Friday 28 February 2020

Raising awareness among smallholder farmers in Embu and Mwea, Kenya on the impacts of climate change on agriculture

by Dr Hannah Karuri, Cohort 1 Fellow, University of Embu

The Climate Impacts Research Capacity and Leadership Enhancement (CIRCLE) programme is an initiative of the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID). Managed by the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU), the programme is a response to the shortage of local scientists contributing to knowledge on the impacts of climate change on local development in sub-Saharan Africa. Maximising the potential impact of the research conducted under CIRCLE has been a key priority for the programme, leading to the launch of the CIRCLE Research Uptake Fund. This fund has been designed to provide financial support to fellows to enable them to conduct activities related to ensuring their research reaches potential users and other stakeholders.

My research activities under CIRCLE are on climate change, plant- parasitic nematodes (PPN) and smallholder agriculture. Plant-parasitic nematodes are microscopic worms that feed on plant parts and are a major constraint to crop production. Development, lifecycle, infectivity, geographical distribution and abundance of PPN is affected by changes in temperature and moisture. This is due to the fact that PPN growth and reproduction is directly related to these environmental factors. Climate change may result in an increase in PPN abundance and an expansion of the geographical distribution range which may have a detrimental impact on crop production in Kenya.

Smallholder farmers in a maize field in Mwea, Kenya during a research uptake activity. Photo: Hannah Karuri
Smallholder farmers are not aware of the impact of PPN on crops due to the fact that, PPN are microscopic and the symptoms that they cause are often confused with nutrient deficiency and other abiotic stresses. Therefore, my activities under the CIRCLE Research Uptake Fund involved training farming communities in Embu and Mwea regions of Kenya on PPN and farming techniques that can be used to reduce PPN population in crop fields.  Through collaboration with local and national agricultural institutions, groups of smallholders were trained on use of low cost PPN management techniques such as planting nematode resistant crop varieties, application of organic manure and intercropping. These techniques had been previously tested and proven to be more sustainable and cost effective compared to application of nematicides. The farming techniques will reduce damage caused by PPN and subsequent crop yield losses, thereby improving smallholders’ livelihoods. Since nematode damage affects the quality of some crops such as sweet potato, reducing PPN will also improve quality of marketable roots.

Smallholder farmers in a maize field in Mwea, Kenya during a research uptake activity. Photo: Hannah Karuri
Farming communities were also sensitized on the future impact of climate change on abundance and distribution of nematodes and the predicted effect on yields. Demystifying climate change to smallholders is a challenge due to the strong influence of traditional and religious beliefs.  Through the research uptake fund, information on climate change and its impact on agriculture was provided to smallholders in Mwea and Embu through reading materials that were written in a language that was simple and clear. Training of smallholders on low cost nematode management techniques will be done in other Kenyan regions as follow-up activities in order to sustain the farming practices that were introduced to smallholders in the two regions.

For further information on CIRCLE and the CIRCLE Research Uptake Fund, please contact George Lakey at

Thursday 19 December 2019

Kube-Atenda Community, Ibadan, Nigeria Commissioned Waste-to-Electricity Facility - A CIRCLE Research Uptake

by Dr Taiwo Hammed Babatunde, Cohort 3, Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Faculty of Public Health, College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, Nigeria

Members of the Kube-Atenda Community after the unveiling of the smokeless pyrolytic chamber
In September 2019 I won a second round of the Climate Impact Research Capacity and Leadership Enhancement programme (CIRCLE) Research Uptake Fund. The fund provided grants to alumni of the CIRCLE Visiting Fellowship programme to conduct activities aimed at ensuring the uptake of their CIRCLE research findings by end-users. The current uptake focused on scaling up of waste buy-back established my CIRCLE project at Kube Atenda community, Ibadan, Nigeria. Before this uptake activity, the community had been faced with a major challenge of transporting wastes collected at the centre to the companies that would utilize them in the city. As such, wastes started to accumulate in heaps around the centre while some people were reverting to their old management practices that are not environmentally friendly. According to the chairman of Kube-Atenda community, Elder Abraham Odeyale, ‘disposal of wastes has long been a major challenge in our community. Once upon a time, wastes were being burnt or disposed of in the community stream, but we had been taught to desist from such disposal methods. Therefore, the community members had been paying a token fee for a waste contractor to clear our wastes. However, the waste collector had been unavailable of late’.

