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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


  • Angela Chappel (Masters)

    Angela Chappel

    Research Topic:

    Barriers and enablers to the adoption of practices to improve crop production in the semi-arid Omusati Region, Namibia 

    Articles

    coming soon

    Link to paper: Not available

    ResearchGate

    Email

    I completed my MSc in climate change and sustainable development through the ACDI at the beginning of 2018. My research topic is: Barriers and enablers to the adoption of practices to improve crop production in the semi-arid Omusati Region, Namibia.

    Namibia is almost entirely semi-arid or arid. With evaporation rates being higher than precipitation rates, farming conditions are extremely adverse. This is exacerbated by the impacts of climate change, namely increased temperature, decreased rainfall and higher rainfall variability, all of which are projected to worsen in the future. More than half of the population is reliant on rain-fed subsistence agriculture for their source of food but these challenging conditions mean that there is widespread food insecurity across the subsistence farming community in Namibia. This leads to a state of vulnerability and dependence on government support in the form of social grants, food aid and remittances from family members in urban areas.

    The locus for this study is three villages: Omaenene, Okathitukeengombe and Oshihau, in the north-central Omusati region of Namibia. This research investigated local perceptions of climate change vulnerability, farming practices used in other regions that could reduce this vulnerability and finally barriers and enablers to the uptake of new farming practices.  Three adaptive farming practices – planting pits, bunds and composting – aimed predominantly at water harvesting, soil conservation and increasing soil quality were chosen as appropriate for the village sites. Some of the social and institutional enablers that could be enhanced to promote the uptake of these practices are: i) support from local authorities and possibly enlisting the help of religious and traditional leaders (including building trust within these networks), ii) enhancing information access predominantly through the radio, iii) explaining the severity of climate change and the value of adaptation practices, iv) establishing self-help labour groups and v) the creation of demonstrations sites.

    In the face of irreversible climate change, this research aims to contribute to empowering local people to adapt their farming practices to the harmful experienced and predicted impacts.

  • 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.

     

  • Janet C. Selato (PhD)

    Janet C. Selato

    Research Topic:

    Credibility and Scale as Barriers to Uptake and Use of Seasonal Climate Forecasts in Bobirwa Sub-District, Botswana.

    Link to paper: Download it

    LinkedIn

    ResearchGate

    Email

    Janet C. Selato conducted her research as a Masters student at UCT. Her research thesis was assessing barriers to the uptake and the use of climate information particularly seasonal forecasts in Bobirwa Sub-District of Botswana.

    Climate variability is one of the challenges facing rain-fed agriculture in Sub-Sahara Africa. Seasonal forecasts can be used by farmers to adapt to climate variability and reduce their vulnerability. However, the availability of seasonal forecasts does not guarantee usage as farmers’ decision-making is influenced by many factors. The complex decision process could encounter barriers constraining effective use of seasonal forecasts.

     It is in this context that Janet’s study critically scrutinises credibility (trustworthiness) and scale (relevance) as barriers originating from limitations of seasonal forecasts. Additionally, the study found that economic, socio-cultural and biophysical barriers also limit the effective use of seasonal forecast.

    Other work:

    Nicholson, S.E & Selato, J.C. 2000. The influence of La Nina on African rainfall. International Journal of Climatology. 20:1761–1776.

     

  • 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: Download it here

    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.

     

  • Zachary M. Gitonga (PhD)

    Zachary M. Gitonga

    Research Topic:

    Leveraging climate information, adaptive technology and migration to build resilience and reduce vulnerability of farm families to climate risks in arid and semi-arid lands

    Articles

    coming soon

    LinkedIn

    ResearchGate

    Email

    Zachary M. Gitonga is currently a PhD student at the School of Economics, University of Cape Town. He does research in Applied Economics, Natural Resource Economics and Economics of climate change with special emphasis on impact evaluation. Prior to joining UCT, Zachary previously worked as a research associate (socioeconomic programme) at CIMMYT, research assistant at the University of Nairobi and MSc. research fellow at ICIPE.

