Borderlands Project strengthens capacity of Sociology & Anthropology Departments in Uganda, Sudan & Ethiopia

In 2014, Makerere University Department of Sociology and Anthropology together with its sister units at the University of Khartoum and University of MAK students and supervisors with the ED OSSREAAddis Ababa embarked on a four-year project  to study the borderlands. The major aim of the NORHED-funded Borderland Dynamics in East Africa project was to strengthen the capacity of the three universities to play a role in addressing development challenges in the borderland communities. The overall goal was to empower borderland communities in Ethiopia, Sudan and Uganda to voice their special concerns in policy dialogues.

Under the project, 37 students from the three universities have been sponsored to pursue postgraduate studies on borderland dynamics. These include 10 MA and four PhD students at Makerere University, 10 MA and three PhD students at the University of Addis Ababa and 8 MA and two post-docs at the University of Khartoum. Of these, 13 have successfully completed their studies and are, among other things, helping build capacity of Sociology and Anthropology departments in various regional universities in their countries. Other activities that have been carried out under the project include seminars with supervisors, borderland communities and policy makers, as well as refresher trainings for supervisors.

The Executive Director of OSSREA delivers her remarksAt the closing conference of the project hosted by the Organization for Social Science Research in Eastern and Southern Africa (OSSREA) in Addis Ababa on 2nd-4th July 2018, Prof. Munzoul Assal from the University of Khartoum presented the Coordinators report in which they highlighted several achievements. Key of the achievements include strengthened regional capacity to research on borderland issues and influence policy. As a result of the research carried out by students on the project, several policy briefs have been developed and some have been adopted by governments of the three countries. The project has contributed to the development of infrastructure including seminar rooms and departmental libraries. It has also facilitated curriculum review and improved enrolment to Sociology and Anthropology programmes. According to the Coordinator of the project at Makerere University, Dr Eria Olowo Onyango, the project contributed to the development of a certificate course in Migration Studies and plans are underway to introduce an MA programme in Migration Studies.

Dr Olowo is the Coordinator of the project at MAKAddressing participants, the Executive Director of OSSREA, Dr Truphena Mukuna, described the Borderland Dynamics in East project as an excellence programme that had greatly improved the quality of Sociology and Anthropological research and contributed to the development of six other projects.

She implored participants to use a participatory appraisal approach when undertaking research. “Stakeholders should be engaged at the beginning of every project so that they can easily buy in on the research outcome. There is need for meaningful research uptake if we are to contribute to policy development and subsequently address the challenges in the borderland communities,” she explained, urging participants to use all the available communication channels to extensively disseminate their research findings.

During the workshop, Prof. Edward K. Kirumira gave a keynote address on NORAD’s Institutional Capacity Building in Africa, specifically highlighting the support for North-South, and South-South institutional partnerships. “NORAD as a development partner to resource constrained African countries has predominantly been an investment in institutional capacity building for sustainable development. NORAD’s strategy over the years has been characterized by support to infrastructure development, inter-university research as well as Masters, PhD and Post-docs training in-country, across countries and in Norway,” he said, noting that NORAD is currently pushing the agenda for SDG-responsive universities.

Ms Ritah Nakanjako, PhD student presents her workAs part of the conference proceedings, PhD and Masters students supported by the Borderland Dynamics in East Africa project presented papers from their research work to their supervisors. Papers presented by the Makerere University students included “Sexual Behaviours among Long Distance Truck Drivers: the Malaba Uganda-Kenya Border Experience (Opoya Yolam, MA student); Migration and Intercultural Contexts: the case of Pagirinya Refugee Settlement in Uganda (Dauglas Ogwang, MA student); Families Across Borders: Contextualizing Spousal Separation on Family Relations in the Border Regions (Christine Tricia Kulabako, MA student) and Women in Informal Cross Border Transportation: the Boda-boda Industry at the Uganda-Kenya Border (Brenda Birungi). Dr Eria Olowo Onyango presented Steven Aguto Odongoh’s paper from his PhD research titled “Polluted Bodies and Borders: Crossing the Acholi Ritual Boundaries after War and Displacement. Ms Ritah Nakanjako, PhD student presented her research work on the persistence of informal cross-border trade in Busia. She also presented a paper on behalf Mr. Jerome Ntege, PhD student titled “Social Distancing: Health Seeking Beliefs and Practices for preventing the spread of Ebola in Bundibugyo, Uganda.  Chris Opesen, also PhD student from Mr Chris Opesen, PhD studentMakerere University explained the experiences of midwives delivering infibulated teenage mothers at the Pokot Kenya-Uganda Border.

Papers presented by their Ethiopian and Sudanese counterparts included; The Dynamics of Cross-border Cattle Raiding along the Ethio-South Sudan Border; The Border as a Factor in the Economic and Political Empowerment of the Rashaida in Sudan; The Dual Identification of the Silaim of West Nile: Northerners or Southerners?; South Sudan People in Jodah Area: Challenges and Opportunities for Peaceful co-existence, Informal Cross-border Trade along the Ethio-Kenyan Border; Moving in the face of Uncertainty: Eritrean Refugees en-route flight experiences; Commercial Sex Work at the Border and its Social Cultural Effect: the case of Metema town in North Eastern Ethiopia, and the Egypt –Sudan Borders: Recent Economic Developments.

At the end of the workshop, the Vice Chancellors and Coordinators of the project at the three collaborating Universities held a panel discussion on the partnership between the three Universities, the academic role of the project and its contribution to regional universities. Makerere University was represented by Prof. Peter Atekyereza and Dr. Eria Olowo Onyango. All the Prof. Leif Manger reacts to the presentationsparticipants acknowledged the significant contribution of the project towards improving the capacity of the Sociology and Anthropology departments at their respective universities. They expressed gratitude to the Norwegian government for the support towards various development projects in Universities across Africa. The discussion was moderated by Prof. Leif Manger from the University of Bergen.

The conference was attended by Ms. Pavla Jezkova, NORHED Project Administrator and supervisors from the three universities including Dr Stella Neema and Dr Fred Bateganya, from Makerere University;  Dr Musa Adam, Dr Ibtisan Satti Ibrahim and Dr Haydar Mohamed Ali from the University of Khartoum; as well as Dr Fekadu Adugna, Dr Ayalew Gebre; Dr Assefa Tolera and Dr Getaner Mehari from Addis Ababa University.

 Borderland Dynamics in East Africa is a four-year project (2014-2018) aimed at building capacities in research and education in East Africa. It is managed by the Departments of Sociology and Anthropology at the collaborating Universities.  The research being conducted by the students is expected to influence policy and subsequently improve the living conditions of borderland communities in East Africa.

See below coordinators PowerPoint report.

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