Researchers from the University of Reading in the UK held a fruitful and stimulating workshop on “capacity needs assessment for green economy transition in Africa” at Nairobi Kenya on March 12, 2018.

The workshop which held in the Hilton hotel was attended by academics from the University of Nairobi and technical officers from public and private sectors, as well as civil societies organizations that are involved in planning and implementing green growth initiatives in Kenya. The workshop was funded by the University of Reading UK under the Global Research Strategic Fund. The Project is led by Professor Chukwumerije Okereke who is from the Department of Geography and Environmental Science and Associate Director of Reading University Center for Climate and Justice with contributions from Scientists from Oxford Brookes University and African Technology Policy Studies in Nairobi.

The workshop featured presentations, survey questionnaire completion, focus groups and structured reflection over green growth policymaking and implementation in Kenya with a focus on human and technical capacity.

The adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and African Agenda 2063 in 2015 by African Governments had come against a backdrop of rising economy in many African countries. However, despite notable gains in recent years, economic growth has not translated into reduction in poverty and inequality.  At the same time, it is widely recognized that the current reliance on finite natural resource extraction to power African economic development is unsustainable in the long run.  Moreover, Africa’s economic development is being hampered by climate change with its negative impact on food production and extra cost imposed on infrastructural development.  Hence business-as-usual models of growth is no longer a viable option for Africa in the face of growing environmental scarcities, economic uncertainty, and widespread poverty.

Green growth is a recent global phenomenon and much-lauded pathway for achieving economic transformation, climate resilience, and inclusive, sustainable development.  Green growth is a relatively new approach for policymakers and businesses in Africa. While there are a few notable promising steps, African countries are mostly yet to understand and exploit the various opportunities for developing the green economy across the scale from national, through the regional level.  Scholars and policymakers alike have regularly asserted that lack of or limited capacity is a significant barrier hindering the transition to green growth in Kenya and Africa more broadly.  However, there is insufficient understanding of the range of skills (both indigenous and external) that is needed to achieve green economy transition in Africa.

For example, Kenya’s long-term development blueprint, Vision 2030, seeks to transform the country into an industrializing, middle-income country that offers a high quality of life to all people in a clean and secure environment by 2030. Kenya aims to increase annual GDP growth rates to 10% and to maintain that average till 2030.  Key programs include the massive development of solar, geothermal energy, increased mechanization of agriculture, green industrialization and innovation, and better monitoring of forests to enhance biological conversation and diversity.   However, like most other African countries there is limited capacity to transform this grand visions into reality.

A principal rationale for the workshop is that a critical condition for improving capacity is to generate a clear and robust framework that can help policymakers and other stakeholders to assess their capacity needs systematically. In the workshop, the participants were presented with an analytical framework for green growth transition which is being developed by Professor Okereke and his research team.  The analytical framework which is adapted from the UNDP’s generic model identifies five functional capacity areas needed for green growth transitioning in Africa and more broadly. These include strategy and policy formulation, project design and implementation, stakeholder engagement, financial management, and monitoring and evaluation.

Participants were invited to rank the capacity strengths and needs of their sectors based on the above five functional capacity areas. Their rankings were subsequently discussed alongside in-depth deliberation on what can be done to accelerate capacity building and mobilization for green transitioning in Africa.

A similar workshop is planned in Abuja Nigeria on March 26 after which the results will be collated and published in a short report.  It is hoped that the project will result in the development of a green capacity template that will improve national green capacity auditing and assessment in sub-Saharan Africa.

Professor Okereke says, “I am very thankful to the University of Reading or funding this project. I am very much looking forward to the forthcoming workshop in Nigeria. I am very hopeful that the project will contribute to an understanding of steps that are needed to help accelerate capacity development for green transiting in Africa.”

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Meet our #UoRWomen!

To mark International Women’s Day this year, we asked some of our brilliant staff to answer a few questions about their research, their career highlights, and their inspirations. Read on for a selection…

Dr Macarena L. Cárdenas

Research/teaching specialisation


What made you choose this area?

I am interested in the environment and particularly on the vegetation. I just love getting to know how the vegetation changes, how it evolves within itself, and how it relates and responds to factors such as the climate and human influence. This area gives me the possibility to not just look at those interactions, but also to reveal how they were in the past, and throughout time.

What advice would you have for young women wanting to become involved in this area?

To keep a large perspective and stay present with the issues that is happening today to the environment that can be understood by studying the past. To engage with not just the topics that are relevant but also, and actually quite importantly, with the people and environment affected by these issues. Also, to do multidisciplinary research, as one proxy will let you know what the other doesn’t want to!

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I am a multi-passionate, so I never get bored if it happens that I have free time. Some of the things I do are: going to open and wild places for hiking, yoga, meditation, exercise, talking and visiting with family and friends,  dancing, crafting, painting and making jewellery. I also have great fun with experimental cooking in the safety (for others) of my home.