Against this backdrop and in ensuring that community people permanently stop disposing of their wastes on illegal dumps, in open spaces, in water bodies or burn them openly, I invented and installed a smokeless pyrolytic chamber that converts various solid wastes to renewable energy and useful by-products. The uniqueness of the chamber is that:
    1. The entire unit is completely covered to reduce gaseous emission into the atmosphere.
    2. No heat loss; heat generated during the burning of waste is reused through the production of syngas and injecting it into the furnace.
    3. Smoke is recycled into black oil or diesel after treatment.
    4. Since there is no gaseous emission, it can be operated safely at any convenient place.
    5. All materials used are locally available.
    6. The unit powers itself and can be used to treat hazardous wastes, hospital waste and agricultural wastes without polluting the environment.

The smokeless pyrolytic chamber and young members of the Kube-Atenda community

The smokeless pyrolytic chamber
Through community joint efforts, various activities that were carried out to ensure the success of this research uptake included:
    1.  Creating awareness of buy-back centre
    2. Building people’s capacity in waste to wealth concept for wealth creation and poverty reduction
    3. Monitoring and evaluation of previous uptake activities
    4. Fabrication, installation and test-running of newly invented pyrolytic chamber for converting accumulated waste to energy and useful by-products
    5. Production of simplified and harmonized manual
    6. A one-day hands-on training workshop on the operation of the newly invented plant
    7. Dissemination of the simplified manual was organized in the community

Elder Odeyale also said that the power situation has been problematic too. “Most of the time, darkness has been what we reckon within this community. But with this project, light has come, and we believe it will be extended." The facility will reduce the amount of waste that needs to be disposed of from the community. The facility generates gas that powers a generator for electricity supply and produces oil from which diesel and kerosene can be distilled. The electricity supplied is used to power a phone-charging centre that financially empowers the youths who are managing the centre. The electricity generated also powers streetlights and thereby improves security in the area. The project holds great promise in that it is scalable. To produce more gas and subsequently more electricity, a bigger generating set is needed, coupled with an increase in the waste fed into the pyrolytic chamber. The current setup powers a 2.4kva generator.

Phone-charging centre powered by electricity generated from the smokeless pyrolytic chamber
The centre has become a study area for the young and mid-career researchers and postgraduate students in the University of Ibadan and beyond. This research uptake will meet the community people’s needs in the area of community development, clean environment, people's capacity building in waste to wealth concept for wealth creation and poverty reduction, improved health and improved self-esteem. Also, the uptake activities will facilitate and contribute to the use of research evidence by policymakers, practitioners and other development actors in the state in general.

Study area for young and mid-career researcher and postgraduate students
I am of the opinion that the success story and experiences I have acquired from this uptake will advance my capacity in executing the ACU Blue Charter Fellowship research on marine plastic pollution I am currently undertaking at the University of Plymouth, United Kingdom.

For more information on this project please contact

Wednesday 27 November 2019

The Association of Commonwealth Universities participates prominently at COVIDSET 2019 in Zimbabwe

by Prof. Dr Johnny Ogunji
Alex Ekwueme Federal University Ndufu-Alike, Ebonyi State, Nigeria

The African Network of Scientific and Technological Institutions (ANSTI), established a biannual conference of Vice-Chancellors, Deans of Science, Engineering and Technology (COVIDSET) as a forum for university leaders responsible for science and engineering education to meet and dialogue on strategic issues in science and engineering education.1 COVIDSET is a forum both for the exchange of ideas and experiences as well as for the sensitization of university leaders on trends in science and engineering education in the region and globally. 

The conference provides a platform for university leaders, policymakers, development partners, international scientific and engineering networks and the private sector to exchange ideas, examine challenges and opportunities, explore solutions and forge ahead to ensure the relevance of these fields in our new and changing world”.2 Organisations and agencies involved in Higher Education and the promotion of Science and Technology in Africa are also invited to participate in the conference.

The first edition, COVIDSET 2005, was held in Accra, Ghana, from 15-17 November 2005. The 7th African Regional Conference of Vice Chancellors and Deans of Science, Education, Engineering and Technology (COVIDSET) was just hosted by Bindura University of Science Education Zimbabwe in collaboration with UNESCO and ANSTI from the 20 to 21 November 2019. The theme of the conference was “Promoting Innovation and the Industrialisation of Africa through Quality STEM education”. It took place at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.

Interestingly, the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) participated prominently at the conference. Johnny Ogunji, Ben Prasadam-Halls and Verity Buckley contributed a paper titled “Strengthening Research in Africa and Improving the Competences of African Researchers: Lessons from Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) Projects in Sub-Saharan Africa”. The paper was put together to address Objective 2 of the conference: “Strengthening/Enhancing capacity in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education to achieve the New Development agendas (African Union Agenda 2063, STISA 2024); (Linkages and Partnership, Research funding, relevant programmes, Human Capital development, Value addition)”.

