RUFORUM-Sentinel PhD students share their progress and personal reflections

Rudo Violet Denga, one of RUFORUM's PhD students, conducting fieldwork in Bulangililo, along the Kafue River, Kitwe, Zambia. Photo via: RUFORUM. CC BY 4.0

David Ekepu, RUFORUM

As part of its capacity strengthening strategy, Sentinel has awarded small research grants to 25 PhD candidates in sub-Saharan Africa to carry out novel, relevant research at the agricultural/environment nexus. These are focused mainly (but not exclusively) on PhD projects in our three focal countries of Ethiopia, Ghana and Zambia. 

RUFORUM’s role has been critical – administering the PhD awards from the ongoing RUFORUM Graduate Teaching Assistantship programme and coordinating mentoring and training for the cohort of students. RUFORUM maintains a growing network of universities across the African continent, providing a support network for the students as well as a platform for academic stakeholder engagement for the wider Sentinel project.

The students are at varying stages in their degree programmes, with some impacted more by the COVID-19 pandemic than others. 

Through a series of blogs published on the RUFORUM website, the PhD students are sharing their personal reflections on their PhD journeys to date, and highlight progress, experiences and challenges they have faced along the way. 

We invite you to get to know the students by reading their stories: 

“The scholarship from RUFORUM has expanded my research capabilities and network”
Kusiima Kaheesi Samuel is studying for a PhD in Environment and Natural Resources at the College of Agricultural and Environmental Science (CAES), Makerere University, Uganda. His thesis is entitled: Land Use Land Cover Change (LULCC) and its Implications on Ecosystem Services in the Albert Water Management Zone, Uganda. 

“I have benefited a lot from skills enhancement trainings organized by RUFORUM” 
Zenebe Shuite Argado from Ethiopia is a PhD student in Climate Change and Bio-energy Development at Wondo Genet College of Forestry and Natural Resource, Hawassa University, Ethiopia. Zenebe is developing his thesis on Land Use Effect on Plant Diversity, Biomass, Soil Quality, Carbon Sequestration and Their Implication to Climate Change Mitigation in Aleta Chuko Woreda of Sidama Region, Ethiopia.

“My research fieldwork in a foreign country has been a life changing experience” 
Rudo Violet Denga is a Zimbabwean studying for a PhD in Plant and Environmental Sciences at the School of Natural Resource Management, African Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Mining (ACESM), Copperbelt University, Zambia. Her thesis is entitled Investigation of the Drivers and Impacts of Riverbank Cultivation on the Upper Kafue River Basin in Zambia’s Copperbelt Province and their Implications on Environmental Social Sustainability.

“Amidst the challenges, I am still on course to finish my PhD studies”
Abich Amsalu has been studying for a PhD in Climate Change and Bio-energy Development since September 2018 at Wondo Genet College of Forestry and Nature Resources, Hawassa University, Ethiopia. His research focuses on the impact of deforestation and forest degradation on the ecosystem services, particularly plant species diversity and carbon stock changes. 

“I have spread my wings through RUFORUM scholarships” 
Rehema Matendo from the Democratic Republic of Congo is studying for a PhD in Food Science and Nutrition at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT). She is researching the utilisation of local plant-based treatment to mitigate the mycotoxin contamination in some staple food in South Kivu, DRC. 
“My PhD research to tackle trade-offs in woodlot management in North-Western Ethiopia” Solomon Mulu is studying for a PhD in Forestry and Livelihood at the University of Gondar, Ethiopia. His thesis is on Woodlot management by smallholder farmers in the Highlands of North-western Ethiopia: Trade-offs and synergies in socio-economic and environmental benefits. 

“The journey to my PhD programme begun with my involvement in the SENTINEL Project” 
Petan Hamazakaza is a PhD student at Copperbelt University, Zambia, conducting research into agricultural expansion. He describes his journey of being accepted for his PhD studies and working with the Sentinel research team.  

“I want to contribute to climate change resilience in Sudan through my PhD research” 
Maysoon Abdelhameid Abdelhai Osman is studying for a PhD in Climate Change and Adaptation at the Institute for Climate Change and Adaptation, University of Nairobi, Kenya. Her research is on the Impact of Climate and Land Use / Land Cover Changes on Small Scale Farming System in Gedaref State, Sudan. 

“RUFORUM has given a lifeline to My PhD journey”
Jackson Bunyangha, from Uganda, is studying for a PhD in Hydrobiology at the University of Nairobi. His thesis is entitled Landscape transformation of fragile ecosystems in Uganda, the case of Mpologoma catchment in eastern Uganda. 

“Studying forestry made me realise my destiny” 
Basiru Adeniyi Okanlawon is a PhD student of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria. His research is about Climate change and climate justice.