The Horn of Africa Resilience Innovation Lab based at Jimma University conducted a Student Engagement Workshop at Addis Ababa University, School of Public Health, on March 6, 2016.
The main objectives of the workshop were: to inform Addis Ababa University students and faculty about RAN-HoA RILab Structures, Objectives, Key Strategies, and Resilience Programs, as well as to initiate their active participation in innovation grants competitions and other opportunities open to RAN affiliated universities in Africa, so as to provide supports to innovators and ultimately ensure positive impact potentials in the target communities. The workshop involved 16 students representing the Student Union as well as different colleges and institutes of the university, two of the IAB members, and the focal person from Bule Hora University (BHU) attended the workshop that was facilitated by RILab core staff.
There were presentations on: An overview of ResilientAfrica Network (RAN); RAN Innovations and M&E strategies; RAN Innovation grants and related opportunities, followed by comments and questions from the students as well as some reflections from other participants. Students positively reflected about RAN and appreciated its lofty goals. They were grateful to the RILab for allowing them opportunity to be a part of a network that seeks to innovative solutions for the developmental challenges facing communities. The students also emphasized the importance of timely communications and follow-up to ensure whether the information channeled is reaching end-users or not. The other major issues raised by participants include the following:
- The students should understand what “innovation” is, and then be activists for innovation endeavors in Ethiopia.
- Given the level of technological development and economic capacity of our society, we should focus first on adoption of innovations before proceeding to innovations.
- There are many students who have innovative ideas and designs; however, they could not get the necessary supports.
- The HoA RILab is focused more on Borana pastoralists; what about other communities affected by drought?
- First of all, we need to believe in the high capacity of our mind; then we can generate innovative ideas, and design solutions for the crucial problems of our target communities.
- When we design our innovation project, it should be based on the needs and problems of our target communities.
- To implement effective intervention project, first we need to work on the mindset of our target people.
- We ought to establish a system in which students are initiated to generate useful ideas and design innovative projects.
- It is advisable that the HoA RILab closely works with relevant government offices that can support innovations.
- Sufficient endeavors should be made to disseminate information on grants competitions.
- Every year, there is a National Innovations Awards Ceremony; the RILab staff should attend this ceremony and gather relevant information.
- There is a female innovator, Hermela Wondimu, she focuses on water supply and requires support; she has been making a lot of efforts to address the problem of water scarcity.
- Using poster or posting a written notice is not an effective means of disseminating information to all students; particularly, many female students tend to miss these. Therefore, sharing information personally during student gatherings, including registration days is more effective.
The RILab Director appreciated the students for their interest in RAN activities and the valid comments they provided. The facilitators and other participants made the following reflections:
- Innovations are new methods, approaches or technologies; alternatively, major or remarkable improvements to the existing methods, approaches or technologies can also be considered innovations. We may also opt for adoption of innovations, which implies bringing innovations from elsewhere and applying them to our environment. Innovation involves three important elements: users, markets (entrepreneurship and economic viability), and innovative approach, method or technology. There are various limitations that can affect innovations; these include structural, financial, and technical constraints.
- The selection of Borana as a geographic focus and recurrent droughts as a thematic focus resulted from series of consultations made with Government at Central, Regional and Zonal level, NGOs operating in Borana and a meticulous literature review. Consequently we were able to gather a lot of information on Borana pastoralists that facilitated the selection and priority setting. Both the consultations and the literature review clearly informed that Borana is affected by recurrent droughts and the interval of the occurrences is changing from the previous 7-8 years to 1-2 years currently. The fact that we focused on two districts within Borana is due to limited resources. Borana Zone is mainly a low land, which turns brown and dusty during the dry months of the year; whenever rain comes, it immediately changes to green.
- With regards to the depth of the study, following the literature review we had conducted community consultations using focus group discussions (FGDs) and in-depth interview. The study involved community members, Regional, Zonal and District level Government representatives and NGOs operating in the Zone. This study led to the identification of resilience dimensions that helped as the basis for the development of intervention pathways and priority entry points for intervention. With the objective of developing indicators and assessing the relationship among the resilience dimensions, we are conducting survey. Hence we believe we have collected sufficient information that can adequately inform innovative interventions to respond to the resilience challenges of the target communities.
- There are many NGOs operating in Borana Zone, implementing intervention programs. In one particular case, an intervention program designed to encourage girls education blocked boys from going to school, because parents were given oil for every girl they sent to school, but there was no reward for sending boys.
- Innovators should work in a team; there is also a need to consider fund leverage from alternative sources.