Friday 21 August 2015

Reflections on CIRCLE Programme: Personal thoughts and experience

By Dr Ifeanyi Ndubuto Nwachukwu, Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Nigeria

Dr Nwachukwu spent his fellowship year at Kenyatta University, Kenya. After settling back into his home institution, he reflects on his time on the CIRCLE Programme.

The Climate Impact Research Capacity and Leadership Enhancement (CIRCLE) programme was borne out of the need to build the capacity of early career African Researchers in the area of climate change and its local impacts on development. The point of departure from other fellowships lies in CIRCLE’s approach in ensuring overall professional development. A case in point is the introduction of the Researcher Development Framework (RDF) which is a monitoring and evaluation framework for assessing professional development. In addition the fellow has the support of a team of professionals with proven track records as mentors, supervisors, and special advisors The Institutional Strengthening Component of the programme which aims to re-model the development strategies and systems of the fellows’ home institutions is configured to sustain the professional revolution kick.

Coming from the background and tradition where the bulk of academic work rests on the shoulders of junior academics, it is sometimes difficult to plan and execute personal professional development programmes. The tripod of 40:40:20 (40% - teaching; 40% - research and 20% - community service) which characterizes an ideal academic life is predominantly obscured and truncated by the systemic “pull-him-down” syndrome encountered by my class of academics. This, along with academic brain-drain across the continent, helps explain why most of the tertiary institutions in Africa are bottom heavy. My participation in the CIRCLE programme has now reversed the ugly trend by re-awakening my dampened consciousness for professional growth.

In this context, CIRCLE has provided a whole new scholastic milieu which creates a window for rich, rewarding and alien experiences. This has come in the form of a rare, novel opportunity to understudy new systems, structures, practices, cultures, languages etc… while executing my research project in the host institution. Upon arrival in January, I was tasked by my supervisor to develop a quarterly work plan to maximize time-management and also to serve as a monitoring and evaluation framework. Part of the plan was to undertake desk-based research to assess the sectoral effect of climate change in a cross-regional comparative context using time series data alongside my CIRCLE research project.

I subsequently won a book chapter slot in a competitive book project using an abstract derived from the research, the book chapter draft underwent several rigorous reviews. I must confess that the review process was the toughest in my entire academic life. On a happy note, the chapter has been accepted and an honorarium of $2,525 paid. The book titled “Milestones in Climate Compatible Development in Selected Countries of Eastern and Southern Africa” is organized by the Organization for Social Science Research for Eastern and Southern Africa (OSSREA), Ethiopia and supported by Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA).

Within my eight months stay, I have participated in two training workshops and a conference here in Kenya; one was organized by Consortium of Advanced Research Training in Africa (CARTA) for young researchers in conjunction with African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC), Kenya and the University of the Witwaterand (WITS), South Africa. The second was on Didactics, E-learning and Quality Assurance for Integrated Watershed Management (IWM) lecturers and facilitated by Prof. Jenny Day University of Cape Town, South Africa and Dr. Stefan Thiemann (IWM Expert GmbH, Kempten, Germany). The conference was the 2nd Africa Ecosystem Based Adaptation for Food Security (EBAFOSC 2) conference organized by UNEP and held on 30 – 31 July, 2015 in Kenya. EBAFOSC – 2 paraded a good number of high profile researchers within and outside the continent who made very scintillating country specific presentations. I was able to gain greater insights into ecosystem based adaptation approaches and climate change situations in some parts of the continent which I find very useful in my research. The scientific discussion sessions were also very rewarding. The conference ended with the adoption of declaration for Nairobi Action Agenda on Africa’s Ecosystem Based Adaptation for Food Security.

Over the period under review, I have come in contact with a good number of researchers from different parts of the continent who are already collaborating with me on a number of research fronts. By the end of the CIRCLE programme, I hope that my skills and competences would have grown to champion the cause of climate change research in my home institution. The multiplier effect of this alien programme launch would be felt in the quantum and quality of research output emanating from the African continent in line with the vision and expectations of grooming home grown solutions to Africa’s development problems. I am most grateful to the DFID, ACU and AAS for this rare opportunity to be part of the CIRCLE programme.


  1. Thank you Ifeanyi, for this insightful blog. Indeed your described experience, both before and during (presently), quite mirrors the general outlook of the bottom-heavy, top-light situations in most academic settings particularly in our sphere of living. I am also happy for you for winning an extra honorarium along doing a rigorous academic training. It goes to show that a little opportunity giving to those at the early career stage can be of immense benefit to the academic system in Africa. Kudos again to DFID and ACU. I must also commend the maturity of AAS in handling diverse background of the CIRCLE Fellows to allow the academic capacity embedded within the individuals to blossom. VITAE has also provided a good 'foundational start' that gave many a good footing to plunge into the unknown with confidence and assurance of making it since these many months. More of this testimony!

  2. Interesting read and congratulations on the progress you have made so far!