Congratulations to Dr Mia Perry - Winner of a Research Culture Award

By Vanessa Duclos, Research Manager

Please join us in celebrating Dr Mia Perry, SFA Network Co-founder and Co-Director, who has been awarded the Research Culture Award 2021 at the University of Glasgow.

The University of Glasgow defines a positive culture as one in which colleagues

  • are recognised and valued for their varied contributions to research
  • support each other to succeed
  • are supported to produce work that meets the highest standards of academic rigour

Key values that are promoted are research integrity, open research, recognition for varied contributions to research, fair approaches to evaluation and collegiality.

“Dr Mia Perry was nominated by a number of colleagues for her unsurpassed commitment across the University of Glasgow and beyond to research and development in the field of education and sustainable development.” 

Read full text here.

Congratulations Mia, from the SFA Family! It is an honour to work and learn with you.


ESRC Festival of Social Sciences

The Whose Crisis project will participate to the 2020 ESRC Festival of Social Sciences (FoSS) which will take place online from Nov 7th to 15th.

Although COVID-19 is a health issue, the crisis is far more than a health crisis. It is a social and cultural one that is currently poorly understood and minimally represented in the context of the Global South. The Whose Crisis? event will showcase and explore the essential social science expertise and insights required to provide critical insights to the complex nature and sustainable pathways to recovery of this pandemic. In this way, the social sciences are positioned to inform and contribute to more equitable global responses including those related to health, policy, economics, and education. Decisions, perspectives, and opportunities are being made and missed every week as the global condition shifts. It is possible that the peak of the pandemic is yet to happen in Africa and the unintended consequences of an unchecked monolithic Northern narration of this global issue will be devastating to already vulnerable populations. This social science event contributes to an international project that is an important part of the re-balancing of knowledges and perspectives.

Register to the event

Development of clean cooking facilities to boost climate change resilience in Malawi

By Dr Deepa Pullanikkatil, Co-Director Sustainable Futures in Arica and Co-Founder Abundance

The University of Glasgow’s project on “Sustainable Clean Cooking Facilities to boost resilience to climate change in Malawi” was amongst three out of over 30 applications that were funded by the Scottish Government’s Climate Justice Innovation Fund (CJIF) in 2019. This fund supports the delivery of climate justice related projects which field test the feasibility of new methods, technologies or approaches in tackling climate change, or trial new innovations on the path to scale.

This bioenergy project aims to help address deforestation in southern Malawi (Machinga) through delivering a sustainable biofuel production (biogas and biosyngas) using organic waste as fuel for clean and efficient cooking. The total funding is £122,583 and the project is implemented by the University of Glasgow (PI Dr. Nader Karimi) with partners in Malawi; Abundance, Fab Engineering, Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) and LEAD.

The partnership in this project goes back to 2016, when Dr.Karimi and Dr.Pullanikkatil were connected through Sustainable Futures in Africa network. Between 2017-2018, Dr.Karimi and his colleagues from the University of Glasgow led a Biomass Energy study in partnership with Abundance to understand Malawi’s specific energy issues. Seeing first-hand that people still use the three stone stove, that women walk far distances to collect firewood, the rampant deforestation and that even simple fuel efficient technologies were not widely used in Malawi, inspired Dr.Karimi to think of a solution specifically “engineered” for Malawi. Dr.Pullanikkatil undertook a residency at the University of Glasgow in 2018, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, which gave her the opportunity to engage further with Karimi and connect him to colleagues in Malawi, who later became partners of this CJIF project.

This project addresses the need for clean energy and contributes towards improving energy security using a novel and innovative technology designed for Malawi. In Malawi only 11% of the population have access to electricity and 98% of people use wood fuel for cooking (a figure that remains unchanged since 2010). Exposure to smoke from cooking has severe negative health impacts and even in urban areas of Malawi, firewood is mainly used in open three-stone fires. The use of firewood and charcoal has contributed significantly to deforestation and the need for cleaner energy sources which are more efficient for cooking is much needed in Malawi. Majority of the clean energy interventions in Malawi focus on using “less” firewood or charcoal, through increasing efficiency of stoves, this project improves on this approach by eliminating firewood altogether as fuel and replacing it with organic waste.

The project responds to the needs of Malawi as articulated by its Government. Regionally, clean and efficient Energy is a priority as noted in the Southern African Development Community (SADC)’s Protocol on Energy, to which Malawi has been a signatory since 1996. Nationally, the overarching development master plan for Malawi is the “Malawi Growth and Development Strategy” or MGDS. The latest MGDS III has ranked Energy as one of its five key priority areas and calls for technologies that can aid rural areas to have affordable, clean and efficient energy. Furthermore, Malawi’s Climate Change Policy and Strategy has acknowledged the need for efficient and clean energy to help Malawi reach its climate action goals.

