A cross-regional perspective: Reflections from the ASSAR-SOG exchange at the University of Cape Town

16 Nov 2016 - 14:15

Arjun Srinivas, recipient of ASSAR's Small Opportunities Grant (ASSAR-SOG), describes some of his experiences collaborating with colleagues and travelling in South Africa.

By Arjun Srinivas

Within days of arriving in South Africa, I realised that I was there at a very significant moment in its nascent modern history. The country was coming to terms with allegations of graft and corruption at the highest level, while also being in the midst of a severe drought. There were unprecedented nationwide protests in the country’s leading universities, with students rallying for affordable education and a refurbished curriculum. This served as the backdrop for my two-week research exchange at the University of Cape Town.

Left to right: Chalmers Mulwa, Prof. Martine Visser, Arjun Srinivas and Zachary Gitonga.

I was there to collaborate with my ASSAR colleagues from Southern Africa, namely Professor Martine Visser and her two PhD students, Zachary Gitonga and Chalmers Mulwa, of the School of Economics - University of Cape Town. We are currently working to streamline the quantitative household surveys across the ASSAR research regions of East Africa, India and Southern Africa. The surveys are being rolled out under the Social Differentiation & Gender stream of ASSAR that addresses questions of vulnerability to climate change, barriers and enablers to adaptation. The objective of our joint initiative is to curate a large and comprehensive dataset amenable to econometric analysis that enables cross-regional comparison.  

During the two week exchange we established the basis for this collaborative work. This included the adoption of a theoretical understanding centered around ‘well-being’’, and the formulation of an analytical framework to inquire into the drivers of vulnerability and well-being. We also teased out some preliminary results from our Indian data.

Our work during this period culminated in a seminar at the Africa Climate Development Initiative (ACDI) on the 2nd of November, 2016. This enabled us to not only share our work with researchers but also helped obtain critical feedback as we proceed with the analysis and collaborative writing. We have also started putting together a teaching module on “Cross Regional Comparison using survey data” for the CARIAA Economics Winter School that will take place in New Delhi from the 9th to the 13th of January, 2017.

I had an extremely fruitful and productive time at the University, and appreciated the networking opportunities. I relished the fortnight that I spent in Cape Town, and was inspired by the city’s astounding natural beauty and the kindness of its residents. Following this I travelled by road through the beautiful country, to Bloemfontein, where I met some friends at the University of the Free State. Finally, I spent a day in Johannesburg before flying back.

My time in South Africa helped reinforce my understanding of the universal values and the shared challenges that confront our cultures globally. It also helped me realise that the work that we do at ASSAR-India does not happen in isolation, but is part of a larger scheme of research being undertaken in disparate contexts and geographies. I am grateful for the experience and would like to thank the team at UCT for hosting me there.


ASSAR Small Opportunities Grants

The wide-ranging expertise and experience represented across ASSAR provides an excellent opportunity to strengthen individual research, science communication and networking capacities of early career scientists in Africa and Asia.

Therefore, a fund was established to support professional development within the project. The ASSAR Small Opportunities Grants (ASSAR-SOG) offer an opportunity for young scientists to tap into a broad spectrum of strengths, skills, perspectives, and ideas across different semi-arid hotspots.

Read previous grantees’ experiences: