CSPE - The implementation gap in environmental initiatives through community engagement and public pedagogies

Lead Research Organisation: University of Glasgow
Department Name: School of Education


It is estimated that 70% of the population of Uganda, Botswana, and Nigeria directly depend on the rich biodiversity of their ecosystems for their livelihoods, health and well-being. These ecosystems are being damaged at alarming rates in conjunction with a deterioration of social, cultural, and economic prosperity. Land degradation currently leads to annual loss of more than 3% of agriculture GDP in the sub-Saharan region, with two-thirds of arable land expected to be lost in Africa by 2025. While research, innovation, and policy addressing these environmental and social realities is carried out nationally and internationally, these occur largely without community involvement or qualitative input, and mostly without successful implementation. The CSPE Network brings together environmental and social scientists in community and public pedagogies to address this apparent implementation gap. As a matter of urgency, the gap between environmental research, innovation, and policy and the communities impacting and being impacted by the environment needs to be mitigated, in order to effectively address the growing issues related to biodiversity degradation. The CSPE Network will seek to develop Innovation and Economic Growth by facilitating innovative cross-disciplinary and cross-sector collaborations to address biodiversity loss in engagement with the social, cultural, and economic factors experienced by communities.
Uganda, Botswana, and Nigeria have a rich, important history of non-formal, community and public pedagogies. Focused on learning and teaching outside formal educational institutions, community and public pedagogies include learning in various public and community spaces and can emerge for example, through instruction, engagement, social arts, and popular culture, amongst many other forms. There is a significant field of research and practice in community engagement, indigenous ways of knowing, and vocational development in the African context, but this social science area rarely works directly with environmental science. Hence, there are parallel objectives (environmental sustainability and the well being of people) but a lack of common language, approach, or expertise. In the context of environment-dependent populations, community and public pedagogies are the strongest, fastest, and most appropriate forms of engagement required to connect new scientific information with existing socio-cultural knowledge and realities.
The environmental policy implementation gap is not new but it is predominantly put down to failures of governance and control. The CSPE Network postulates that addressing biodiversity degradation without genuine community engagement is a project destined to continue to fail. Likewise, to address the health, well-being, and education of populations without rich, science-based environmental knowledge is equally futile. Furthermore, the leadership of all three countries recognise that the environmental challenges they face require inter-sectoral and holistic attention (Uganda Vision 2040; Nigeria Vision 20:2020; Botswana National Development Plan 10). The CSPE Network proposes that without the full engagement of communities, governance will only further widen the gap between communities and the policy makers and researchers trying to protect them. This sustained dynamic and the ever-increasing set of problems is due not to a lack of knowledge, expertise or financial resources. It is due to the disconnect between environmental science and the engagement of communities: a disconnect this network is designed to mitigate.

Planned Impact

Who will benefit, and how?

Land and Agriculturally Dependent Communities in Uganda, Nigeria, and Botswana

These 'users' represent approximately 70% of the population of those countries. They will benefit from:
a. Collaboration in the co-produced research and impact agenda that genuinely addresses their needs, challenges, cultures, and futures. The network will work with groups of land users (agricultural communities, or land dependent urban communities) that are selected from vulnerable areas in the three countries, to co-produce a research and impact agenda that mitigates the gap between these communities and those investing in the sustainability of their land (scientists and policy makers).

b. Knowledge exchange: Direct and appropriate engagement between communities and scientists with the shared endeavor of environmental sustainability will have the benefits of community empowerment, development, and education. This happens because through a well-facilitated process of enquiry and engagement, learning and social cohesion happen; through being heard and respected for diverse knowledges, community empowerment and agency happens; with direct input into environmental policy and practice, ownership happens, innovations succeed and therefore the economic growth, health and well being of the community occurs.

Local and National Policy Makers

The following national ministries will be engaged with directly from the outset of this network:

In Uganda, the Ministry of Water and the Environment, and the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries
In Nigeria, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, and the Federal Ministry of Environment
In Botswana, the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism and the Ministry of Agriculture

a. Relationships will be developed with public servants in these ministries.
b. Reports, resource packages, and knowledge exchange events will provide forums to provide information, resources, and partnerships that are supported by environmental scientists, social scientists, and their own citizens/electorate.

As a result of this access, future policy can be informed by inter-disciplinary information that does not require additional financing for governance or control, as the buy-in and take up of the practices has already begun from collaboration across stakeholders. Policy direction can have international and scientific integrity as well as regional and civic support. This happens because of the approach to research and recommendations underpinning this network.

Non-Governmental and Non-Academic Groups

The network proposes to engage in on-going partnership building with relevant organisations over the course of its existence. From the outset this begins with the formal partnership of one non-academic organisation from each region, with the intention of increasing this number as specific locations and questions are addressed. In this way, non-governmental and non-academic groups including (but not limited to) those listed below will be positively impacted by this network:

Apala Widows and Orphanage Center (AWOC) (Named Network Partner)
World Vision Uganda
Nature Uganda
International Alert Uganda
Volunteer Efforts for Development Concern

GEF-CSO Network
Women Environmental Programme (WEP)

Ngamiland District CBNRM Forum (including Community-Based Organisations (CBOs); NGOs, Government bodies; Village Development Committees (VDC); traditional leaders (Dikgosi); the private sector involved in CBNRM; and tourism sector representatives)


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