Writing successful research proposals-Africa edition

I did make an introductory remark on how to write a basic research proposal within the African set up for funds mean’t for African researchers managed by African scientists. The funds could go between 10,000USD for a year for early-career scientists to 300,000USD for seasoned academics who want to make an impact on the research community. It is sometimes depressing to read how some scientists in Universities in Africa are bored and stressed over “part-time” payments by their institutions. Such payments sometimes go for 600 USD per unit per semester for a degree programme. Which i believe cannot be compared with becoming a global researcher, working to offer your skills in addressing current problems persisting in the global south and at the end of the day being valued for their research contribution.

In my earlier posts which I will allude to before diving into the second phase, the few critical things I mentioned included;

1. The need to be thorough and transparent with what you want to study, I have read proposals from two different scientists on almost the same subject from the continent, and one scientist was quite open and articulate in addressing what she wanted to study, with facts and genuine support, which means she did the groundwork before writing, the difference with the second researchers proposal was like day and night.

2. It’s essential to have a good knowledge and literature of what you are studying and acknowledgement of such other studies show your integrity, and your ability to mention people before you who have contributed to the research field. Lacking the ability to say that you are standing on the shoulders of other giants does not reflect well with your writing and reviews.

3. It is critical and vital to be yourself, because as I mentioned earlier someone in the review committee, who might have been with you or participated in some work with you might know you and this will not go unnoticed in such a review, where initial genuineness is essential before anyone can trust you with a lot of funds, so don’t assume some nitty-gritty.

4. It is a death stab to plagiarise text among proposals and send them to the same organisation for funding. This is a big NO. Besides this it is disrespect to the committee sitting, that you can agree to plagiarise text and submit, and expect to receive funds. It sends  some signals about your integrity, institutions integrity and those that wrote reference letters for your application.

To finish up this topic, I would like to add some few notes.

Researchers in Africa need to learn to work with each other, since I work a lot in the Western Indian Ocean Region, researchers in Kenya, Tanzania, Somalia, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Comoros, Seychelles, Reunion Islands and South Africa, need to be able to come up with concepts that can be researched from a multicounty or multi-city level. Bearing in mind that this is where most of the significant funding institutions are heading towards.

The partnerships between researchers who are seasoned and the communities they represent, is another crucial issue, in essence, solutions-based research which has its own set of challenges needs the “heels down” approach by scientists. If your scientific research has an impact on a specific community, you need your heels in the villages to help understand the issues and use your skills to articulate the same to a more extensive research organisation and finally communicate the science back to them. These are sometimes quite evident in research proposals.

An politician once said you could read a document and identify the “spirit” of the letter, there is something about a genuinely well-orchestrated written proposal, readers and reviewers with some concentration can pick it up. Please know that when submitting the project, what is the spirit of the letter?

SDG 14 and Coastal communities

A great mind once said a cheerful heart is some great medicine, but a failing heart who can contain it, I guess none. The world, in general, has had its fair share of issues this year and in Africa, Kenya is still in peoples mind and heart as they arise every day. A few kilometers away from Kenya, I am in Dar es Salaam meeting with scientists who are cheerful and strategizing in taking the western Indian ocean countries and their small islands nations through a better stage of achieving SDG goals with several goals taking the center stage. The scientists from almost all parts of the globe are interested in producing applicable science for especially SDG number 14 on life underwater  for the western Indian ocean regions whose important principles:

  • By 2025 Prevent and reduce marine pollution of all kinds.
  • By 2020 Sustainable manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystem.
  • Minimize acidification of the oceans.
  • By 2020 Regulate overfishing.
  • Increase scientific knowledge on the area
MGDs practicability, ILO office DAR es Salaam

Many countries and small island nations along the western Indian ocean that attended the pre symposia, are strategizing and planning on how to manage this aspect of the MDG as well as include SDG 11 on sustainable cities and communities, of the few initiatives, registered Kenya and Mombasa as a city specifically seriously needs some of these interventions, is featuring but to a lesser extent, look at some of my earlier posts on Mombasa Island http://valentineenvironment.com/sea-level-rise-mombasa-and-lamu/.

