hoped that the skills that these pupils will gain through this experience will help the youth tackle unemployment.

Dr Grace Lubaale of Kyambogo University spoke to The Daily Monitor, a Ugandan newspaper praising Reagan's community work, outlining that:

“Instead of many educators clinging to old and increasingly ineffective methods of teaching, it is better to use innovative teaching methods. This will help to produce a type of students that think outside the box, who can use what is available to bring about something new,”

“The amount of rubbish we create is constantly increasing because we have no proper disposal policy and if all our students are trained on how to manage this waste, they can extend the knowledge to the bigger communities,” says Reagan Kandole of ECOaction village, Banda.

Read More at: http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/Education/Students-recycling-plastic-for-innovation-/688336-4729956-gpvfb8z/index.html

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On Tuesday 14th August, over 300 people attended SFA Botswana's workshop Creating Sustainable Community Partnerships.

The overall goal of the workshop was to establish the significance of Sustainable Community Partnership for addressing pressing social and economic needs using the Mmadinare Human-Wildlife conflict study as a case.  This was to ensure that the findings of this study, conducted July 2017, are shared and taken forward for the benefit of Mmadinare, and many other similar communities. The event took place on Tuesday 14 August 2018 under the theme Creating Sustainable Community Partnerships. The turnout was fantastic, as over 300 people attended including the High Commissioner of Nigeria and Nigerian parliament officials, a representative from World Health Organisation and there was a great attendance from local parastatal organisations.  Many Botswana Ministers were also in attendance including those from the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Tourism led by the Director of Wildlife and National Parks and Community Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM), were among the many stakeholders who attended.

The local community of Mmadinare, a village in the central district of Botswana, came up with numerous suggestions to tackle the negative effects caused by Human- Wildlife interaction, among them were the following:

  • Culling not killing of elephants.
  • Awareness creation on how to live with elephants.
  • Creation of wildlife camps
  • Establishment of game reserve
  • Tracking and monitoring of elephants’ movement-collaring
  • Building of an educational park

The Director of Operations and Engineering, on behalf of all stakeholders, observed that the problem discussed affects infrastructure development as this is often damaged by elephants. The presence of the Wildlife Director helped in clarifying and identifying the possible options available raised through the community discussion. The Deputy Vice Chancellor of the University of Botswana underscored the significance of the University of Botswana and both industry and community partnerships in collectively finding a sustainable solution to the issues.

The SFA Hub in Botswana is happy with the progress made so far and plans to have a retreat to map the way forward.

Read the Research Trial Report Here:

‘Unearthing the Dynamics of Human Wildlife Interaction: The Case of Mmadinare Community in the Central Region of Botswana’

Botswana Research Trial

 

For more information visit The Patriot, Botswana's national Sunday paper, or the University of Botswana's website below:

Success for Abundance Fundraiser; eLearning Center secured for rural Malawi!

Abundance graduated from the GlobalGiving Accelerator program, becoming a regonised partner, through successfully raising $5,538 from 60 unique individual donors in 18 days in June 2018 to support their project, "Build an eLearning Center in rural Malawi!".

eLearning provides many benefits to rural community, as through this they can stay up-to-date with information that can help improve their lives. Abundance therefore sought help through GlobalGiving to fundraise for setting up an eLearning center at the village we work in. Donations were received from USA, UK, Canada, Malawi, Singapore, South Africa, India, Qatar, Swaziland and many more. Sustainable Futures in Africa network  partners also donated to support this. The funds received will be used to purchase solar panels, Keepods, keepod-ready laptops, furniture and for holding training sessions at the eLearning center.

GlobalGiving is the first and largest global crowdfunding community that connects nonprofits, donors, and companies in nearly every country around the world. Having participated in the June 2018 Accelerator program, Abundance has been vetted and approved and are now recognized partners of GlobalGiving.

Here is the link to Abundance’s project: http://goto.gg/33386


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’


Reflections from Glasgow

Reflections from Glasgow

by Dr Deepa Pullanikkatil

I believe it was serendipity that lead me to work at the University of Glasgow this year. Two years ago, an unexpected e-mail from Mia Perry, a lecturer and leader of many projects at the University of Glasgow came into the mailbox of “Abundance” a non-profit organization in Malawi which I co-founded with some friends in 2016. She was searching for organizations working in Malawi and had stumbled across our website. Since then, Abundance became part of the “Sustainable Futures in Africa” network, an inter-disciplinary network of academicians and practitioners in UK and Africa working across disciplines for making research more relevant for the developing world.  Through this network, I got an opportunity to do a secondment at the University of Glasgow for a few months early this year, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

The time I spent at Glasgow was filled with interesting meetings at the University. But I also could enjoy some solitude, which gave me a chance to reflect on my experience. During my reflections, I jotted down five things I learnt and I am happily sharing them with you:

  1. The leap of faith

I was fully aware that to some extend I was jumping into the unknown as I agreed to take up the consultancy and residency at Glasgow. I was to connect researchers at Glasgow with organizations and researchers in Africa and also shape their research to be more development oriented and appropriate for the developing country context. While I had worked in Africa for over 17 years, I had not done this kind of consultancy before. However, when I looked within, I had faith and the work “felt right”. I became conscious that this is the work I love and am passionate about, so saying “yes” was easy. Furthermore, the opportunity came through Mia, whom I trust. The work went smoothly, particularly because I was working with a fantastic colleague Lynn McCorriston who went out of her way to ensure that the work and meetings went smoothly and that my stay was super comfortable. I feel satisfied that I made a contribution and I learnt that it’s okay to take the leap of faith.

