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BRECcIA is a four year RCUK  Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) program which aims to develop research capacity across institutions that is self-sustaining and focused on improving food and water security for the poorest of society.

Our vision is to strengthen research capacity and capabilities in institutions in Malawi, Kenya and Ghana to carry out impactful research that leads to positive policy and practice change for sustainable water and food security, which will have benefits for the  270 million people living in the Sub Saharan Africa drylands.

Puzzling out Invasive Hyacinth

By Holly Davis, University of Southampton

This summer, I was awarded a research bursary by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, to investigate for 10 weeks, the growth of water hyacinth in line with agricultural and industrial expansion since the 1980’s, in Lake Victoria. To characterise hyacinth growth, I analysed remotely sensed Landsat Imagery from 1980-2011 and using vegetation indices, I calculated change over time. This was an area of research, that prior to my work, had not been investigated and I was keen to find out if current management practices were appropriate in irradiating the species, or whether there were alternative ways to remove and use the plant more effectively. I was particularly fortunate because my supervisor, Professor Justin Sheffield and his BRECcIA team had a conference arranged in Kisumu, exactly where my research was focussed, and I had the fantastic opportunity to join the team in their work, while also researching for my own project.

Water Hyacinth on Lake Victoria, Kenya

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Reflecting on our first Malawi stakeholder workshop

By Matt Kandel and Claire Bedelian

On 30 October 2018 BRECcIA held the first of its three country-level stakeholder workshops in Salima, Malawi. LEAD, along with Chancellor College, University of Malawi, organised and facilitated the workshop. Early Career Researchers for BRECcIA who travelled to Malawi to attend the workshop came from Kenya (Fiona Ngarachu and Daniel Naburi), Ghana (Moses Asamoah and Yaw Atiglo), and the University of Southampton (Matt Kandel). Stakeholders included members of government ministries, NGOs, media, and academia.

Stakeholders map the dryland areas of Malawi

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United Nations Development Programme/UK Research and Innovations/GCRF Workshop ‘Conflict, Climate Change, and Disruptions in Food and Water Systems’

By Laura Lewis, Sosten Chiotha, John Obiri and Mawuli Dzodzomenyo

On October 22-23, BRECcIA co-investigators Prof Sosten Chiotha (LEAD, Southern and Eastern Africa), Dr Mawuli Dzodzomenyo (University of Ghana), Prof Laura Lewis (University of Southampton) and Prof John Obiri (Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, Kenya), attended the United Nations Development Programme/UK Research and Innovations/GCRF Workshop ‘Conflict, Climate Change, and Disruptions in Food and Water Systems’ at the United Nations in New York City.

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Unlocking the Potential of Kenyan ASALs for Accelerated National Development

By Chris Shisanya, Kenyatta University

The ASALs make up to 89% of the Kenya with approximately 38% Kenya’s Population. This region is home to more than 90% of the wildlife game that supports the tourism industry and contributes 12% of Kenya’s GDP. It hosts 70% of the national livestock herd with an estimated value of Ksh.70 billion. The area has an enormous potential for renewable energy (both solar and wind) and other natural resources. It is strategically located for regional trade and social cultural relations with Somalia, Ethiopia, and South Sudan and Uganda among other advantages. In spite of these advantages, the region continues to have the lowest development indicators and the highest incidences of poverty in the country.

The arid county of Mandera, Kenya

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The ethics of co-production and the role of consortia research in resilience-building

By Matt Kandel, University of Southampton

On 26 September 2018 BRECcIA Researcher and Resilience Theme member, Matt Kandel, attended the workshop, ‘Ethics of co-production: the role of research in resilience-building’ at Kings College London (KCL).  The KCL workshop, which was co-chaired by Emma Visman (KCL Senior Researcher/independent consultant) and Mark Pelling (Professor of Geography and GCRF Challenge Leader, Resilience to Environmental Shocks and Change Portfolio), carried particular salience for BRECcIA given its overlap with some of our project’s key themes: principally, the co-design and co-production of research, and resilience-building within the context of climate change.

Panel discussion at ‘The ethics of co-production and the role of consortia research in resilience-building’ workshop, KCL, 26 Sept ’18

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UK-Africa Food Security Symposium 2018

University of Southampton BRECcIA researchers, Genevieve Agaba and Matt Kandel, were sponsored by Biotek Foundation to attend the UK-Africa Food Security Symposium on 11-12th September 2018 at the University of Cambridge. Panel sessions included discussions around how regional and international research partnerships can be designed to help tackle food insecurity in Africa.  Another discussion point centred on how these partnerships can be leveraged to build capacity for research in tertiary education institutions.

Carol Ibe, Founder of Biotek Foundation, opening the Symposium. © Genevieve Agaba, September 2018.

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Transforming African Agriculture: Eyes In The Sky, Smart Techs On The Ground

UAS Capacity Building Workshop

11-18 July, 2018, Lusaka, Zambia

Mathews Tsirizeni, LEAD, Malawi

There is a consensus that smallholder farming needs to become more productive, more sustainable and more profitable. Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) – or drone-based systems – services can contribute towards these goals by bringing some of the tools of precision agriculture to producers, which include large and medium-scale holdings and associations of small-scale farmers growing the same crop in contiguous areas. Typically, UAS services are provided by entrepreneurs who invest in the equipment, learn the skills to use it, conduct or sub-contract data analysis, interpret the findings and advise their customers.

UAS can inform a range of services, including mapping and surveying (e.g. farm boundary delineations, crop area calculations, elaboration of digital elevation models), crop inventory (e.g. count of tree crops, yield estimations), crop scouting (e.g. identification of location-specific crop stress, assessment of biomass development), crop damage assessment (e.g. for insurance purposes), crop management advice (e.g. nitrogen application on selected crops), infrastructure inspection (e.g. irrigation systems, farm to market roads, etc.), and increasing farmers’ credit-worthiness via the integration of farmer profiles with high resolution images, crop diagnostics, and accurate and up-to-date georeferenced data sets. UAS can thus help increase returns to farmers and create new knowledge -intensive employment opportunities in rural areas, offering educated rural youth an alternative to migration.

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BRECcIA job vacancies at University of Southampton

We have an exciting opportunity for researchers from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds to join our team and to play a pivotal role in this ground-breaking project.

Applications are invited for post-doctoral fellows in four key areas:

  1. Environmental Anthropology https://jobs.soton.ac.uk/Vacancy.aspx?ref=995518WR
  2. Earth Observation https://jobs.soton.ac.uk/Vacancy.aspx?ref=995218WR
  3. Hydrology and Water Resources https://jobs.soton.ac.uk/Vacancy.aspx?ref=995418WR
  4. Professional Development and Capacity Building https://jobs.soton.ac.uk/Vacancy.aspx?ref=995618WR

All of the positions will provide the post-holders with the opportunity to develop their knowledge and professional skills set in:  Trans-, multi- and interdisciplinary research projects; collaborative and partnership working; policy-influence; and international development issues.

All posts are initially for 2 years renewable for up to one further year and tenable from 1 June 2018 or soon after.

Post holders will be expected to travel internationally for the project and work closely with an international cohort of researchers based in our partner institutes.

The University of Southampton is a world-renowned Russell Group University with a global reputation for academic excellence. We offer a stimulating, challenging and dynamic working environment for all our staff.  You will work in Geography and Environment, a leading international centre for geographical and environmental research. More specifically, the academic unit is a leading centre for application of Earth observation, GIS, modelling tools and sociological analysis to a range of environmental and human problems, including adaptation of livelihoods to climate change.

For more details and to apply, please follow the links above.