The warming of the earth as per the AR5 report is based on the historical context, the increase of the three important greenhouse gases which includes the carbon dioxide,  methane and nitrous oxides, especially from consumption of fossil fuels and deforestation with these gases increasing at almost thirty percent.  The impacts that affects humans and ecosystems in coastal cities include , the increase of sea level from 1700mm to a severe pervasive and irreversible level, the  acidification of the ocean and its related resources as well as the distorted impacts of the built environment with the natural oceans leading to both positive and negative impacts of the negative raising the bar to a new level.

The dangers associated with these climatic changes are of course affecting the life under the sea. The five risks unique to this ecosystem include risks on ecosystems and diversity, the distortions of marine life nesting sites, directly bearing on the sustenance of coastal communities that depend on this vital resources. For a start we need to reduce fossil fuel use between 40 and 70 %, I know Kenya wants to hear none of this, but wena! it is the bare truth. Zero or low carbon energy is important in reducing the climate risks and contribute to climate resilience and sustainability options.

The need to manage the blue economy cannot be underestimated in coastal communities along the east and western part of the Indian ocean. As the coastal cities in this region strategize and plan and join local government sustainability initiatives especially fit for coastal regions, we will not only be able to protect ourselves from climate-related threats, but we will as well be able to develop our coastal cities gradually. We will be able to protect the coastal above water and underwater resources as well as the people who get nourishment form these areas.

In the event that the coastal regions and governments do not support these initiatives and leave the forces of demand and supply which are mostly directed by the consumptive nature of the people. We will continue flouting ruthlessly the planning rules and regulations in the coastal regions, continue to increase the grey environment without sufficient plans to secure clean water and the related resources, we will continue to rape, maim and destroy the ecological services provided by the coastal environment much to the disagreement of nature. Bear in mind that the environment when highly destroyed may reach a point of no return,  and of course when the environment disagrees and cannot sustain anymore, life will depart from you.

Meanwhile, the WIOMSA symposium is starting tomorrow, check and follow the proceedings here http://symposium.wiomsa.org/ . For the women in marine science and related disciplines, keep your ears open. Cheers, and let’s discuss after the symposium we are already set.

Attending pre WIOMSA symposium in DAR







Our Help is not from the West, North or South: Climate change Africa.

There’s a Swahili saying used in Africa that goes something like this ” Mtaka cha mvunguni sharti ainame”, translated as “if you need something under the bed you may need to bend!

The COP 22 conference in Marrakesh has just ended,  these meetings have become important and critical in the follow-up of climate adaptation and management techniques that government are pursuing. This is also done to keep at par with current research with regards to the climate systems of wich we are all part of. Marrakesh is a follow up on the COP 21 Paris conference Pre-deliberations where I presented my research on the rethinking of coastal city planning and design due to the threat of climate change. The global climate change phenomena have in the recent past been associated with several adverse impacts.

Trump propertyHowever, there are some of us who believe climate change is a fabrication to scare the general populace from enjoying the natural resources at their disposal.  What makes the world assume that the phenomena are a hoax,  is our inherent dependence on natural resources including coal and gas and the human effect that has been proven to cause adverse environmental consequences. Of course some of the top politicians who deny its existence include the newly elected President of the United States, whose own properties next to a beautiful coastline are being admired by the advancing oceans and in some areas those properties will be flooded up to 210 days in a year, in the next 30 years.


Such beautiful real estate pieces are a real deal anywhere in the world as the general populace struggles to own a part of the beach or a coastline. However, all over the world, researchers are of the opinion that climate change and coastal cities are a real worry that individual investors and the related governments especially the developing worlds need to protect this resources from the advancing oceans.  What would be the need of having an exclusive beautiful coastal home that your son who is eight may not enjoy it from the age of thirty years and above?

