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Capacity Building: Students

One of the main ways in which ASSAR builds capacity is through the sponsorship and involvement of Masters and PhD students in our research. By focusing their theses on aspects related to key ASSAR questions (like barriers and enablers, vulnerability or adaptive responses), and ASSAR themes (like social differentiation, governance, ecosystem services or knowledge systems), the students play a critical role in furthering ASSAR’s research. In addition, they also have the opportunity to benefit from training courses that have been offered through ASSAR, such as on Transformative Scenario Planning, Research into Use, Climate Science or Land Use and Land Cover Change. Finally, while gaining international exposure – thanks to ASSAR’s cross-regional work – the students are also expanding their network through the vast, multi-disciplinary ASSAR team.  

 

Students from Southern Africa


  • Ephias Mugari Dynamics of ecosystem services (PhD)

    Ephias Mugari

    Research Topic:

    Dynamics of ecosystem service provision in semi arid areas: A case of Bobirwa sub-district in the Limpopo Basin of Botswana

    Link to paper: Not available

    LinkedIn

    ResearchGate

    Email

    Ephias Mugari is a Ph.D. candidate whose research focuses on understanding how climate and other non-climatic stressors are driving changes in provisioning ecosystem services in semi-arid areas. His research also focuses on understanding how humans are responding to these changes. Ephias’ research interests therefore lie in optimizing resilience to climate change impacts, particularly to declining provisioning ecosystem services in the face of multiple non-climatic stressors i.e. intersection of climate change, ecosystem services and human adaptations. His thesis examines the response of:

    • vegetation to climate

    • ecosystem services to vegetation changes

    • how human systems adjust to changing availability of key ecosystem services

    Ideally, his research work uses both participatory and non-participatory methods to analyze and understand the bio-physical components of the ecosystem as well as human responses to environmental change. His study contributes to the improved understanding of barriers to ecosystem-based adaptations and the real potential of ecosystem services in semi-arid regions. The study also identifies what transformations are needed to make ecosystem services a viable response strategy for climate vulnerable communities.

     

  • Irene Kunamwene Social Wellbeing (PhD)

    Irene Kunamwene

    Research Topic:

    Drawing on a social wellbeing approach to strengthen climate change adaptation outcomes: the case of drought responses in Omusati Region, northern Namibia

    Articles

    ASSAR at the African Drought Conference

    Discussing drought in northern Namibia

    The impact of drought on the wellbeing of subsistence farmers in north-central Namibia

    Link to paper: Not available

    LinkedIn

    ResearchGate

    Email

    Climate change adaptation is a complex and continuous process influenced by a variety of factors and conditions at multiple scales, some of which may act individually or together to hinder and/or enable this process. The need to integrate climate change adaptation into development planning and practice is becoming more apparent as current development interventions fail to address underlying causes of vulnerability due to their narrow view which make it difficult for adaptation to be successful. The aim of this study is to explore and analyse whether a social wellbeing approach to understanding human development in the context of climate vulnerability can contribute towards strengthening climate change adaptation outcomes within a sustainable development agenda.  A social wellbeing approach has the potential to offer a different, people-centred way of strengthening climate change adaptation because it explicitly integrates people’s aspirations and values. This approach also considers the broader socio-economic circumstances affecting the community, as well as the role of social networks and cultural identity as they try to achieve wellbeing. An improved understanding of the development of the drought policy, the factors affecting the implementation of the policy at a local level, and the way the drought interventions  enhance or undermine wellbeing, will help to strengthen the planning and implementation of adaptation responses so that they also consider people’s aspirations and values.

     

  • Kulthoum Omari-Motsumi - Governance Systems (PhD)

    Kulthoum Omari-Motsumi

    Research Topic:

    The multiple ‘sites’ of adaptation governance and the potential for adaptive governance in Botswana

    Link to paper: Not available

    LinkedIn

    ResearchGate

    Email

    Kulthoum Omari-Motsumi is a PhD candidate working on exploring how governance arrangements and processes across scale contributes to effective drought management in Botswana. Over the past decades, there has been a noticeable growth in new collaborative approaches of governance in climate adaptation, which include actors from climatic and non-climatic policy domains at different scales and levels. The shift in adaptation governance is in part a reflection of the realisation that other actors’ capacities, resources, decision-making power and networks are all important aspects required for adapting to climate change and that the traditional ‘command and control’ approaches will no longer be sufficient to govern complex challenges and ‘wicked problems’ such as climate adaptation. Kulthoum’s research will build on this understanding, and further explore how/if the governance approaches are flexible and responsive enough to address the uncertainty and complexity of climate adaptation.

    Using drought management as a lens, Kulthoum’s research will examine the ability of governance systems in Botswana to deal with increasing uncertainties associated with global environmental changes. Drawing from multi-level governance and adaptive governance theory, the research will critically examine the multilevel governance structures and processes in drought management that are necessary in advancing adaptation to climate change. It is hoped that the research will provide some analysis of the potential of drought management in transforming and/or shifting towards adaptive governance, building adaptive capacity and building long-term resilience.

