Building Connections: Community-Based Environmental Sustainability in Southern Africa

On the 15 and 16 of December 2016 an International Symposium was hosted at the University of Glasgow, funded by the ESRC.  Building Connections: Community-Based Environmental Sustainability in Southern Africa. The event was organised and run by the University of Glasgow scholars, Dr. Mia Perry (School of Education), and Prof. Deborah Dixon of (Geographical and Earth Sciences), and aimed at fostering research collaboration and knowledge-exchange across disciplines and between institutions based in Scotland, Wales, Malawi, and Botswana. Invited participants included Dr. Boyson Moyo (agronomist, Malawi), Prof. Rebecca Lekoko (community and adult education, Botswana), Dr. Olekae Thakadu (environmental management, Botswana), Dr. Deepa Pullanikkatil (environmental management, Malawi), as well as Elson Kambalu (artist and film maker from Lilongwe, Malawi). The UK based institutions were represented by Dr. Marc Welsh (remediation and resilience in Malawi, Aberystwyth University), and the University of Glasgow academics, including Dr. Neil Burnside (interdisciplinary geoscientist), Dr. Alan Britton (environmental education), Dr Carlos Galan Diaz (research impact), Dr. Margaret Smith (multidisciplinary agro-chemist), Dr. Ian Watson (applied physicist) and Kasia Uflewska (cultural sociologist and Ketso intern).

The Symposium opened with remarks by Prof. Mike Osborne, Director of Research for the School of Education, University of Glasgow, and was introduced by Dr. Mia Perry and Prof. Deborah Dixon. The activities, aimed at knowledge-sharing and presentations, commenced with a panel discussion addressing the environmental challenges in Southern Africa, and were followed by a briefing on funding opportunities for global challenges. The subsequent afternoon workshops focused on issues related to the community engagement, arts and public pedagogies, geographical and Earth sciences, as well as the research methodologies. The first day closed up with heated discussions on the challenges and opportunities for cross cultural, and cross discipline research in Southern African environmental sustainability, as well as on affordances and challenges of interdisciplinary research among academics, politicians and community members.

The second day of the Symposium commenced with introductions by Prof. John Briggs, (Professor of Geography, Vice-Principal for the University, and Clerk of Senate) and aimed at formalising ideas, and forming potential partnerships. The diverse ideas, perspectives, and interest areas were explored holistically and creatively through an employment of an engagement toolkit, Ketso. A brief Ketso introductory workshop was conducted by Kasia Uflewska to support participants in carrying out an extensive Ketso afternoon session aimed at formulating final ideas, collaborations and partnerships. The Symposium concluded with a formulation of actionable plans, including groundwork-planning, bid writing, and potential research collaborations.

Volcano-Tectonics in Tanzania, exploring the World’s Strangest Volcano

The University of Glasgow Tanzania Expedition took place in June 2015 and consisted of a team of 13 Glasgow students who worked alongside a group of students from the University of Dodoma to study the unique Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano.

Translating to “Mountain of God” in the local Maasai language, Ol Doinyo Lengai has been dubbed the “strangest volcano on Earth” by National Geographic due to the unique composition of its magma and the importance of it geological setting. Located in the Arusha region of Tanzania, Ol Doinyo Lengai is part of the East African Rift System; an active continental rift zone which stretches 1000’s of kilometres from the Gulf of Aden to Mozambique. It began developing around 25 million years ago at the onset of the Miocene and since then the smaller Somalian Plate has been pulling away from the Nubian (African) Plate at a rate of roughly 6-7mm per year, providing a modern analogue to help us understand  how  continents break  apart.  Ol Doinyo Lengai  (3188m)  sits  on the  eastern branch of the rift known as the Gregory Rift. It is the only active carbonatite volcano in the world and has the coolest lava, erupting at 500-600degreesC, resulting in extensive interest from the geological community.



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Rwenzori Mountains, Albertine Rift System, Uganda

Understanding the structure, permeability and activity of faults in and around the Rwenzori mountains, Albertine rift system, Uganda.

1Daniel Koehn, 2Kevin Aanyu, 1Allan Hollinsworth, 1Roderick Brown, 2Andreas Schuman

1School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, University of Glasgow, UK

2Department of Geology and Petroleum Studies   

Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda

The East African Rift System (EARS) has intrigued scientists for decades as it is the archetype of a continental rift and is believed to be the cradle of humankind. However, our current understanding of this geological feature is still clouded with mystery. In this project we focus on rift faults in the western branch of the EARS in and around the Rwenzori mountains, and aim at an understanding of why and how a basement block was uplifted during extension of the crust. The EARS represents one of the most variable environments on Earth being an area of active tectonics, dynamic topography with deep lakes, high mountains and active volcanoes. The variability of this changing landscape, its local climate and its richness in natural resources poses opportunities as well as challenges for local communities and consequently regional and global interests. We are working together with researchers from Makerere University, Uganda Wildlife Authority and local community guides to develop an understanding of the geology, faulting and rock uplift as well as science communication and local community development.

This research is funded by the NERC Oil and Gas CDT and supported by the Ugandan Council for Science and Technology (UNCST) and Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). We thank NERC, UNCST and UWA for their support.


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