Coming back to East Africa, my home a beautiful home, coastal areas of Mombasa, Lamu and Zanzibar are a real attraction with definite architecture and beautiful natural environment to see. Watamu Mombasa Malindi and Lamu are the holiday destinations in Kenya with current Kenyans owning properties and investments in theses areas before I proceeded further the threat of advancing oceans is a real one in the range of 50% to 56% of properties in these regions being hurt. But again who then should be working towards reducing the threat.

Moon Captured at Watamu in Kenya.

As earlier alluded in my posts climate change and global carbon dioxide emissions is an issue that traverses across states and countries and a coalesced approach towards the reduction of emission’s  is actually the best way forward, but how do you do that when the global polluters are not willing to pull all their forces together. We have always sung and compelled to remind ourselves as Africa, that our sustainability and the ability to protect our populace will largely depend on us.  Sound initiatives meant for the management of our resources are a real leap in the right direction. These actions include but not limited to the prudent management of our carbon sinks which include forests and peat/swamp lands, and the need to combine development and resource management consciousness.  As earlier mentioned, they will go a long way in securing the future of our disadvantaged economies, our help, unfortunately, will not come from the West, North or South.

The need to be prudent in the management of resources is important in cushioning the climate change impacts around Africa, in many areas especially food security, property protection from flash flooding and protection of coastal regions. Waiting for other countries to keep their part of the deal in climate protection may not be forthcoming bearing in mind that some of the sceptics are some of the leaders of countries that are the greatest polluters.

Therefore, as we plan to develop our nations and improve infrastructure, provide more excellent and reliable energy sources, create up to date transport systems- a good example being SGR and LAPPSET in Kenya. It’s imperative that the natural systems that balance out our human systems, cities and food production and security need to be protected or at least effectively managed. Otherwise, we risk losing some of the systems that support African economies, examples being agriculture, forestry and tourism.




The Islander, forests, water, urbanism and its effects.

Wood products used in buildings.

Let us discuss some science in a shorter format. The world has just celebrated the world water and forest day a few day ago. Unfortunately, i forgot to change my facebook profile to imitate the trend.  All said and done humans have been linked to a massive change in climatic conditions because of our consumptive nature.

The result climate-related changes and effects on the comfort of the urban residents. Currently, in Kenya, the heat wave has reached alarming rate in Mombasa and Nairobi as the weatherman warns against heat stroke.

Climatic changes have also led to shifts in available water for use and consumption effectively affecting the availability of food and food production. I will not dwell much on the links for today.

However, the celebration of these two events especially the world forest day is a major step towards keeping our environment safe from the adverse effects of climate-related changes. Research suggests that

  • Some 15-18% of global carbon emissions are from forest loss and land-use change – mainly in the tropics.
  • More carbon is released into the atmosphere than what comes from the fossil fuel-intensive global transport sector.
  • In many developing countries, emissions from land-use change account for 60-90% of total national emissions especially the cut and burn processes.

The coastal urbanite and climate effects

Urbanization according to Brittanica is the process by which large numbers of people become permanently concentrated in relatively small areas, forming cities. Coastal areas attract a large number of people to the small cities due to the allure of the coasts. This concentration is a major factor in the increase of emissions in the atmosphere as the world works hard to reduce it.

The effects of the large urban population along this towns include:

  • Urban climate, urban heat island (UHI) effect
  • Changes in land surface temperature when vegetation is replaced with parking lots, streets, buildings.
  • car emiisionUHIs can produce secondary effects on local meteorology, including the altering of local wind patterns, the development of clouds and fog, the humidity, and the rates of precipitation.
  • Urban areas can be up to 8 degrees warmer than surrounding suburban or natural landscapes

Forests and the saving of the Islander

Over a hundred-year time span, forest residues cause the least climate impact, but they still heat the atmosphere by 20–40 times compared to the amount of energy it produces. Natural gas heats the atmosphere 100–110 times and coal 170–190 times the amount of energy they produce.

Cleared mangroves at Lamu

Tropical forests are important in addressing global climate change.  At the global level, forest ecosystems could play a significant role in atmospheric carbon sequestration.

On the other hand, vulnerable poor communities depend on forest goods and services to adapt to impacts of climate change at the national and local levels.