     

  • Bonolo Mosime The use of traditional weather and seasonal forecasting (Masters)

    Bonolo Mosime

    Research Topic:

    The use of traditional weather and seasonal forecasting by agro-pastoralists of different social groups in Bobirwa sub-district, Botswana

    Link to paper: Not available

    LinkedIn

    ResearchGate

    Email

    Bonolo's thesis explores the use of traditional weather and seasonal forecasting knowledge by agro-pastoralists of different age and gender groups to respond to climate variability using a case study of Bobirwa sub-district in Botswana. Firstly, the study determined indicators (phenology, astronomical and atmospheric cues) used by different age and gender groups. Secondly, the study determined whether this knowledge enables the agro-pastoralists to cope with drought and floods by adjusting their agricultural practices. To achieve the objectives of the study, Bonolo is focusing on social resilience theory. With the proliferation of scientific technologies used in policies for adoption by agro-pastoralists, there is often a low uptake of these technologies or agro-pastoralists become fully dependent on government support with less efforts from individuals to adapt to drought and flooding as established in Bonolo's study.

    Therefore, this study helps to build on views of agro-pastoralists to establish the possibility of integrating traditional weather and seasonal forecasting and the meteorological seasonal forecasts to develop better warning systems and improve adaptive capacity of agro-pastoralists in the study area.

    Related work/activities: Linked to: Mobile Solutions for Marginalised Communities (MOSMAC); The Southern Africa Network for Biosciences (SANBIO).

     

  • Omagano N. Shooya Water (access & governance) and Well-being (Masters)

    Omagano N. Shooya

    Research Topic:

    Water (access & governance) and Well-being

    Articles

    Water access and governance in Namibia’s Cuvelai-Etosha basin

    The evolution of resilience thinking in socio-ecological systems

     

     

    Link to paper: Not available

    LinkedIn

    ResearchGate

    Email

    Omagano N. Shooya is studying towards a MSc.in Climate Change and Sustainable Development at the University of Cape Town under the African Climate and Development Initiative. Coming from Namibia, a countyr that is predicted to be one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change, Omagano decided it would be appropriate to equip herself with the knowledge and skills to implement necessary adaptation and mitigation measures to help. Omagano chose her focus research topic on water because she believes that water and climate change are two of the most challenging issues facing the southern African region.

     


Students from West Africa


  • Alcade C. Segnon - Environmental Science (PhD)

    Alcade C. Segnon

    Research Topic:

    Exploring the role of agrobiodiversity in climate change adaptation in semi-arid areas of West Africa

    Link to paper: Not available

    LinkedIn

    ResearchGate

    Email

    Alcade C. Segnon is an agronomist by training, with experience and knowledge in ethnobotany and ethnoecology. He received his BSc and MSc in Agronomy from the University of Abomey (Benin) and is pursuing a PhD in Environmental Science at the University of Ghana. Alcade’s research is at the interface of agricultural sustainability and utilization and conservation of plant genetics resources in agroecosystems. He is particularly interested in how agrobiodiversity and knowledge that local communities share on it can be used to design agroecological farming systems and improve smallholders' food security and livelihoods in the context of climate variability and change. Within ASSAR in Mali, where he is a PhD researcher, Alcade is investigating how and to what extend harnessing agrobiodiversity could improve adaptive capacity and/or reduce vulnerability to climatic and non-climatic stressors at household or community level in semi-arid areas of West Africa. His research will contribute to identify enablers and barriers influencing changes in vulnerability and inform policy-decision making for effective and sustained adaptation in semi-arid areas. His research will also contribute to Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) discourses, especially what EbA means and how it (can) works in semi-arid areas.

     

  • Ishmael Lente - Vulnerability and Adaptation (PhD)

    Ishmael Lente

    Research Topic:

    Vulnerability and Adaptation Options to Agroecosystems and Climate Change in Semi-arid Ghana

    Link to paper: Not available

    LinkedIn

    ResearchGate

    Email

    The research examines the scope and nature of vulnerability and adaptation options of smallholder households to agro ecosystems and climate change in semi-arid regions of Ghana. Specifically, it seeks to examine the availability of vital agroecosystem and ecosystem services and understand the changes in supply and utilization of these services over the years and examine the quality of the key agroecosystem and ecosystem services that support smallholder farmers in their daily activities. The study is being carried out within the Nandom District of the Upper West Region of Ghana.

     

  • Udita Sanga - Environmental Science and Policy (PhD)

    Udita Sanga

    Research Topic:

    A participatory systems approach to understanding farmers' decision-making around food security and climate change adaptation in Southern Mali 

    Articles

    Making decisions in times of uncertainty: How farmers in Mali are adapting to climate change

     

    Link to paper: Not available

    LinkedIn

    ResearchGate

    Email

    Udita Sanga is a PhD candidate at the Department of Community Sustainability with specialization in Environmental Science and Policy in Michigan State University. The focus of her dissertation lies at the intersection of food security and climate change adaptation in the agricultural drylands of Southern Mali, West Africa. She applies a systems approach to understanding the social, environmental, institutional, economic and behavioral aspects of farmers’ response to climate change, and seeks to understand the differential vulnerability and adaptability of rural farmers to climatic and non-climatic shocks. She uses participatory and computational modelling techniques such as mental modelling, role playing simulation games, system dynamics and agent based modelling to identify the contextual environment within which households make decisions in a cropping season; the different decision heuristics of farmers; as well as the changes in these decisions when they are faced with various climate event scenarios. The scope of her work is closely aligned with the objectives of the ASSAR project in assessing the strengths and weaknesses of current adaptation practices and policies as well as advancing the understanding of the constraining and enabling factors that determine successful climate adaptation among smallholder farmers.