The African Union (AU) Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa 2024 (STISA-2024) places science, technology and innovation at the epicentre of Africa’s socio-economic development and growth. The STISA-2024 is the first of the ten-year incremental phasing strategies to respond to the demand for science, technology and innovation to impact across critical sectors such as agriculture, energy, environment, health, infrastructure development, mining, security and water among others. The strategy is firmly anchored on six distinct priority areas that contribute to the achievement of the AU Vision. These priority areas are: Eradication of Hunger and Achieving Food Security; Prevention and Control of Diseases; Communication (Physical and Intellectual Mobility); Protection of our Space; Live Together- Build the Society; and Wealth Creation

Participants to the 7th African Regional Conference of Vice Chancellors and Deans of Science, Education, Engineering and Technology (COVIDSET) in Zimbabwe
While reading the paper, Johnny Ogunji presented the outcome of several projects of ACU, targeted at strengthening research in Africa and improving the competences of African Researchers. Some of these include: The Nairobi process, the Structured Training for African Researchers (STARS) project and the Climate Impacts Research Capacity and Leadership Enhancement in Sub-Saharan Africa programme (CIRCLE). He pointed out that ACU through CIRCLE worked with participating institutions to develop better professional development systems for early career research staff via the CIRCLE Institutional Strengthening Programme (ISP). To make the engagement of researchers more effective, the CIRCLE lens was applied to the Vitae Researcher Development Framework (RDF) to guide the wider programme.
Prof. Dr Johnny Ogunji presenting the ACU paper
The Vitae RDF is an internationally recognized framework for the development of researchers’ competencies, encompassing the diversity of skills required to create excellent research with impact. In order to share learning from CIRCLE, a series of Six ISP Good Practice Guides outlining how to design, deliver and monitor an ISP at any institution were produced. On the other hand, while prosecuting STARS, ACU developed a robust, high quality series of nine online modules to universities across the developing world. The courses covered topics such as identifying your research niche, finding funding, managing research projects, time management, building effective collaborations and partnerships, communicating findings to non-academic audiences, academic ethics and research supervision. This will help to bolster the next generation of academic staff in Africa and strengthen the long-term vitality of their research and teaching.
In addition to the paper presentation Johnny Ogunji took part in a panel discussion of the Conference theme. During these presentations he emphasised the importance of Universities and researchers in Africa to key into and make use of the RDF as a very important instrument that will improve technical and professional competencies of researchers. He also stressed that institutions should adopt the Institutional Strengthening Program (ISP) of ACU to make real progress and enhance science, technology and innovation to bring about Africa’s socio-economic development and growth. He invited any University that needs help from ACU to indicate interest since ACU is willing to give assistance.

Prof. Dr Johnny Ogunji participating in the panel discussion at the conference

The Organizers were very excited by the participation of ACU in the Conference. During the vote of thanks, the organizers thanked the ACU alongside other companies and institutions for supporting the Conference. Prof. Dr Johnny Ogunji at the end of the conference was granted an interview with the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Coorpration where he further advanced the course of ACU.

It was a good thing that ACU participated at the Conference. Many attending Universities have indicated interest to become members of ACU in due course. ACU is appreciated for sponsoring Johnny Ogunji to the Conference.




Monday 30 September 2019

Nigeria CVF Forum: The Journey Thus Far

Written by Abiodun S. Momodu[1], Clara Ifeanyi-obi[2] and Faith O. Kasim[3]

Dr Momodu, Dr Ifeanyi-obi, and Dr Kasim are alumni of the CIRCLE Visiting Fellowship programme. They recently initiated a forum for  alumni of this programme based in Nigeria. Here, they reflect on this and their future plans.

At Ibadan, in the month of April 2019, a number of CIRCLE Visiting Fellows (CVFs) gathered together to deliberate on how to sustain the legacy of the experience we had during the fellowship periods between 2015 and 2018. These few CVFs at that meeting agreed that there should be a Nigeria CVF Forum. This birthed the Forum. Three CVFs were subsequently nominated to direct the affairs of the Forum until such a time that we will be able to gather together in our number to do an actual election or selection as may be convenient.