Tropical forests are considered as safety nets as they provide several goods and services to help people survive in times of crisis. These crises include drought or flood-induced crop failures, poor health, energy shortage and climate change through carbon filtering (sequestering).

Sustainably managing forests to both provide for social benefits (fuel, fodder), as well as environmental benefits (ecosystem services) is a definite move towards climate mitigation. Forests weather close to the Islands as in mangroves forests, or the tropical forests example the Kakamega forest, assures sustainability and environmental-friendly,  cities through green initiatives as well as providing the required services for humanity to exist.


The climate discussion: A letter to the second Kenyatta

Mombasa 2Sometimes being a county man has its high and low sides. First I am  Kenyan by birth I tend to think and by naturalization as well. The country has beautiful and excellent resources leave alone the footprint. Kenya will forever be glued into people’s mind all for the good and sometimes for the bad reasons including the exploits on the track and field events, Mbalula the sports minister South Africa knows this well and, of course, the Obama factor. For today, I will leave the Kenyan beautiful experience for expounding on the commentary. My interest being the environmental sustainability of our coastal beautiful tourist attractive cities of Mombasa and lamu. As research is still going on and burning the midnight oil to keep this city up to international standards when we talk about climate change, especially sea level rise and the threat of inundation.

At around 2:30 am 22nd August 1978 I was hardly a year old the founding father of Kenya Mzee Jomo Kenyatta soul departed from the earth in the beautiful Mombasa island. Like the Africans would say, the spirit was around at least three days before the grim reaper carried it off to unknown destinations ( a subject I will leave to the pastors and priests to debate). I want to imagine that the last moments of the old Man saw the beautiful palm trees, and the calm thundering of the ocean as he went to bed that night never to wake up again. The feeling makes me want to be in Mombasa forever, it’s a city with a great attachment to the birth and the growth of Kenya as a country. I wonder if the founding father would be smiling from the earth yonder, when we allow climate-related disturbances to wipe out the city of Mombasa. What is he telling his son, the other Kenyatta the current president of Kenya? I would wonder if The late Prof Ali Mazrui buried a walk away fro the state house where the founding fathers soul departed, would have relaxed and settled to know that climate change is threatening the survival of Mombasa island. It is these reflections that make me quickly conclude, effort needs to be made to make sure that does not happen. That sea level changes will not find the island of Mombasa and Lamu unprepared.

Several professionals have significantly studied a message from the Minister of Environment of Paris (my condolences for their loss) the climate change phenomena. These include anthropologists physiologists and historian who have shown a relationship between humans and nature. Biologists have confirmed that biodiversity is being affected by the changes in the climate; climatologists are proving that the weather patterns are changing daily. Planners are telling us that a new thinking is required for Island nations survival. Otherwise, the concept of internally displaced climate refugees is not far fetched. A combination of action is emphasized so that action can take place, to avoid a scenario where we are not making changes in our daily activities that are affecting as climate deniers still exist. The 43 members states through Banki Moon have insisted that there’s the ability to speed up severely binding agreements, to reduce atmospheric gases and injection of fossil fuel residue into the environment.

Mombasa 3The spirit is towards a low carbon economy; there can’t be climate efficiency without climatic responsibility, from energy efficiency to clean smart energy networks, carbon capture, green energy, green building and architecture energy saving, active transport among others. The fifths IPCC evaluation report, call upon sectoral policies and regional and national forums to lessen the impacts of climate change.

Two-thirds of the global population in 2050 Will be in cities we need to work on smart cities to make the globe a better place, e.g., a low carbon economy not as a disaster but an opportunity to hold on and improve the lives. In many countries, Parliament is passing legislation to save landscapes, energy efficiency and saving and preparing for power use without oil and protecting our biodiversity and landscapes. Climate systems are complex with different angles and different disciplinary angles and need this kind of management to achieve a cleaner world.
Mombasa and Lamu island would do well if smart and clean energy options are enhanced, so that forever, we keep the legacy of this mound of soil that is home to many including the soul of the departed founder Father of the Nation.



