By Priscilla Kumbambe
The Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST) in partnership with Malmö University and the Nordic Africa Institute between October 28 and Nover 1, 2019 held a conference on the “practice and politics of urban climate mitigation and adaptation efforts at the margins”.
The first three days of the conference were in Lilongwe and involved stakeholders such as scholars working on local level responses to climate and environmental crisis across regions.
The last two days took the experts to MUST campus in Thyolo where they shared their knowledge and experience with students studying related programmes at MUST under the Ndata School of Climate and Earth Sciences (NSCES).
MUST Deputy Vice Chancellor, Professor Jonathan Makuwira, is one of the key researchers on this research consortium.
According to NSCES Executive Dean, Dr Wilfred Kadewa, some of the presenters at the conference in Lilongwe had offered themselves to provide some basic training and dialogue in their disciplinary fields–humanities, social science and urban planning for to the students, hoping that this would be useful to bring into our students’ research and methodological agendas.
“Including topics related to participatory urban planning and design, historical methods, urban governance and institutions, and ethnography, the participants had put together a shortlist of teaching materials and readings that was made available to our students,” he said.
“For the second phase, the aim was to share experiences, the research methodologies, and how to make sense of the data that was collected on the research titled ‘Practice and Politics of Urban Climate Mitigation and Adaptation Efforts at the Margins’ case study of Lilongwe.”
Dr Kadewa, who graced the students conference with NSCES head of Earth Sciences Department, Dr Isaac Tchuwa, colleagues from Nordic Africa Institute and Malmö University, and some NSCES staff members, said the two institutions are part of a research consortium for this project.
He said there are several cities involved as part of the research studies, including Lilongwe, Maputo, Detroit and Malmö.
“As such, the conference has imparted our students with new or improved skills in aspects of governance, ethnography and historical aspects. This research will give the students an opportunity to practise and get a feel of a real life research. Since some members of staff are participating in this research, this will help in the transferring of the knowledge and skills with all other students that were not able to take part,” added Dr Kadewa.
The main focus of the research is on the impacts of climate change and how it is affecting the peri-urban areas.
The exercise is expected to help in the internationalisation of MUST and enable it to attract more research grants.
“In addition, the students were equipped on how to develop a climate change-free city. The members of staff will also be given an opportunity to study at the University of Malmö hence boosting the academic arena,” said Dr Tchuwa.
One of the four students that were selected as research assistants, Chimwemwe Kawoloka, said they have learnt a lot and expect to learn more from the exercise.
“Being a Disaster Risk Management student, this research will add more knowledge to my studies and I will be able to apply to the theories learnt in class. In addition, I am now more conversant with the different methodologies and how to apply them in real life,” said Kawoloka.
Kawoloka promised to make a presentation to her classmates to share the experience and skills she has gained through the project.
“I hope through that, they too will be able to apply the theories learnt in class in real life situations,” she added.