Nigeria-based alumni of the CIRCLE Visiting Fellowship programme at the ACU-UI Next Generation Workshop at the University of Ibadan, April 2019

To keep our activities alive, we agreed at the meeting that held during the ACU-UI Next Generation Workshop held at the University of Ibadan, Ibadan from 2nd to 4th of April 2019 to be involved in the following: (1) publish a book on Climate Change. This book is meant to showcase our various researches as relates to climate change in Nigeria. This project has actually kickstarted and over twenty concept notes have been collected awaiting review for final selection, while negotiation is on-going with would-be publisher; (2) conduct an annual reunion meeting amongst the CVFs in Nigeria with the maiden edition tentatively fixed for March 2020 at  the University of Ibadan; (3) generate a memorandum of understanding/constitution that will define the operations of the Forum as we move forward.

It is important at this point to note that primary purpose of the Forum is to keep alive our various training experiences, in research and leadership, at the various institutions that each of the CVFs had the fellowship. The Nigeria CVF Forum also felt it is significant to become a veritable platform for Climate Research and mentoring for upcoming researchers. The gap noticed by both the Association of Commonwealth Universities and the African Academy of Sciences that led to the implementation of CIRCLE will remain if we do not step in to fill the void. This gap is principally in regard of early career researchers in universities and research institutions that are not exposed to top notch training in research and leadership to take over from senior faculty members. The reverberating effect is the decline in contribution to global body of knowledge in various areas of endeavours, with particular emphasis on climate change. Climate change is a global topical issue particularly as it affects every sphere of life. The understanding of the effect of climate change on every sphere of life has significant input to the formulation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement and the Africa We Want.

To this end, the Nigeria CVF Forum plans to be having annual reunion meetings with the aim to review issues that affects ECRs. Climate Change and national development. How we will go about conducting these activities will be a collective decision that we will all arrive at together. Presently, we have formed a WhatsApp Group to disseminate information and also generate ideas through virtual meetings. We have selected a number of persons to serve as Editorial Committee to oversee the book launch planned for 2020. Hopefully, we will reach out to the Association of Commonwealth Universities and the various management of our home institutions with the details of our activities. It is at this point noteworthy to commend the United Kingdom Government through the Department for International Development (DFID) for facilitating all the activities of CIRCLE. Moving forward, the Nigeria CVF Forum do sincerely hope that with our spread arms, the leaders of ACU and management of our various institutions will help us to rise and meet the daunting challenges in research and leadership training.

Thank you.

[1] Centre for Energy Research and Development, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria. Email:; Phone: +2348061399185
[2] Department of Agricultural Economics and Extension, University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria. Emai:; Phone: +2348033397055, +234802888119
[3] Department of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria. Email:; +2348055607009

Wednesday 17 July 2019

Renewed support for strengthening climate change research capacity in sub-Saharan Africa

By George Lakey, CIRCLE Programme Officer

Through renewed funding from the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) is continuing its commitment to supporting climate change research across sub-Saharan Africa through its Climate Impacts Research Capacity and Leadership Enhancement (CIRCLE) programme.

Since 2015, the ACU-led CIRCLE programme has been working to strengthen the capacity of African researchers and research institutions to undertake research into the impacts of climate change on local development. Numerous reports have indicated the success of the programme in building the capacity of both individual researchers to undertake quality research and institutions to better support the career development of their researchers.

DFID has been a long-standing supporter of programmes designed to build the research capacity of individuals and organisations, with a report in 2010 noting this as one of their four key priorities. We are therefore delighted that DFID will continue to support this capacity building programme on both an individual and institutional level. On an individual level, the programme will continue to support the Alumni of the CIRCLE Visiting Fellowship (CVF) through two funds; the CIRCLE Publication Fund and the CIRCLE Research Uptake Fund.

CIRCLE Publication Fund

The CIRCLE Publication Fund supports CVF Alumni in paying article processing charges (APCs) to enable them to publish their work open access and contribute more fully to the body of knowledge on the impacts of climate change. To date, CIRCLE has used close to £50,000 GBP to support the publication of over 50 articles. The additional funding provided by DFID will substantially increase this number, contributing further to the impact of CIRCLE.

All publications supported through this fund must be in journals deemed to be prestigious. The majority of journals published in are ranked on Scimajo Journal & Country Rank (SJR), with a large proportion ranked in Quartile 1. The remaining journals have been deemed to be prestigious, with many found on African Journals Online (AJOL), the largest online library of peer-reviewed, African-published scholarly journals. AJOL works to change the flow of scholarly information from North to South and West to East, as well as allowing African researchers to access the work of other African academics to ensure that research produced in Africa is readily available to Africans.

