UNIZULU Aca­demic heads first IGU com­mis­sion in Africa

The Mercury - - TERTIARY TIMES -

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.

Iol.co.za/mer­cury TheMer­curySA Mer­cpic TheMer­curySA

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