5 Jun, 2019

Jalasi: Malawi might benefit from my study in many ways
Dr. Experencia Madalitso Jalasi was supported by CABMACC to pursue her PhD studies in Environmental Education at Rhodes University in South Africa. Our reporter caught up with her to explain more about her experience with the scholarship. Excerpts;

1. Tell me about yourself?

I am Dr. Experencia Madalitso Jalasi, a lecturer in Development Communication in the Department of Agriculture Education and Development communication, under the Faculty of Development Studies at Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR). I completed my PhD studies in Environmental Education in May 2018 at Rhodes University in South Africa, where I was based at Environmental Learning Research Centre in the Department of Education. I also hold a Master Degree in Applied Linguistics and a Bachelor’s Degree in Education (Language and Linguistics) from the University of Malawi, Chancellor College.

The focus of my PhD research was to investigate and expand the learning that takes place in the adoption and diffusion of socio-technical innovations in the context of Improved Cook Stove (Energy Efficient Cook Stove) technology. The study aimed at informing sustained uptake and utilization of the socio-technical innovation, which seeks to respond to climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts in Malawi. The study addresses societal environmental health risks faced by people using traditional biomass fuels indoors on open fires, commonly referred to as Three Stone Fire through Formative Intervention supported by Developmental Work Research or/ Expansive Learning, coupled with Boundary Crossing Change Laboratory Workshops.

2. We understand you are one of the beneficiaries of the CABMACC scholarships, can you explain the nature of the scholarship you received?

My PhD program was funded by Capacity Building for Managing Climate Change in Malawi (CABMACC). It was a full scholarship; I lived comfortably in South Africa without any financial difficulties. Particularly, the stipend was sufficient. However, the problem was in funds allocation into various scholarship components and lack of flexibility. In my experience, the funds allocated for tuition fees was more than required; yet the money allocated for research was insufficient. According to the conditions of the scholarship, our study sites were in Malawi. In my case, the intervention nature of my study required that I travel at least five times between Malawi and South Africa for fieldwork. In the process, I exhausted my research funds. However, despite that, I had remained with a substantial amount of funds for tuition fees, the Programs Office at LUANAR did not accept to transfer the funds to the research component.

3. What impact has that scholarship had on your personal life?

Personally, the benefit of the scholarship has been the realization of one of my life’s dreams; that is holding a PhD. This PhD is a stepping-stone towards the realization of further dreams and ambitions in my career. Besides, the scholarship created a platform for me to also experience other exciting endeavors, and unlocked several potentials in me. First, I travelled to Sweden and Denmark, two countries that have a history of having the strongest development policies among rich countries of the world. While on the trip, I experienced the coldest temperatures and snow in particular. It was a wonderful experience.

Second, I have made friends from different parts of the world. Third, I have interacted with some great theorists of the 21st Century.

And finally, I have received a prestigious postdoctoral fellowship position under the South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) in Transformative Social Learning and Green Skills Learning Pathways, through Distinguished Professor Heila Lotz-Sisitka (SARChI Chair: Global Change and Social Learning Systems) with funding from the National Research Foundation. I will be taking up this position from 9 February 2019 for a year.

4. Now that you completed your studies, how do you foresee the country in general and LUANAR in particular benefiting from your studies?

Malawi may benefit from my study in many ways. The methodologies employed in the study catalyses transformative agency, reflexivity, collaboration and learning capacity of Improved Cook Stove actors for sustained uptake and utilisation of the socio-technical innovation. This innovation has been promoted in Malawi for more than five decades. However, sustained utilization is problematic despite several initiatives developed by the Government of Malawi (GoM) through the Department of Energy Affairs (DoEA) and the National Cook Stove Steering Committee (NCSSC), NGOs, private and religious organisations. The methodologies

revealed deep-seated contradictions that hindered uptake and especially sustained utilization of the technology at local, local-national and national-international interfaces. Using the methodologies, some contradictions were resolved, the research participants’ transformative agency and reflexivity were evoked and enhanced. These processes increase the learning capacity of communities to find solutions to their own problems as evidenced in the study. If the GoM, through DoEA and NCSSC would adopt these methodologies in the promotion of the Improved Cook Stove technology, sustained utilization can potentially be achieved at a larger scale. After several decades, the GoM may realise positive and tangible outcomes from the various efforts directed towards climate change mitigation and adaptation through this technology. The good thing is that I already worked with the institutions. Therefore, they may tap into my expertise and engage in collaborative efforts with LUANAR. In this way, my scholarship would make positive impact in our country.

Similarly, LUANAR may benefit from my study in many ways. Boundary Crossing Change Laboratory Workshops have been used in various fields including work places such as universities, hospitals and communities to resolve contradictions and /or find solutions to institutional or community problems. These range from relationships between employees and management, within internal systems and between internal and external systems during developmental stages as well as at different stages of systems. LUANAR and other institutions and communities in Malawi can benefit from employing these methodologies to solve their problems. For example, one major contradiction facing LUANAR is the need to widen access to university education versus the provision of a conducive teaching and learning environment. This contradiction requires engaging in Boundary Crossing Change Laboratory workshops in order to find locally acceptable solutions.

5. What would you say about the CABMACC programme particularly in relation to your scholarship?

CABMACC was a timely program, when Malawi was, and is still experiencing many problems emanating from the impact of climate change. The scholarship provided me with an opportunity to embrace the complexities around addressing the impact of climate change in a country that over-relies on donor driven projects. Hence the need for a paradigm shift in the power dynamics in socio-technical transitions among all actors, to put the end-user of the technology in the centre in the promotion and implementation of socio-technical innovations in climate change mitigation and adaption processes in order to make tangible progress.

As a beneficiary of CABMACC, I will make use of the knowledge and skills acquired through this scholarship to contribute to efforts that seek to respond to climate change mitigation and adaption processes, at local, national and international levels.

One colleague at Rhodes University during a presentation on climate change remarked: “Doing something is doing something”. That means, the smallest impact can be felt and may save a life. We cannot afford to sit back because we cannot make large-scale influence. However, the most important thing would be HOW we are doing WHAT we are doing.