CIRCLE Research Uptake Fund

Research uptake – the process through which research reaches its users – is another DFID priority area as it enhances the impact of programmes and contributes to real change. To this end, CIRCLE implemented a Research Uptake Fund to support CVF Alumni in activities that will contribute to their CIRCLE research being put into use. Three separate calls have distributed 65 awards, totalling over £125,000 GBP. An impressive 3,400 stakeholders have been engaged through these funded activities.

The ACU has extensive experience in delivering programmes aimed at supporting research uptake processes. As a facilitator of research uptake activities, the ACU seeks to ensure that key stakeholders are engaging with important research that can have real-world impact. The research conducted by CVF Alumni, with its focus on the impacts of climate change on local development, is vital in mitigating against a changing environment for communities across sub-Saharan Africa. We are therefore delighted that DFID’s additional funding will allow CIRCLE to continue to support its CVF Alumni in ensuring their research is reaching those who need it most.

Image from Dr Abimbola Oluwaranti's CIRCLE Research Uptake Fund activity

CIRCLE ISP Implementation Fund

As well as supporting individuals, CIRCLE sought to strengthen the capacity of institutions to support the career development of their researchers. 31 research institutions across 9 African countries were supported through the CIRCLE Institutional Strengthening Programme (ISP). The CIRCLE ISP Implementation Fund was designed to provide small amounts of seed funding to institutions to enable them to conduct activities related to their ISP Action Plan. Two rounds of Implementation Funding have been taken place to-date, with approximately £65,000 GBP being dispersed. In round 1, 18 institutions conducted 31 activities, while in round 2 16 institutions conducted 27 activities. A further two rounds of this fund will allow CIRCLE-participating institutions continued access to small grants to fund activities to help embed the ISP within their institution.

Inauguration of the Mentoring Handbook at Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Nigeria. Funded through the CIRCLE ISP Implementation Fund.

Non-CIRCLE ISP Implementation Fund

The learning developed through the CIRCLE programme in how to strengthen capacity building processes at African research institutions has been captured in a series of six CIRCLE ISP Good Practice Guides which outline how to design, deliver and monitor an ISP at any institution.

In order to assess the effectiveness and suitability of the guides for wider use, a small grants scheme will be launched for non-CIRCLE institutions. As with the main CIRCLE ISP Implementation Fund, universities would use the funding to support the organisation of workshops, training sessions or developing support materials such as in-house mentoring or training guides. This process allows the sharing of learning from CIRCLE beyond the scope of the programme; extending and enhancing its impact.

The Guides will also be widely promoted, and the first grants scheme will be launched during our 2020 Developing the Next Generation of Researchers workshop, which will be expanded to further disseminate the learning and expertise produced by CIRCLE.

The Climate and Resilience Framework Programme (CLARE)

As well as allowing us to continue to support our participants, the 2-year extension will allow CIRCLE to use its experience and expertise in capacity strengthening to inform the design of the capacity strengthening aspect of DFID’s new Climate and Resilience Framework Programme (CLARE). CIRCLE will carry out several scoping exercises to identify good practice across programmes within the DFID network, and contribute to recommendations on how to expand on successes to date.

For more information about CIRCLE, please email

Wednesday 27 February 2019

Maximising the potential for research impact

By George Lakey, CIRCLE Programme Officer

The CIRCLE Visiting Fellowship (CVF) Programme, where early career researchers based at African institutions complete a yearlong Fellowship at another host institution within Africa, aimed to strengthen the capacity of African scientists to undertake research on climate change and its impacts on local development. 97 CVFs were successfully completed between 2015-2017, resulting in a group of CVF Alumni. Every 6 months since the completion of their Fellowship, CVF Alumni have been asked to complete a Follow-up Report to assess their experiences, successes, and challenges since returning to their home institution. The latest Follow-up Report was conducted in December 2018 and January 2019 and covered the period from July to December 2018. In preparation for the full report being published on ACU website, this blog presents some of the key highlights of the CVF Alumni maximising their potential for research impact.

Image 1. Cohort 1 CVF Alumni at their pre-Fellowship Workshop in 2015

Improving research capacity

CVF Alumni were asked to rate their experiences in key research capacity areas between July and December 2018, including the time they now have to conduct their research. Figure 1 below provides a breakdown of these responses. While it is clear that having the time to conduct their research has been the most challenging aspect of their careers over the 6 month period, over 80% believed that their experiences have improved in this area. Time is a major constraint in improving the capacity of early career researchers to conduct research, and it has been suggested that African researchers have continually spent over 80% of their working week conducting administrative activities (AAS, 2019). Therefore, it is encouraging to see that the skills and experiences gained through the Fellowship are  allowing our CVF Alumni to begin to mitigate this issue.

