Biography 2

Barbara Rita Naggay-Bukenya (Rita Naggayi Kibirige)

Barbara Rita Naggayi - African SNOWS - LSHTMBarbara is our second interviewee and works at the same university as Moses (Biography 1), which is MUST in Uganda. 

Barbara in involved in many projects in the community as well as at the university.  You may be interested to follow up on some of these.




Q “Hello Barbara, can you start by telling me what you do?”

“I am a Lecturer in the Institute of Interdisciplinary Training and Research at Mbarara University of Science and Technology.  There are 4 courses I am currently responsible for and these include; Environmental Management and Sustainable Development, Urbanisation and Development, Environment and Development (Masters Level) and Environmental Impact Assessment (Post graduate Diploma level).

Besides teaching, I am also Acting Head, Department of Environment and Livelihood Support Systems.  This is one of the new departments in the recently established Institute of Interdisciplinary Training and Research. 

I am also a registered PhD student in my first year, looking at how the cultural context influences the self supply strategy in the area of operation and maintenance of rural water facilities”.

Q “That sounds very interesting, can you tell me a little bit more about your PhD topic?”

“The self supply strategy within community based management is a system of communications mobilised to take care of the operation and maintenance of the community’s rural water supply.  

User responsibility and ownership [for rural water supplies] hasn’t been as fruitful as hoped due to lack of willingness to pay or to take responsibility for the facility put in place.  The question is why?  Maybe we can explore the cultural context.  Can we understand how culture stewardship could facilitate change, or has a new culture emerged to explain what we are seeing? “

Q “You are obviously very passionate about this area of work, why does it interest you?”

“Yes, I am very passionate about this topic.  It is an area which has not been richly explored and I am very excited to know that this work will make a difference to understanding the context and help to understand why people do what they do.  Culture evolves and adopts things.  I wanted to demystify this whole question of responsibility and what it means.

My challenge has been not having a substantive supervisor.  My local supervisor is in climate change and is seeing me through the conceptualisation of my project, and then I will have to look for another supervisor.  Perhaps someone in Makerere University may be interested in this topic.  The challenge for me is finding a local supervisor who can work with me from the perspective of sociology.  I need someone who speaks the same scientific language.”

Q “What else are you involved in?”

“I am involved in community service at faculty level and outside.  Within the faculty I spearhead a student community twinning project.  This opportunity came through because the former faculty of Development Studies wanted students attached to villages to act out what they learn.  This was developed into the student community twinning project and is on a voluntary process.  The Institute has now infused this field experience into the curriculum will be assessed as a module.  It will get students to design interventions for 2 years (starting in their second year) aiming at producing meaningful student dissertations.

At the community level I am part of a National NGO in the area of environment conservation for community development (CECOD).  This Ugandan NGO implements the eco-schools programme and I was involved in the proposal writing for this project.  We now have more than 2,000 primary schools in Mbarara, Bushenyi and Isingiro districts in South Western Uganda and the core number of primary teacher training colleges in these districts. 

The principle guiding implementation of the programme is rooted in the concept of Education for sustainable development.  I serve on the organisation’s board as an honorary member.  I also serve as the General Secretary on the Executive Committee for the Climate Change Action Network of Eco-schools in Uganda (CAN-E). This Network was developed to look at climate change issues using the eco-school framework and to deliver interventions

Q “What did you do before you began working at Mbarara University?”

“I volunteered with CECOD for 2 years then went back to study as a post graduate diploma student.”

Q “What part do you play in the SNOWS group within the university?”

“I represent the Institute of Interdisciplinary Training and Research within the SNOWS Working Group at Mbarara.  Being a link between my home academic unit and SNOWS has helped me a lot, especially as SNOWS has now been recognised as a thematic area in the university.

Being part of the SNOWS group put us in a good position when the Ugandan Ambassador to German visited the university.  He wanted to identify partners for some joint water projects.  The Deputy Vice Chancellor at Mbarara notified the Ambassador of our work in water quality assessment and as a result the German principal investigator of a ceramic water filter project visited the university.  I was invited to attend the meeting and introduced SNOWS to him.  They are now working on a memorandum of understanding with us.  On September 13th the German university will be organising a fact finding mission to Mbarara and I am interested in how they can support us to establish a water quality laboratory at our university.  The Director of the institute and the SNOWS team under Dr Edgar Mulogo are all engaged in the collaboration.

I was also given a chance to participate with another German university when the Academic Registrar asked someone for a one page write up.  I was at my desk and was able to help as the German team is interested in partnering with Mbarara in the area of water and sanitation.  They want to work through regional centres of excellence (RCE) and the Academic Registrar thought I might have some ideas.  I told him about the SNOWS structure and how it could be used for the entry point.  I was able to point out the curriculum development for this collaboration, enhancing it for building the water and sanitation training area on campus.   

My interest in this is because we do not have these courses and there has not been much interest generated for bringing students into water and sanitation.  If we can offer particular training it may encourage students to enrol and will be building the thematic area in the university.”

Q “What difference has your part in the SNOWS consortium made to your work?”

“SNOWS has given us a very good platform for engaging others interested in the water and sanitation area who don’t know how to start or which doors to knock.  I see it as a thematic area going beyond water and engineering by looking at building community capacity to manage utilities.  We need to look at building the management skills for these technologies and beyond that to the interdisciplinary practices of behaviour change, educational promotion, policy, politics and conflicts.   That is how I look at it and it is a good strategy for the consortium to lay emphasis on the PhD training in these areas now.  We need to interest students in the local priorities to arrive at our goal.

Q “What is your goal?”

“Infusing and integrating knowledge and skills development in the area of WASH- Water, Sanitaiton and Hygiene in teaching, research and community engagement.”

Q “Back to the difference that the SNOWS consortium has made to you?”

“ With the SNOWS Young Scientists Conference held at Polokwane this year in South Africa, Professor Natasha Potgeiter demonstrated the benefit that can accrue out of interesting external partners in SNOWS and her work in water and sanitation.  The conference was a great learning moment for me.  I believe there is money for research but you need to know how to open the tap.  Water and sanitation is not a vibrant area and we need to make it vibrant.  The university’s voice needs to complement NGO activities, especially with getting audiences with ministers and engaging their support.  Sometimes we are not aware of how much is available at the ministries etc.  The government has been thinking about how it can engage people in the sector, not aware that an academic platform exists.   We need to deliberately move out and interest other partners. 

At a personal level the conference was a good opportunity to give me the courage to share my ideas.  I was reluctant at first but I was encouraged by SNOWS and by sharing my ideas I learnt from others too.  I learned that the earlier you prepare a pilot study the better it is for you as you can test your idea and have preliminary findings to share. 

The real highlight of the conference for me was my interaction with Professor Sandy Cairncross.  Firstly I learned that work that has been done in the 70’s can still be useful in the 21st century, and secondly my 30 minute mentoring session with him was a very significant moment.  Professor Sandy was selfless and gave me books and has supported me with unpublished materials as well.  That somebody understood what I was talking about and guided me to improve my work was incredible. 

Professor Sandy’s suggestion that the students should write a book on one of the themes from the conference has really enhanced the group and encouraged them to complete their work.  Every quarter we are now sharing progress with the social group and they help to sharpen ideas and encourage one another to finish our work on time.  The young professional scientists’ conference is an opportunity to envision leadership.”

Q “Thank you very much for sharing with us Barbara and good luck with all your projects and activities.” 

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