  1. The power of networks

The networks I have made in my professional and personal life have always supported me over the years. Because I spend so much time in my work, I find that my professional colleagues become my good friends and mentors. The LEAD Network is one such network where I have mentors and friends in Malawi and around the world. Indeed, during the consultancy, I linked the University of Glasgow with former colleagues, organizations such as LEAD Southern and Eastern Africa as well as members of the LEAD Fellows network, who, as a result, would be undertaking collaborative projects with the University of Glasgow in the near future. In some of the projects, I am involved too, hence I would get a chance to work with people I love, what an amazing blessing from networking!

  1. Making most of the circumstances

The period I was resident at Glasgow, I witnessed a once in 33 years snow storm called “The Beast from the East”. Some reports said it was the coldest month of March in 100 years in the UK. I had hoped to see some snow, but being snowed in for three days was not exactly what I wished for. It would have been easy to brood and indulge in some self-pity or cabin fever, especially for someone like me who is used to the moderate and sunny weather of southern Africa. But, I decided to embrace the situation and following the hourly weather updates, I took a chance to step out when it was safe and soak in the beauty of the snowy cityscape. As a result, I got some stunning photographs and videos. Lynn and I braved the cold and visited the People’s Museum and Botanical Garden, which was just spectacular surrounded by snow all around.

  1. Change work routines

At Glasgow, I got a new routine of walking about 40 minutes to work every day, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Leaving a bit early from my apartment to explore a new route every day, I got a chance to appreciate the architecture and the many historical buildings in Glasgow. I also enjoyed people watching at Kelvingrove Park which was en-route to work. The cute dogs are taken on walks by their owners, the students cycling, school children rushing to school, elderly taking strolls and, the statues and fountains made this a wonderful morning routine to cherish. The University of Glasgow staff were extremely friendly and helpful. As the campus is big and many departments were spread out and a bit distant from each other, we held meetings at café’s which were located conveniently for colleagues. I felt we got a lot of creative ideas and discussion flowing more freely when we stepped out of the office for a bit and enjoyed a coffee and a light meal, surrounded by cutesy artsy café décor. I enjoyed the chats over coffee and meals about research projects, art, politics and philosophy with many colleagues including Lynn McCorriston, Mia Perry and Carlos Galan-Diaz.

  1. The power of technology

Not to sound like a gushing fan of technology, I do have to say that it touches my life on a daily basis. I walked to work every day guided by Google Map’s navigation lady’s voice. Through Facebook, I connected with a Glaswegian friend and attended her birthday party. I also connected with a classmate of mine after 20 years through facebook and booked my bus tickets online to spend a weekend with his family at Aberdeen. For travelling within the city, I used Uber and an app that allowed me to buy bus tickets online. Most of my meetings with people outside the UK was through skype or Zoom or Go-To-Meeting. During the snow storm, we continued to work and had skype meetings. I don’t know what I would have done without my daily evening video chats with my family through whatsapp. Not to mention the many minutes I save every day from doing simple things like checking in online for flights, or ordering gifts online and planning my day according to the weather forecast. As much as technology has its problems, I realised that we can’t do without it and it makes our lives so much easier.

The beautiful city of Glasgow, its museums, café’s, friendly and humorous people and the rich intellectual atmosphere at the University of Glasgow was an inspiring experience for me. Through this serendipitous connection with the University, I have made new friends, new connections and become part of new and exciting collaborative projects. There is an old African saying, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”. I thank the University of Glasgow (Lynn, Mia and Molly in particular) for this walk together and making me feel part of a bigger team and a greater vision. Looking forward to the journey ahead!


Team Botswana ProgressThe SFA Botswana hub, based in the University of Botswana, has made excellent developments over the recent weeks. The official hub report has been shared amongst core SFA partners alongside core SFA Botswana stakeholders, particularly the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Deans of faculty of Environmental Science and Adult Education, alongside the Office of Research and Development in the University of Botswana. Currently we are working towards a stakeholder dissemination workshop, where we will report back to the community which were partners for the research trials of summer 2017, This will be held in Mmadinare with members of this community in the month of July 2018.

The team has finalised on the New Arts and Culture partnership during the Hub meeting held on the 18th April 2018. Mr Tom Ketlogetswe from Thapong Visual Arts organization was introduced to the team and they all welcomed him as a representative of Botswana SFA partnership with Thapong Visual Arts organization: https://www.transartists.org/air/thapong-visual-art-centre. Thapong Visual Arts Centre  is located in Gaborone and seeks to promote unity and excellence within the Visual Arts in Botswana in all communities, through sharing skills, enabling personal growth and development and promoting arts locally and internationally through networking.

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Of late we met with another potential Environmental partner, Botswana Community Based Organisations Network (BOCOBONET). The organization works with communities on issues of the environment and natural resources to promote Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) program. (https://trickleout.net/index.php/directory-pilot/botswana/bocobonet-botswana-community-based-organisations-network)

The Botswana SFA Hub coordinator, and administrator met with a team of  BOCOBONET delegates on the 8th of May 2018 for an introductory meeting. We extended our invitation of partnership to them and they enthusiastically accepted. They will be introduced to the team in the next meeting where it will be decided upon partnership with them.

-- SFA Research Administrator

Goitsemang Mmeko

 

facebook-transparent-logo-png-0 https://www.facebook.com/thapongarts.bw/

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.