Figure 1. CVF experiences in key research capacity areas between July and December 2018

Research capacity as quality as well as quantity

A total of 93 articles were submitted to peer-review journals between July and December 2018, with 41 of those submissions being published. However, while volume of publications is important for CIRCLE, the quality of the journals that researchers are submitting to is crucial. Research capacity is about quality as well as quantity. An increase in a researcher’s time to conduct their research not only increases their potential output, but also increases the potential for quality output.

Image 2. Two members of our Cohort 2 CVF Alumni, Ms Sandra Atindana and Dr Daniella Sedegah

Through a support network of supervisors, mentors, and specialist advisors, along with training on journal selection, CIRCLE has placed a strong emphasis on ensuring that CVF Alumni are submitting to ‘reputable’ or ‘prestigious’ journals. While reviewing journals to assess quality can be a challenging process, CIRCLE uses metric databases such as Scimajo Journal & Country Rank (SJR), alongside further desk-based online research, and consultation with project partners. Figure 2 below provides a breakdown of articles submitted to or published in peer-reviewed journals by CVF Alumni between July and December 2018. An incredible 74% of these articles were to journals defined as reputable, while only 11% could be seen to be low quality. In addition. over two thirds of those reputable journals were in SJR Quartiles 1 and 2. By publishing in such prestigious journals, our CVF Alumni are maximising the potential impact of their research, which is essential if the impacts of climate change on development in their locality are going to understood, mitigated and addressed.

Figure 2. Quality of peer-review journals submitted to between July and December 2018

Increasing visibility - conferences and events

Presenting at conferences and events is a further mechanism for contributing to debates on climate change impacts and improving research visibility. Between July and December 2018, our CVF Alumni attended 99 events, presenting at 35 of these. These presentations were located in 13 different countries, with 15 presentations occurring in locations outside the presenter’s home country, including in Australia, Canada, Ethiopia, Germany, Kenya, Rwanda, the United Kingdom, and the United States. While it is essential that research is presented within the locality of where the research was conducted, particularly when the topic of study is the impact of climate change on local development, it is also very impressive to see the quality of CVF Alumni research recognised on an international scale. An international audience being presented with local issues is important for increasing the visibility of those issues and securing international funding and action.

Image 3. Cohort 3 Fellow, Mrs Ibe, attending a climate change conference in California, USA

The CIRCLE Team is continuously amazed at the excellence of our CVF Alumni and we would like to congratulate each and every one of them for their brilliant research into the impact of climate change on local development, a topic of utmost importance. And further, their never-ending endeavour to ensure their research is visible and has impact should be an inspiration to all researchers around the world.

Thank you and well done!

George Lakey
CIRCLE Programme Officer

Thursday 15 November 2018

CIRCLE ISP Workshop 2018, Accra, Ghana, 17-19 October 2018

By George Lakey, CIRCLE Programme Officer

Last month, the Climate Impacts Research Capacity Leadership Enhancement in Africa (CIRCLE) programme headed to Ghana to bring together representatives from 20 higher education institutions across sub-Saharan Africa to celebrate the success of the CIRCLE Institutional Strengthening Programme (ISP) and discuss how to build on their achievements for the remainder of the programme.

Bringing together institutional champions who participated in the ISP, along with CIRCLE Visiting Fellowship alumni, the CIRCLE ISP Workshop showcased how participating institutions are improving support for their early careers researchers (ECRs) working in the field of climate change. 

CIRCLE was designed to address the low percentage of African scientists contributing to global climate change publications via two components; the CIRCLE Visiting Fellowship Programme and the CIRCLE ISP. An independent review of CIRCLE, conducted in 2017, detailed the success of the programme. However, the review noted that more time would be required to enable the ISP component to become embedded within participating institutions. Therefore, while CIRCLE was initially planned to run from 2014-2018, a one-year extension was granted by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) to pursue this goal, and will now officially closed in March 2019.

It is within this context that the CIRCLE ISP Workshop 2018 was designed. Held in Accra, Ghana, from 17th-19th October 2018, the workshop had two principle aims:
  1. Further embed the CIRCLE ISP into the wider institutional context to ensure the sustainability of the impact of CIRCLE beyond March 2019.
  2. Provide training to participants for the CIRCLE ISP Case Study Visit activity which will ensure the sharing of experiences and learning across the CIRCLE network and beyond.