    Under the supervision of Professor Martine Visser, Zachary’s current PhD research is evaluating the impact of climate information, migration and adaptive technology and how these can be leveraged to build resilience of farm families in arid and semiarid regions of Eastern and Southern Africa.

     


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.

     

  • Alex Biney Climate Change and Sustainable Development (MPhil)

    Alex Biney

    Research Topic:

    The role of remittances on the adaptive capacity of smallholder farmers in Lawra district of Upper West region of Ghana

    Articles

    coming soon

    Link to paper

    coming soon

    LinkedIn

    ResearchGate

    Email

    Climate Change continues to affect farmers in Lawra district of the Upper West region of Ghana. Climate change impact is expected to be highest in the northern inland regions with current projected annual rainfall. To cope with the impact of climate change, most of the youth are migrating and sending remittances home. Migration and remittance can help farmers to adjust to the impact of climate change. That is why my research is on "the role of remittances on the adaptive capacity of smallholder farmers in Lawra district of Upper West region of Ghana". My research seeks to identify the various forms of support that farmers receive, determine the various forms of remittances that farmers receive, examine the perception and the motive of migrants who remit home and lastly examine the usage of remittances by the farmers.        

    I have completed collecting data and am currently in the analyzing phase.

     

  • Edward Koomson (PhD)

    Edward Koomson

    Research Topic:

    Understanding the impact of climate change on ecosystems in semi-arid environments and its consequent impacts on livelihood and wellbeing of semi-arid communities

    Articles

    Coming soon

    Link to paper: Not available

    LinkedIn

    ResearchGate

    Email

    Edward Koomson is a PhD student at the Institute for Environment and Sanitation Studies (IESS) at the University of Ghana. His research focus is on understanding the impact of climate change on ecosystems in semi-arid environments and its consequent impacts on livelihood and wellbeing of semi-arid communities. Currently he is collecting survey data having concluded the focused group discussion in the selected communities. Historical and projected rainfall data for the study area is also being analyzed to understand the historical trends and what the trend may be going into the future and how they will impact on key ecosystem services and wellbeing.

    Land use and land cover analysis is also being undertaken to understand the changes in the various ecosystems. Since ecosystem services flows from ecosystems, understanding the changes in the ecosystems will help highlight any changes in the ecosystem services provision. With this knowledge it is hoped it will help develop adaptation interventions through appropriate policies and program to enhance the resilience of the semi-arid ecosystems and the adaptive capacities of the communities. 

    Preliminary results show that there has been a significant decrease in annual rainfall since the 1950s in the study area. The results further show that the onset of the rains has shifted. The rains are starting about one to two month later than it used to be in the past thereby shortening the season length. Dry spell lengths have also considerably increased over the period impacting on food production an important ecosystem services such as water and other natural resources exploited from the wild.

  • Ekua Semuah Odoom (PhD)

    Ekua Semuah Odoom

    Research Topic:

    Sustainability of Climate Smart Agricultural practices in Semi-Arid Ghana

    Articles

    coming soon

    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.

  • 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.

     

  • Ophelia Kaba (PhD)

    Ophelia Kaba

    Research Topic:

    The benefits farmers and households derive from savannah woodland ecosystems

    Articles

    coming soon

    Link to paper: Not available

    LinkedIn

    ResearchGate

    Email

    Ophelia Kaba is a final year PhD Environmental science student with the Institute for Environment and Sanitation studies, University of Ghana. Her research area is benefits of ecosystem in savannah woodland. In Ghana, the Guinea Savannah Woodland ecosystem, with its ecological and economic benefits, are being eroded due to anthropogenic and climatic influence. This has resulted in the three Northern Regions being listed as hot spots in need of attention to prevent desertification. Generally, Ophelia’s study seeks to assess the benefits farmers and households derive from savannah woodland ecosystems. The specific objectives include assessing:

    • factors influencing access and use of savannah woodland ecosystem services.