Lamu archipelago, disaster in waiting!

SLR Inundation vulnerable areas
SLR Inundation vulnerable areas

lamu archipelago is free from climate-related disturbances especially climate related changes. Or is it, having a discussion with the local communities, they have different experiences. General climatic and seasonal changes are being seen. Some species of fish have completely disappeared from the waters and they can’t seem to be found at all. One community member stated that the ocean changes are evident, with the ocean waters either encroaching or receding from the available human space, however in some ome areas at the archipelago island especially the Pate island have actually been submerged and land beacons are under the ocean waters!. the communities and the owners actually lay claim of the area covered by the advancing ocean, as their own. Meanwhile, the ocean is comfortably covering the beacons, its a site to behold.  I went at lengths to use the available software in GIS especially global mapper and Arc GIS to run an analysis on the areas under threat from the receding or advancing oceans. The map is shown on the left.

Continue reading “Lamu archipelago, disaster in waiting!”

Face of the Kenyan cities

I recently posted a blog on the urban space utilization in Mombasa and how the dynamics of climate-related changes  is forcing humankind to reconsider the way they are planning and executing livable cities. Yes, I used the word livable. The important role of cities came up last month in Nairobi at a delegates session aimed at setting up the rules for the next years Habitat III conference slated for October 2016in Quito Equador, is the UN once in 20 years platform for nation states for formulate a global framework for urban policy. Staggeringly for such an event aimed at focussing on the future of cities failed to reach an agreement on allowing for local stakeholders participation. Continue reading “Face of the Kenyan cities”

Melting Antarctica! What this means

I will begin with an over idea, the Antarctica and the Greenland ice is melting faster than we can imagine. The Antarctica holds icy waters and of course nature creation and the bib bang theory, whichever you ascribe to made sure the continent was covered with ice. However according to scientists and environmentalists these ice sheets are melting. Many people have chosen to believe the idea while others generally known as climate deniers have vehemently denied it. Continue reading “Melting Antarctica! What this means”

Sea Level Rise Mombasa and Lamu

Ochanda Valentine
Communicating Science
23rd April 2015

Sea level rise Mombasa and Lamu Global SLR refers to increased changes on the volume of sea water mainly due to volume increase in the oceans as a result of changes in ocean circulation patterns mainly due to increased temperatures, and resultant thermal expansion of sea waters. Other studies define this relationship of landward intrusion and floods by sea water as a consequence of increasing levels of water in ocean channels. Local SLR is mainly the difference of vertical land motion and the vertical motion of the sea surface.

The steady and slow rise in global sea levels along the coastal tidal range/zones, has been associated not only with the permanent inundation of coastal islands, but also with ecological/environmental and socio-economic consequences. other effects include increased flooding events associated with changes in patterns of tropical storms,  hurricanes, typhoons and tsunamis leading to losses in major coastal cities.These storms mostly break seawalls, leading to flood waters over topping levees, and storm surges that wash and breach barriers and increase cost implications for these regions. The magnitude of sea level changes and their impacts vary from coast to coast depending on the geographical characteristics, topography of the coastal strip as well as natural and anthropogenic activities within the shoreline which include hard engineering infrastructure and services along the coasts and deltas.

Continue reading “Sea Level Rise Mombasa and Lamu”

Sustainable Architecture Kenya

Ochanda Valentine
Communicating Science
23rd April 2015


What is sustainability?, many have had different opinions on the subject of sustainability and sustainable development. As defined by scientists sustainability is the taking or consumption of resources and services currently, without reducing the ability of future generations from enjoying the same privileges. An activity that is sustainable should be able to continue for ever.

The environment where we derive our livelihood from is important in keeping the current generation, as well and future generations. this can only be possible if current generations are sustainable. The current generation has had its fair share of unsustainable practices, for example energy consumption and resource utilization. This was summarized by the intergovernmental panel on climate change on its current report fifth assessment report that the earth is warming and changing rapidly, and the main causes are the human induced changes also known as the anthropogenic causes of climate change.

Continue reading “Sustainable Architecture Kenya”