The ISP has been a remarkable success, with many institutional improvements for support of ECRs. During the workshop, the CIRCLE Team had the opportunity to present key findings from the latest CIRCLE Programme Reporting Series, sharing news of the numerous achievements reported since the programme began in 2015. At the start of CIRCLE, 3 institutions had formal mechanisms in place to mentor ECRs effectively, 5 institutions had policies and/or strategies for supporting career and professional development planning and 17 institutions indicated that the delivery of professional development opportunities for staff was satisfactory or poor. This month, we were proud to report that 20 institutions now have formal mentoring mechanisms to mentor ECRs effectively, 14 institutions have indicated that they currently have policies and/or strategies formally in place for supporting career and professional development planning for research staff at their institution, and an additional 4 institutions reported having draft policies awaiting approval. 24 institutions reported an increase in the quality and quantity of training and support offered to ECRs compared with the start of the programme. It really is extraordinary that so many improvements have been put into place by our ISP Champions, and that these have reached beyond the Departments involved in our programme.

Throughout the workshop, we heard from individual Champions who had made such achievements, sharing their thoughts on how they had been successful. We heard from Prof. Philippa Ojimelukwe of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, on her experience of developing a formal mentoring programme at her institution, while Prof. Maria Tsvere from Chinhoyi University of Technology spoke about how she created a sustainable ISP Action Plan for her institution that has facilitated improvements in support beyond her academic department.

Our ISP partner, Vitae, also provided tailored support and advice for participants over the course of the workshop on how to build upon the work carried out so far and how to achieve wider institutional recognition and embedding of ISP learning. While CIRCLE is of course encouraging institutions to think about how they can maximise the impact of the ISP between now and the end of the programme, we are also encouraging our Champions to think beyond CIRCLE. Our programme has created a network of climate change researchers and departmental staff who have worked together to address support needs for ECRs in order to boost the input that African academics have on climate change research.

We want to ensure that this network is maintained long after our programme draws to a close. To help achieve this, CIRCLE is also funding a series of case study visits, whereby each institution involved in the ISP nominates a representative to visit another institution in the network to share knowledge and best practise in the delivery of their ISP. The nominated representative will visit their matched institution to learn from their successes and challenges and share the experiences from their home institution. The visits are a fantastic opportunity for our institutions to share their learning and experiences across the CIRCLE network. The reports from these visits will also provide contextual successes and challenges from African institutions to feed into a series of CIRCLE Good Practice Guides, developed in partnership with Vitae. The Guides are designed to be used by any institution to help them design and develop their very own ISP. This will ensure that the innovative and comprehensive approaches to building support for early careers researchers developed by institutions involved in CIRCLE can be shared and expanded by any institution outside the network.

The Next 6 Months
Following on from the workshop, ISP Teams will be submitting applications to the CIRCLE ISP Implementation Fund and carrying out their activities to further embed the ISP at their institution. The CIRCLE ISP Case Study Visits will occur in November 2018, with reports being submitted in December. The CIRCLE Team will be carrying out surveys of CIRCLE and non-CIRCLE affiliated individuals and institutions to collect data for the next CIRCLE Programme Reporting Series. Read the latest reports here.

Thank yous
I have been the CIRCLE Programme Officer at ACU since August 2018. This is the first discrete international project I have had the honour to work on, and the first workshop I have had the pleasure to help organise. The logistical challenges of organising the travel, accommodation, and subsistence for over 40 participants from 9 different countries notwithstanding, the experience I have gained in the lead up to the workshop has been invaluable, and the opportunity to meet such amazing people in such a great location was unforgettable.

On behalf of the ACU, CIRCLE, and all the delegates, I would like to extend my thanks to all the staff at the Best Western Plus Accra Beach Hotel for their incredible hospitality and support.

We would also like to thank Vitae for their important contribution to the development of the workshop programme and the successful delivery of their sessions, and Prof. John Morton for his contribution and creation of the CIRCLE Organisational Strategies and Structures for Climate Change Research in Sub-Saharan Africa Report. 

But most importantly, thank you to all the delegates who participated in the CIRCLE ISP Champions Workshop 2018 and worked tirelessly to make it an unequivocal success.

Thursday 4 October 2018

My Conference Experience

By Geraldine Ibe, Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, Nigeria and Cohort 3 CIRCLE Visiting Fellow, University for Development Studies, Ghana

Geraldine Ibe was awarded a CIRCLE Visiting Fellowship to conduct research at the University for Development Studies, focusing on forest food species in the tropics, savannah and mangrove forests. Here, Geraldine presents her inspiring journey to present her CIRCLE research at the University of California, in the United States of America.