Abundance’s Ruth Mumba and Grace Moyo visited Fab engineering where Andrew Khonje was manufacturing the gasifier plant.

Using an innovative approach of combining biogas and biosyngas, this project is developing a clean and efficient energy technology that can help Malawians rise the energy ladder and also contribute towards achieving climate action goals. The reason to combine biogas and biosyngas technology is due to Malawi’s unique climate; a hot and rainy season from mid-November to April and a relatively cool and dry season from mid-May to mid-August. During the wet season, plenty of wet orgnic waste will be available, while in the dry season, it will be dry organic waste. A technology that can only work with wet biomass/organic matter will not be suitable for the dry season and vice versa; hence this innovative combination of biogas and biosyngas. Furthermore, this innovative technology is completely smokeless, which is different from the previously piloted efficient cooking technologies such as fuel-efficient stoves, which reduce smoke, but not completely remove it.

Through this project, a nationwide survey on biomass availability and its combustion properties was done by LUANAR in March 2020. Fab Engineering has assembled the energy plant with designs and instruction from the PI and colleagues from University of Glasgow. Currently, the plant is being tested with various types of waste including cow dung and rice husks, both of which are wastes readily available in the site where the technology will be piloted. The energy plant will be piloted at the kitchen of the Chilimba Primary school at Mbando village, where Abundance has been working since 2016. Abundance has set up a youth waste collection team of 10 men and 10 women, who have begun collecting dry and wet wastes at Mbando village. They have been able to find rice husks from a nearby rice mill, sugarcane waste and cowdung from smallholder farms within the village.

The testing of the cooker is ongoing and preliminary results are promising, as evident in the pictures where the gas flame successfully boiled water in a pot. Abundance’s Ruth Mumba and Grace Moyo visited Fab engineering where Andrew Khonje was manufacturing the gasifier plant.

COVID-19 has challenged the project team to undertake work with less physical contact with Mbando villagers. Meetings were held at the village with safe distancing. Malawi did not have a lockdown, however the team shared masks, cleaning materials with Mbando village and purchased a smartphone to ease communication for the Community Coordinator. As the number of cases of COVID-19 declined in the past weeks, a site visit was done on 8 October 2020 by Fab engineering and Abundance’s team. Stewart Paul, who recently returned from the University of Glasgow with a master’s degree joined Ruth Mumba and Grace Moyo in the visit.

The site chosen for the piloting is a kitchen used by Mary’s Meals, a Scottish charity that provides nutritious mid-day meals to children. Abundance shared the project idea with them and were delighted when they delivered 732kg of Corn Soya Blend (CSB) flour to Abundance’s offices in Zomba which will be used for the piloting phase. During piloting phase CSB porridge will be cooked and served to approximately 1200 children in the primary school. The partnership and generocity of Mary’s Meals in this project is much appreciated.

It is already well reflected in the open literature that extensive use of firewood and charcoal has led to massive deforestation and significant health issues in Malawi. This project aims to address the deforestation problem using organic waste in an innovative cooker instead of firewood or charcoal. The users of the technology are Mary’s Meals staff and teachers from Chilimba Primary School in Mbando village. In this regard, an indemnity form has also been signed by Abundance and Chilimba school to indemnify Mary’s Meals of any issues arising from the project. The piloting will be done for several weeks where the cooker will be tested. These users will be interviewed to improve the technology design and a reengineered design will be made that addresses their concerns. This way, the design is informed by local knowledge. After completion of the project, the system stays in the school and will be a permanent asset for the Mbando community. The project results will be widely disseminated through networks such as the SFA and private sector in Malawi will be encouraged to upscale the technology. The project will end in March 2021 and it is hoped it will leave a lasting legacy at Mbando village.


Sustainable Development and the Global South

Collaboration with Glasgow School of Art

Future Experiences: Sustainable Development and the Global South

In 2019-2020, the SFA Network collaborated with the Glasgow School of Arts – Product Design on a project entitled the Future Experiences: Sustainable Development and the Global South. You can read more about it here.

The SFA Network is very pleased to announce that the project dataset collection is now live! The record is public and can be accessed here. Many SFA Members took part to the project and we would like to thank everyone for their contribution. They are included as an author on this dataset/project.

