UNIZULU Academic heads first IGU commission in Africa
UNIZULU boasts having one of its academic staff members, Dr Innocent Moyo from the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, as the founding Chairman of the International Geographical Union (IGU) commission on African Studies.
A prestigious international, non-governmental and professional body, IGU is devoted to developing the discipline of geography. The core functions are to promote geography through initiating and coordinating geographical research and teaching in countries all around the world. The body is comprised of national committees, commissions and task forces which implement its mandate.
Until May 2017, IGU had never had a commission in Africa since its inception 95 years ago. However, through the initiative of Dr Moyo and University of Pretoria academic, Dr Christopher Nshimbi, the continent is finally represented in the organisation. Together, the academics drafted and submitted a proposal to the IGU in December 2016, which was reviewed and finally approved in May 2017.
“I realised something needed to be done by African geographers. We had scholars from other parts of the world conducting research on African issues before, but I always felt that there was a great need for African researchers to rise to the occasion,” Dr Moyo said.
The IGU Commission on African Studies comprises of African and Africanist (even non-Africans with a keen interest) scholars, who are dedicated to advancing scholarship on issues on or about African geography and cognate disciplines. These, according to Dr Moyo, are issues that include but are not limited to the exploitation and management of Africa’s natural resources, poverty, disease, industrialisation and urbanisation, population and climate change.
As Chairman, Dr Moyo leads a steering committee which is made up of members from Benin, Ivory Coast, Namibia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Senegal, Uganda and the United Kingdom. He also ensures successful implementation of the commission’s various programmes and activities.
Among the objectives of the body is, entrenching African researchers in activities of the African commission to eventually grow and expand geographical research in Africa, as well as the development of a journal to publish papers conducted by African and Africanist
“Research is about responding to societal needs so we need to ask ourselves how we as geographers can contribute to solutions that try to respond to issues affecting society. We need to understand the role of geography and contribute to impacting society. We can contribute to government policy refinement, however for that to happen, research has to be conducted,” he said.
The commission will also hold thematic conferences where critical geographical topics will be discussed. The first of these meetings is scheduled for May 2018, at the University of Namibia.
Scholars will be presenting papers under the theme: Africa’s Response to Global Challenges: Understanding Drivers of Poverty and Reducing Inequality.
“This is the time for African geographers to make a very significant mark in the activities of IGU because more than ever before, there is a commission dedicated to doing just that,” Dr Moyo concluded. geographers. UNIZULU postgraduate students, Siyabonga Nkomo and Nelisiwe Manukuza, are on a mission to help protect marine life and ensure the preservation of the marine aquatic system.
The pair is currently studying towards their Honours degrees in Zoology with a keen interest in Marine Biology.
These bright postgraduates were recently selected to participate in the Ocean Stewards programme which consists of a network of established marine scientists. This network includes Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife as well as the South African Institute for African Biodiversity. The students were welcomed on board the Angra Pequena, a research vessel that works on the coastline of Durban and Richards Bay. Sponsored by Grindrod, NRF, Blue Fund, Wildlands and Sea Quests, the programme focuses on offshore marine research and conservation such as the plethora of fish communities, reefs and was also started with the hopes of attracting more students into marine conservation. For Nkomo, the expedition was an informative experience which provided him with the handson skills required in the Marine Biology field.
“The third and fourth days of the programme were very productive. We were grouped and dispatched in various stations. Our primary activity was deploying specialised equipment such as Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV) and Baited Remote Underwater Video Systems (BRUVS) deep into the oceans. We collected the data and stored it accordingly,” he said.
The programme also seeks to address specific conservation of offshore habitats and ecosystems, therefore averting the continued degradation of offshore environmental resources and contributing to the recovery of impacted biodiversity habitats and fish species conservation.
According to Manukuza, initiatives such as the Ocean Stewards programme are necessary in order to observe and monitor contributing factors that endanger fish species such as Zebra Fish, Spider Fish and Long Tail Fish as well as the Gulpher Eels. With the data collected, scientists know how to implement suitable methods of conservation.