The Development in Africa with Radio Astronomy (DARA) project, supported by the UK’s Newton Fund through the University of Namibia (UNAM) and Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST), recently concluded their two week Radio Astronomy training programme.
Dr Michael Backes, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Physics at the University of Namibia explained that the SKA radio astronomy project is one of the biggest astronomical projects in the world. “The first phase of the SKA project is to build telescope dishes all over South Africa, and the second phase is to go across the borders and build dishes in the African partnering countries” he said, “From the experience in South Africa, we are aware that it takes roughly 10 years to build a human capacity base needed for the project, and this workshop is part early on capacity building, needed for SKA phase two, which is expected to start in roughly ten years from now”.
The participants of the two weeks training programme were graduates and postgraduate students in physics, electronics engineering, and computer science from BIUST, Namibia University of Science and Technology, University of Botswana and UNAM. The training was conducted by Professor Garret Cotter from the University of Oxford, supported by two of his PhD students. The Namibian and Botswanan students will be invited to South Africa for a 4 week hands-on training at the Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory before taking a 2 week training in data analysis conducted in Botswana.
Collaborators: National Environment Management Authority Uganda (NEMA), Nature Uganda, International Institute of Environment & Development (IIED), Wild Business Ltd & Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Uganda
Governments, financial institutions and businesses worldwide are adopting No Net Loss (NNL) targets for biodiversity, and using offsetting to achieve this. Biodiversity offsets offer the potential to reconcile the objectives of conservation and development through compensating for residual biodiversity impacts after the mitigation hierarchy has been implemented (avoid, minimise, restore/rehabilitate, offset). Moreover, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) highlighted how offsets can help Parties to achieve conservation goals.
The technical challenges of NNL are widely explored from an ecological perspective within academic literature. However, while international good practice guidance calls for offsets not to make local people worse off, there is a fundamental lack of understanding of how to achieve NNL with regard to people’s use of, and cultural values for, biodiversity, and the social, economic and ecological trade-offs involved.
This is a major challenge for countries where poor people depend on natural resources, where poorly planned offsets can exacerbate local poverty, and where impacts vary by gender and livelihood.
Using the Bujagali and Isimba Hydropower Projects and the Kalagala Offset in Uganda, this work seeks to explore ways in which development and offset activities can result in no net loss of biodiversity while at the same time ensure that local people are no worse off.
The World Bank-funded Bujagali Hydropower Project (BHP) was completed in 2012, with a sustainable management plan developed for its offset (Kalagala) to address biodiversity and human impacts. The area has high cultural, livelihood and biodiversity value.
The Isimba Hydropower Project (IHP) is being constructed downstream of BHP (planned completion in 2018) and an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment of IHP and its effects on the Kalagala Offset is now being undertaken.
NEMA, the responsible Government agency, and Nature Uganda, a leading conservation NGO, have identified an urgent need to understand how the Isimba project may affect the Kalagala offset while they can influence its implementation, and for general guidance on monitoring and mitigating social and ecological impacts of offsetting in Uganda.
This project will work at a local, national and international level, supporting governments, NGOs and business to integrate local poverty alleviation, equity and cultural heritage into biodiversity offsets for national economic development. From research on the biggest hydropower/offset in Uganda, it will produce, and support implementation of, local and national policy guidance for Uganda, and generate lessons internationally.
Multi-chemistry battery pack using second life batteries for off-grid systems in developing countriesA team led by Oxford’s Professor David Howey has been working to develop battery technology for off-grid solar energy systems. Using previously discarded lithium-ion batteries, they hope to provide round-the-clock access to affordable power for rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa. An important part of the innovation is the modularity of the battery units. This allows individual cells to be replaced when they die, resulting in a robust and maintainable battery pack – ideal for the harsh conditions of sub-Saharan countries. This modularity also means that the user can easily add additional battery units as their energy demand increases.
The work, partially supported by EPSRC and HEFCE funding, is being realised through a strong partnership with INTASAVE – a globally operating not-for-profit organisation who are implementing the provision of solar hubs in selected villages in Kenya.
The five-year programme (2012–2017) combines research and training in primary trauma care and musculoskeletal impairment across Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. COOL aims to meet the critical need for more health workers trained in treating serious injury and musculoskeletal impairment.
COOL is directed by Prof Chris Lavy , Prof Hemant Pandit and Prof Godfrey Muguti (University of Zimbabwe).
Guided by a health systems-strengthening framework and a comprehensive programme of research, Scaling up Safe Surgery for District and Rural Populations in Africa will scale up the delivery of accessible, elective and emergency surgery at district hospitals to national level programmes in three African countries: Malawi, Zambia and Tanzania.
The programme is coordinated by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), together with the Surgical Society Of Zambia, University Of Malawi, Stichting Katholieke Universiteit, East Central and Southern Africa Health Community, and NDORMS at University Of Oxford.
The analysis of big datasets to find evidence of corruption – for example, the method developed by Mihály Fazekas to identify “red flags” of corruption risks in procurement contract data—requires statistical skills and software, both of which are in short supply in many parts of the developing world, such as sub-Saharan Africa.
Yet some ambitious recent initiatives are trying to address this problem. Lately I’ve had the privilege to be involved in one such initiative, led by Oxford mathematician Balázs Szendrői, that helps empower a group of young African mathematicians to analyse “big data” on public corruption.
The first step in this project was to develop software; this may seem trivial, but many cash-strapped African universities simply don’t have the resources to purchase the latest statistical software packages. The African Maths Initiative (AMI), a Kenyan NGO that works to create a stronger mathematical community and culture of mathematics across Africa, has helped to solve this problem by developing a new open-source program, R-Instat (which builds on the popular but difficult-to-learn statistics package R), funded through crowd-sourcing. Still in development, it is on track for launch in July this year. AMI has also helped develop a menu on R-Instat that can be used specifically for analysing procurement data and identifying corruption risk indicators.
In LMICs a lack of lab facilities, inability to procure costly TB tests and difficulty linking results from labs to rural patients precludes quick and accurate diagnosis of TB patients (WHO). Project Tide is using technology to facilitate accurate diagnosis and follow up of TB patients in LMICs by using a smartphone app to improve the diagnostic accuracy of inexpensive diagnostic strip-based tests that are used in LMICs and organising data in a database to map and track TB incidence, prevalence and treatment outcomes. Quick and accurate diagnosis of TB patients using the Project Tide app will allow healthcare services to intervene early to save lives and prevent the spread of TB – indeed, the WHO reports that approximately 37 million lives were saved through accurate TB diagnosis and timely treatment between 2000 and 2013.
The Project Tide team has been working on the app for about 18 months (http://projecttide.co.uk/). It can now be implemented as a cross-platform smartphone/tablet app, including on more widely available smart phones like the Chinese-manufactured Huawei; the app’s image recognition and calibration has been refined for use in a range of different lighting conditions; the app has been scientifically calibrated against different levels of TB protein (a generous gift from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation); they have developed a data platform to collect real time data during field testing in Malawi; they have developed a means to remotely update the app’s software, if they need to, during field testing in Malawi.
Their collaborators at the LSHTM are currently field-testing the app through the Wellcome-funded STAMP trial (http://www.isrctn.com/ISRCTN71603869) in Malawi