We recommend looking at the  ‘Project Journey Map’ and the fantastic ‘Future Experiences Book’ in order to get a feel for what is there. But don’t stop there – this is a tremendously rich resource of output and know-how.  This collaboration with the future designers from the Glasgow School of Art was truly inspiring and refreshing for the SFA team. The impact of this project and the engagement with designers is translating into the recent research applications submitted by the Network.

We encourage you to use and share the material from this project.

DOI: 10.5525/gla.researchdata.1019


Exhibition Video - Future Experiences

By Prof Nicol Keith, Institute of Cancer Sciences

The Future Experiences: Sustainable Development & The Global South project is a joint venture with the Innovation School at Glasgow School of Art (GSA) and the UofG Sustainable Futures in Africa (SFA) Network.

This has been led and coordinated by Mia Perry at UofG along with Kirsty Ross at GSA. It’s a final year honours project for the Design students at GSA.

This project asks the students to consider what happens in this global landscape ten years from now where Sustainable Development has evolved to the extent that new forms of work and communities of practice transform how people engage, learn and interact with each other, with stakeholders and with the global community around them.

Topics addressed are health, energy, mobility, economies, societal structures and the environment.

The project takes a human-centered approach, rather than simply a user-centered perspective, to exploring the topic in partnership between the GSA & SFA. This brief offers the opportunity to explore the underlying complexities regarding sustainable futures, the post-colonial dynamic between ‘norths’ and ‘souths’, post-capitalism and human agency, to envision a future world context, develop it as an experiential exhibit, and produce the designed products, services and experiences for the people who might live and work within it.

The project is collaborative in nature, requiring the students to work, learn and interact with experts from for academia, civic and government organisations and NGOs from across the SFA community.

This project is still ongoing but this short video captures the essence of the project and the work-in-progress exhibition.  The exhibition also features a second future-focused project from the final year Master of European Design (MEDes) students. The Collaborative Futures project partnered Glasgow School of Art with Glasgow City Council to explore how data could shape the experiences of Glasgow’s citizens in 2030 and envisage what a well governed city might look like moving forwards.

Together, the two projects span the local to the global; exploring themes ranging from sustainable citizenship, to community participation and the value of collaborative creativity in defining how people might live and work together in the near future.


Lockdown - week 8

By Dr Brian Barrett, Scottish Hub Director

We are in the thick of it now. With almost a third of the global population under some form of lockdown, our behaviours and lives have unexpectedly been forced to change. A return to the pre Covid-19 conditions, which many of us expected or possibly hoped for in the early stages of inconvenience, appears more fanciful by the day.

While the pandemic has brought about a heightened sense of unity and the reassurance that ‘we are all in this together’, this doesn’t represent the reality for everyone. Covid-19 does not discriminate based on class or nationality, but it does disproportionately affect older demographics and black and ethnic minority (BAME) groups. As the most developed and richest nations with the most sophisticated healthcare and welfare systems in the world are struggling to cope, how poorer nations will fare is almost unthinkable. It is those that are less well-off and the least developed nations that will likely suffer the most from the virus. The gendered impacts of virus interventions are demonstrating that they could actually be more harmful to women than the virus, with countries around the world reporting sharp increases in the number of women suffering from physical and mental abuse in the home by their aggressors.

All of us are anxious for the future, for the health of our loved ones, our environment, and our livelihoods. We are at a critical juncture, and with our collective expertise and experiences in the SFA Network, from local to regional, we are in a privileged position to lead and shape where we go from here. We have been afforded time to reflect and confront the inconvenient realities of our current pathways and indeed the behaviours that led us here. Our health is intimately linked to the health of our environment, our wildlife and our livestock. Collectively, we can push for a sustainable recovery where we treat one another and the planet in the way that we know we should, to secure a symbiotic socio-ecological functioning now and for the future. Encouragingly, the green shoots of an equitable and sustainable recovery are emerging across nations. Past behavioural norms are being disrupted and need to be made irreparable.


COVID-19 and being Nimble

By Dr Deepa Pullanikkatil, SFA Co-Director

I have just concluded an hour-long “Zoom” call with colleagues from the University of Glasgow. It was one of several digital meetings we have had these past weeks with members from the Sustainable Futures in Africa (SFA) network. The network has members from UK, Nigeria, Uganda, Malawi and Botswana. The majority of the meetings have been to discuss the way forward, after our symposium (which was to be held in Malawi in mid-March) was postponed due to COVID-19. Today’s call touched upon exploring possibilities of holding digital conferences in the future. We would miss the face to face connection, but there are advantages to digital conferences including the opportunity to open up participation to a larger group and eliminate carbon emissions from the flights needed to hold physical meetings. We realized that some countries may have bandwidth challenges, and poor connectivity issues, while some members may not have good digital devices if they are at home without access to work computers. One thing was clear: as a network, we have to change and change quickly in this transforming situation.

