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.”


Transforming International Development

By Dr Mia Perry and Dr Deepa Pullanikkatil

A great article written by our Co-Directors and entitled “Transforming international development” was recently published in the Impact publication (IMPACT Volume 2019, Numero 1 – February).

This piece was produced by Science Impact to help the SFA network communicate the objectives and work of the project in a more easily understandable and accessible language to a wider audience of stakeholders, enabling widespread dissemination.

You can access it by following this link:
https://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/sil/impact/2019/00002019/00000001/art00010#

** The article can be downloaded in a pdf format.

ABSTRACT

THE SUSTAINABLE FUTURES IN AFRICA (SFA) NETWORK The Sustainable Futures in Africa (SFA) Network is an interdisciplinary collective that brings together researchers, educators, and communities of practice that acknowledge the situated and complex nature of practices and conceptions of sustainability. The Network aims to build understanding, research, and practice in socio-ecological sustainability in Africa. Specifically, the Network includes the participation of researchers (from geography and earth sciences, community and adult education, applied social arts, health sciences, and engineering); third-sector organisations (working with environmental and social sustainability, with arts and cultural practice, and with community engagement in African contexts); and community stake-holders (living and working in areas of focus). Participants currently span the Uganda, Botswana, Nigeria, Malawi, and the UK, and the reach of the network continues to expand. THE NETWORK’S AIMS ARE: To address the relationship between social, cultural, and ecological factors in sustainability in Africa through interdisciplinary research initiatives To discover opportunities in the disparities between ontologies of the global north and the global south inherent in international collaborations and global endeavours To shape and support new opportunities for impact and inquiry that address locally-articulated, socio-ecological challenges The Network’s current infrastructure includes a website (https://sustainablefuturesinafrica.com/) and social media platforms; a growing base of research, funding to support knowledge sharing and capacity strengthening (ESRC, EPSRC & SFC); and a core group of scholars, practitioners, and support staff who are providing the leadership and administration of this initiative.


Scots Join The Worldwide Effort to Help Africans Find New Ways to Rebuild Their Communities Shattered by Brutal Civil War

Article written by Maggie Ritchie – free-lance journalist who joined the Glasgow delegation traveling to Lira, Uganda in February 2019 for the 3rd SFA Annual Symposium. While in Uganda, she had the opportunity to meet with the communities involved in SFA activities through two partners: Apala Widows and Orphanage Centre (AWOC) and ECOaction.

https://www.sundaypost.com/fp/scots-join-the-worldwide-effort-to-help-africans-find-new-ways-to-rebuild-their-communities-shattered-by-brutal-civil-war-and-desperate-povertylife-was-very-difficult-it-is-better-now/


Impact Story: A Solar Dryer Tent to Support Farmers in Nigeria

The Problem

For the farmers of Adogo, a community in Nigeria’s Mbaya district, sun drying was the only way to preserve produce. Local women would lay fruits and vegetables on the ground to dehydrate them for future use. But sun drying brings problems: it’s weather-dependent, it exposes the food to contaminants like dust and insects, and it’s surprisingly time-consuming, as the women need to guard their produce from scavenging animals, both wild and domestic. In Adogo, where the majority of Benue State’s peppers and tomatoes originate but which has no nearby market or processing industry, the smallholder farmers faced a lose-lose situation: either inefficiently dry their produce in the sun, or sell it at giveaway prices before it rotted. All too often the food went bad, just because the farmers lacked a safe, sanitary, reliable method of preserving their produce.

The Idea

Enter Pricilla Achakpa, a celebrated environmentalist and Executive Director of Women Environmental Programme (WEP) in Nigeria. In 2017, Achakpa was invited to the University of Glasgow for a meeting of Sustainable Futures in Africa (SFA). There she heard a fellow SFA member, Dr. Deepa Pullanikkatil, present on climate change adaptation technologies that were used in a project in Malawi. One technology mentioned by Dr. Pullanikkatil made a particular impression on Achakpa: the Solar Dryer Tent. Here was a simple construction, similar to a greenhouse, that would not only allow produce to be dried quickly, safely and hygienically, but which had already been successfully implemented in Malawi, where it was used to dry fish. Achakpa knew at once that she was on to something that could change lives in rural Nigerian communities like Adogo.

CONSULTATIVEMEETING

Three months later, Achakpa and Pullanikkatil met again, this time at an SFA conference in Nigeria. This time Pullanikkatil brought along a model of a Solar Dryer Tent as well as a how-to construction video. Achakpa brought these to Adogo, where the farmers responded with overwhelming positivity. They recognized a priceless opportunity to stop their produce from rotting, meaning they would be able to dry enough food to last all year, and also to sell preserved goods at fair prices rather than offloading it dirt-cheap before it rotted. With the community whole-heartedly on board, WEP delegated a team to strategize with the villagers in a consultative meeting.

The Project

The people of Adogo committed to providing land for the tent as well as labour, wood, sand, water and cement. WEP would provide the necessary funds as well as bricks, tin roofing sheets, plastic sheets, nets and other materials. To oversee the construction of their tent, the community formed a project Implementation Committee consisting of local masons, carpenters, church leaders, enthusiastic youths and the community head, Zakki, who mobilised people and played a supervisory role.

Carpenters

Construction began in July 2018 and was completed a month later. The result was a tent built 21 feet wide and 32 feet long, with a 2-foot deep foundation. The walls, made of burnt bricks, stand 5 feet high, giving the tent a strong foundation and protecting it from animals, wind and flooding. The wooden pillars bring the height of the tent up to 7 feet, with galvanized aluminium sheets used for roofing. These sheets absorb sunlight, and the heat they generate is retained by hard polythene sheets used as walls, with vents for circulation. Inside the tent are double-decker racks, each 4 feet wide and 22 feet long, covered with polythene and netting on which produce can be left to dry with minimal monitoring from the farmers, freeing them up to tend to other duties.

HANDOVER

The Impact

The community have reported that their produce dries faster in the Solar Dryer Tent than it did outdoors, and that the nutritional properties of the produce are better retained. The Solar Tent Dryer is cost-effective, easy to build (requiring only semi-skilled labour), and suitable for rural areas of Nigeria where subsistence farming is highly concentrated. The widespread use of Solar Dryer Tents would have a huge impact, enhancing the storage of produce during harvests and reducing post-harvest losses, all of which means an increase in the availability of food and a major reduction in food waste.

PEPPER

Safer, healthier, more abundant food for the people of Adogo to consume and sell, and a permanent structure to ensure continued success into the future. It’s easy to see why Zaki Linus Asorzwa, the district head of Adogo, called the Solar Dryer Tent a “momentous milestone for the good of the community” as he expressed his gratitude to WEP for their efforts. But it was not WEP alone that turned the tide in Adogo; it was the result of a collaboration between WEP and the community, as well as a fortuitous meeting between Achakpa and Dr. Pullanikkatil. Thinking back on it, Pullanikkatil says, “It is heartening to know that a simple conversation and meeting through SFA in Glasgow helped transfer this technology to Nigeria and is now helping communities there.”

You can see a short documentary about Adogo’s Solar Dryer Tent here: https://youtu.be/jT4usNwpSkg


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