I had always wanted to be a lecturer with a difference, especially in the research world! My dream was to travel around the world while still performing my duties as a lecturer. As I look back at my success story through my CIRCLE journey, I cannot help but be filled with gratitude on being able to attend a conference in the United States of America. It was filled with exciting and memorable moments. After my CIRCLE Fellowship at UDS Ghana, I had scaled hurdles to find outstanding conferences, it was not very easy. I sent in my Abstracts to about three different conference organizers at the time and finally my abstract was accepted for “The Tenth International Conference on Climate Change: Impacts and Responses at the University of California, Berkeley, USA April 20 to 21, 2018”. 

After considerable scrutiny, I got an invitation to attend and present at this noble conference, to say that I was not excited would be a shocker right? Guess what? I WAS NOT EXCITED! One would wonder why, in the recent events of predatory journals and conferences, I had developed cold feet towards this one as I thought this could be one of them. But that ‘still small’ voice kept re-assuring me that this was it! I got my invitation letter quite late after a long wait from abstract reviews. This was exactly two months to the conference date. Even at that, I still ignored my mail for another one week. I finally embraced my fears and decided to have a look at my invitation letter and then decided to do a background check on the organizers by verifying the authenticity of the conference programme. Like the saying goes, “success doesn’t just come and find you, you have to go out and get it”. Therefore, I made a lot of international phone calls, I sent out series of mails to institutions in the United States, I did a lot of Google checks; I just needed to ascertain how real these people were before requesting for financial support from my sponsors – CIRCLE.

The CG Network is situated at University Research Park, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, USA and these organizers are a group of very credible University professionals who have been curating conferences and publishing peer reviewed journals for over 30 years whereby they operate on a hybrid open access model. While 72% of their journals are indexed by Scopus, the remaining 28% are new titles currently under review. I immediately wrote to the ACU for funding request as time was already running out on me, Verity was so helpful and absolutely proactive to my request. As soon as I got approval, even without the immediate arrival of my funds yet, I had to courageously pay for my US visa fees and I began to apply for my USA visa interview with fingers crossed. Alas! Available appointments on the Embassy platform had exceeded the conference date. I took a bold step! I pulled the bull by the horn! How did I do that? I wrote to The US Embassy in Nigeria and requested for an Emergency appointment. Surprisingly, I was responded to within 24 hours and I was given the option to choose my preferred date within one week of the response. Everything happened so fast. I hurriedly left for Lagos for my interview, and I was SUCCESSFUL! I was granted a 2 year Multiple Visa to the United States, all these happened with my persistence, determination and relentless efforts, also great support from ACU, especially Verity Buckley, Mr Ben Prasadam-Halls and other team members behind the scene! I had only 14 days left to finish preparations and leave for the United States; I eventually made it to the USA, successfully passing through the immigration and customs without a hitch. I flew to San Francisco, California via Atlanta Georgia and I arrived at the conference center on the arrival date. 

We had the opportunity to introduce ourselves, I did introduce myself, and all about my CIRCLE research work. I talked about my sponsors, DFID, ACU in collaboration with AAS and VITAE. I enlightened the forum about CIRCLE, and what it stands for - Climate Impacts Research Capacity and Leadership Enhancement. I met and networked with other delegates from different parts of the continents and it was a humbling experience. On the second day of the conference, I delivered my findings which were drawn from my CIRCLE research work and my topic was “Anthropogenic Activities and Climate Change: Impacts on Rural Dwellers”. 

At the end of it all, I got my conference certification together with other presenters at the conference. Overall, the conference programme was very insightful, rewarding and educative. Meanwhile, as a result of my brilliant presentation in the last conference, the organizers have been sending me mails to attend again next year for the “Eleventh International Conference on Climate Change: Impacts and Responses at Pryzbyla Center, The Catholic University of America, Washington DC, USA in April 2019”. Unfortunately, this time, I have no sponsorship yet. Nevertheless, I am totally grateful for this huge opportunity given to me by CIRCLE to be exposed academically and to be in forefront of researchers who are passionate about solving problems that pertains to Environmental Management. CIRCLE has also helped me to become a committed, creative and highly motivated individual who has passion for networking and collaborative research with an uncompromising commitment to quality and outstanding research work. In all, I thank everyone who has made it possible for me to have a success story throughout my CIRCLE journey – DFID, ACU, AAS, VITAE, UDS Ghana and MOUAU Nigeria and to George Lakey who encouraged me to share my humble conference experience. Thank God!