The word that stayed in my mind from the meeting was “nimble”. A nimble person is quick, light, agile in movement or action, clever, and adaptable. In today’s situation, individuals, organizations and countries have to be nimble and here I share some examples. Around the world, companies including information technology companies immediately made “work from home” the norm. Speed and agility were demonstrated by Unilever, which launched initiatives in the US, India, China, UK, Netherlands, Italy and other countries around the world, with teams manufacturing and distributing millions of bars of free soap. Companies active across West Africa are sharing information and coordinating their responses through the West Africa Private Sector Coronavirus Platform (WAPSCON19) which is focusing on the livelihoods and health of the wider community as well as keeping employees healthy and safe and businesses running. Singapore received a lot of praise at how nimble they were in their response to COVID-19 with quick action through testing, quarantining, information sharing, and the sanitization of public spaces.  They adopted financial measures such as bringing forth a supplementary solidarity budget to safeguard jobs during the social distancing period.  Similarly, China’s neighbour Vietnam, also received praise for responding to the outbreak early with a risk assessment in January and the proactive National Steering Committee for COVID-19 response and preparedness. There are some examples of how being nimble is proving to be an asset in these times to avoid massive losses.

While the world is mostly focusing (rightly so) on the health-care aspects and how to revive the economy, we, at SFA feel that there is need to give attention to the social impacts too. These may include getting appropriate and culturally relevant messages across to rural communities whose livelihoods depend on stepping out of their homes every day; documenting stories of how people are coping and discussing mental health issues; promoting small scale home based mask making and soap making to help with income generation while safe distancing etc. As a network, we are trying to respond to this pandemic in meaningful ways using our strengths. We issued a survey to understand what has worked with COVID-19 responses in our country hubs and beyond. We are exploring making digital conferencing a norm, and we are trying to use the opportunity of going digital to open up the network and allow greater participation. We are rethinking “normal”, abandoning rigidness and wholeheartedly, if on wobbly legs, embracing being “nimble”.


Pluriversal Literacies: Affect and Relationality in Vulnerable Times

By Vanessa Duclos, Research Manager, Sustainable Futures in Africa

Dr Mia Perry, SFA Co-Director, has just published (April 6th) a brilliant paper* entitled: “Pluriversal Literacies: Affect and Relationality in Vulnerable Times” in International Literacy Association – Reading Research Quarterly. This is a timely publication amid the current COVID19 crisis worldwide.

Abstract

Through a consideration of literacies in theory and international policy, this article pushes at the edges of existing frameworks of functional and sociocultural literacies. In critique of existing policy directives, the author explores an approach to literacy that engages in the affective and posthuman relationality of human and environment and in the plurality of literacies globally that are overshadowed in prevailing models of literacy education. The author was motivated by a commitment to literacy education responsive to a world that is unsustainable in its current practices, to a world that faces increasing fragmentation and vulnerability (socially and ecologically) while certain types of expertise, technologies, and global infrastructures continue to proliferate. As a mainstay of education and a tool of social change, literacies are inseparable from policy and practices of sustainability, equity, and development. Pluriversality is a concept emerging from decolonial theory that provides a counternarrative to contemporary Northern assumptions of the universal. Building on a history of ideas around pluriversality gives sociopolitical and ecological momentum to affect and relationality in literacy studies. The author challenges normative constructions of literacy education as Eurocentric and neocolonial, effectively supporting a pedagogy that normalizes certain practices and people and, by extension, sustains inequity and environmental degradation. Through interwoven research projects, the author highlights the contentious aspects of functional and sociocultural approaches to literacy and the possibilities of moving beyond them. In doing so, the author describes and demonstrates the practical and political implications of affect theory and relationality in literacies education in a plural anthropocenic world.

” It is a paper that I have been working on for over a year and our very own Dr Alex Okot is quoted, EcoAction is featured and the Sustainable Future in Africa Network acknowledged throughout for the immense influence this network has had on my work in literacies “ – Dr Mia Perry

 

* Mia Perry. 2020. Pluriversal Literacies: Affect and Relationality in Vulnerable Times. International Literacy Association – Reading Research Quarterly. 0(0). pp 1-17 | doi:10.1002/rrq.312


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.