Glasgow Caledonian University’s Centre for Climate Justice will build on its current research into the experiences of people in Sub-Saharan Africa during the coronavirus pandemic, with the ultimate aim of changing future government and NGO thinking. 

The Centre has been awarded a £182k grant by UKRI/Newton Fund for a 10-month project focusing on the experiences of local people in Malawi and Rwanda. This comes as the Centre for Climate Justice completes a four-month project with the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance to explore the impact of COVID-19 by compiling case studies from Kenya, South Africa, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Gabon and Morocco, with results expected soon.

Principal Investigator Dr Michael Mikulewicz said: “Most of our responses to the COVID-19 pandemic are focused on the immediate needs of affected countries and populations and their swift economic recovery. 

“In developing countries, where the effects of climate change are now made even worse by COVID-19, there is a lot of appetite for making this recovery sustainable and equitable. Specifically, we need to understand how COVID-19 has affected local people’s ability to withstand droughts, floods and sea-level rise and the prospects for adapting to and mitigating climate change in these countries. However, the data and knowledge on how to achieve this are lacking.” 

The project will invite local community members, as well as practitioners from government, development, private sector and community-based organisations in Rwanda and Malawi – two countries simultaneously affected by the pandemic and climate change – to participate in interviews, focus groups and surveys on this topic.

According to Dr Mikulewicz, participants from local communities will also be asked to produce video stories of their experiences of COVID-19 and climate change in order to “put a human face on both crises and ensure local voices are heard at the highest levels of government in both countries”.

The findings of the research will inform the work of the Malawian and Rwandan ministries responsible for health, climate change and environment. This will be achieved through a range of products and events, including reports, journal articles, a documentary, an interactive website and case-study leaflets.

Dr Mikulewicz added: “We will hold two simultaneous end-of-project workshops with online participation from the UK, during which all stakeholders will be able to discuss and exchange their experiences and inform policy development. The project’s ultimate aim is to ensure that the way these countries plan and carry out their recovery after COVID-19 is environmentally sustainable and socially equitable, so that it does not harm the climate or the most vulnerable people.”

The Centre has partnered with the University of Rwanda, Mzuzu University (Malawi) and University of Livingstonia (Malawi), and Life Concern (an NGO from Malawi), Rwanda Village Community Promoters (an NGO from Rwanda), the Ministry of Environment (Rwanda), the Ministry of Health (Malawi) and Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Environment (Malawi). The project will also involve the Scottish Government who will facilitate knowledge exchange between key government partners.