    • use of woodland ecosystem services as an adaptive strategy to climate change or climate variability

    • woodland management practices in the study area.

    • the value of woodland ecosystem services in the study area and

    • land cover change from 1986 to 2017 for Nandom District.

    In addition, her study is comparing leaf litter decomposition and nutrient release of selected woodland species in the study area.

    She hopes to use the findings of this study will be used to inform policy aimed at improving the Guinea Savannah Woodland ecosystem and implementation of poverty alleviation programmes in this region.

  • Rose Afful (PhD)

    Rose Afful

    Research Topic:

    Social differentiation and climate change by assessing the effectiveness of climate change adaptation strategies adopted by rural women

    Articles

    coming soon

    Link to paper: Not available

    LinkedIn

    ResearchGate

    Email

    Rose has sixteen years professional experience in Gender, Environment and Livelihoods. She has worked as the Environment and Livelihoods Specialist at the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF) for the past 9 years, she also manages climate change grants at AWDF which supports African women to respond to challenges of climate change by building their resilience.  Rose holds a B.Sc. in Natural Resources Management and an M.SC. in Environmental Resources Management from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi-Ghana. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Environment al Science at the Institute of Environment and Sanitation Studies (IESS), University of Ghana, Legon. She is passionate about issues of women’s livelihoods and climate change.

    Rose is a currently a beneficiary of the ASSAR research grant and is also co-managing the GLAS Project (ASSAR Grant for Local Adaptation Support) for her experiential learning.

    The GLAS project seeks to enhance the adaptive capacity of selected women group leaders in Nandom and Lawra Districts in the Upper West Region of Ghana through the establishment of a community–based advocacy platform. The project resulted from research carried out under the Adaptation at Scale in the Semi-Arid Regions, ASSAR project. The research revealed that vulnerable women are largely hindered by lack of access to arable farmlands, inadequate livelihood and technology options, disparity in employment and greater difficulty in accessing information than their male counterparts. Furthermore, restricted access to education and higher labour burden lead to constraints in the ability of women to diversify the types of livelihoods. In addition, cultural norms may influence the range of responses that women can make for managing risks and adapting to climate change.

    For her PhD research work under ASSAR, Rose is looking at working on social differentiation and climate change by assessing the effectiveness of climate change adaptation strategies adopted by rural women in Nandom and Lawra Districts and develop a sustainable livelihood model for effective climate adaptation.

  • 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.

  • Edward Koomson (PhD)

    Edward Koomson

    coming soon

    Research Topic:

    Understanding the impact of climate change on ecosystems in semi-arid environments and its consequent impacts on livelihood and wellbeing of semi-arid communities

    Articles

    coming soon

    Link to paper: Not available

     

    ResearchGate

    Email

    Edward Koomson is a PhD student at the Institute for Environment and Sanitation Studies (IESS) at the University of Ghana. His research focus on understanding the impact of climate change on ecosystems in semi-arid environments and its consequent impacts on livelihood and wellbeing of semi-arid communities. Currently he is collecting survey data having concluded focused group discussions in the selected communities. Historical and projected rainfall data for the study area is also being analyzed to understand trends and what the trend may be going into the future and how they will impact on key ecosystem services and wellbeing. Land use and land cover analysis is also being undertaken to understand the changes in the various ecosystems.

    Since ecosystem services flows from ecosystems, understanding the changes in the ecosystems will help highlight any changes in the ecosystem services provision. This knowledge, it is hoped, will help develop adaptation interventions through appropriate policies and program to enhance the resilience of the semi-arid ecosystems and the adaptive capacities of the communities.  Preliminary results show that there has been a significant decrease in annual rainfall since the 1950s. The results further show that the onset of the rains has shifted. The rains are starting about one to two month later than in the past thereby shortening the season length. Dry spell lengths have also considerably increased over the period impacting on food production an important ecosystem services such as water and other natural resources exploited from the wild.