Who inspired you to get to where you are now?

My mother. She is my inspiration for courage, strength and sensitivity. She just goes for things no matter what obstacles she may find.  She always said to me: “do whatever you love the most and don’t let it go. No matter what it is, no matter how crazy that may look like for others. If it makes you happy, just do it”. And so I did! (although it is certainly crazy).


Professor Anne Verhoef

Research/teaching specialisation:

Environmental physics, with emphasis on soil-plant-atmosphere systems

 What made you choose this area?

Great interest in soil from the age of 14. Studied Soil Science (specialisation soil physics), followed by micrometeorology (Phd)

Was there a moment when you realised that you had become successful academic / research staff?

A number of grant successes in a row not long after I started. Wide-ranging and original teaching portfolio ~5 few years after starting.

What is an exciting development currently in your area?

Combination of novel environmental physics instrumentation (including remote sensing) combined with state of the art process modelling to answer many societally pressing issues.

What advice would you have for young women wanting to become involved in this area?

Follow your scientific interests and passions first and foremost, don’t just take the path of least resistance (e.g. where you have the best GCSE & A-level grades)

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Very little time left…: running, outdoor swimming, gardening

Who inspired you to get to where you are now?

I don’t believe much in (male or female) role models, the thirst for knowledge needs to come from within the young scientist. Lecturers that motivated me during my studies where those who conveyed that passion, not those with necessarily the most advanced lecture slides/notes or best-run practical classes.


Dr Hazel McGoff

Research/teaching specialisation:

Teaching geology – Earth processes and history and the resources that we use

What made you choose this area?

It is a practical subject that involves fieldwork, good observation skills and the ability to visualise and imagine processes in space and time.

Was there a moment when you realised that you had become successful academic / research staff?

When my students start teaching me things! Hopefully this means they have enthusiasm for the subject and good knowledge. A great foundation for a career.

What is an exciting development currently in your area?

On a local scale – Chloe Knight, one of our final year students has been researching the meteorite collection that is here in the University of Reading – its geology, the chemistry of the specimens and the history of the collection. We hope to submit a short paper for publication later in the summer.

What advice would you have for young women wanting to become involved in this area?

Go for it – do what interests you most and enjoy it. Learn as much science as you can and appreciate the links between all the different disciplines.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Spending time with my horses.

Who inspired you to get to where you are now?

  1. My friend Dave Prior – now Professor of Geology in Otago University in New Zealand – he brings great energy, enthusiasm and scientific expertise to everything he does.
  2. My PhD supervisor, Derek Briggs – now Professor at the Peabody Museum, Yale, USA – who encouraged all his students to develop their research projects and take them in whatever direction was appropriate.
  3. Isabella Bird – an intrepid Victorian explorer and the first woman to be elected as a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.


Dr Liz Shaw

Research/teaching specialisation:

Soil microbiology and biochemistry

What made you choose this area?

My A-level Geography teacher, Mrs Allison (Cottingham High School), first inspired my interest in soil and then my MSc tutor (later PhD supervisor, Richard Burns) inspired my interest in soil microbiology.

Was there a moment when you realised that you had become successful academic / research staff?

There has been no one defining moment but there have been some successes (my appointment to a lectureship, winning my first research grant, promotion, positive feedback from students) that I have celebrated.

What is an exciting development currently in your area?

New molecular and biogeochemical methodologies that when combined can be used to overcome the problems of understanding what non-culturable microscopic organisms living in an opaque environment (soil) are doing!

Who inspired you to get to where you are now?

My research area inspires me but I am supported in this by my parents, my partner, my son, my friends and key colleagues and collaborators.


Dr Beena Balan Sarojini

Research/teaching specialisation

Climate Scientist specialised in Ocean, Atmosphere and Land surface of the Earth.

What made you choose this area?

I loved Physics and Geography in School and I am a nature lover. At the University level I got to know about courses on learning more about the physics of Earth and its climate.

Was there a moment when you realised that you had become successful academic / research staff?

Several moments at different stages of my research career: 1) When I gave my debut international presentation at the European Geophysical Union’s annual conference, 2) When the main article on my PhD study got published in a peer-reviewed journal, and 3) When I got invited to contribute to the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report in 2013

What is an exciting development currently in your area?

How the representation of soil-plant processes in a climate model can improve the prediction of climate and extreme events like droughts and floods.

What advice would you have for young women wanting to become involved in this area?

Find the right course for you at the University. Get, set and go!

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Swimming, yoga and having fun with my daughter.

Who inspired you to get to where you are now?

My mother who encouraged me and my sister to study as much as we wanted which was not possible for girls at the time when she was studying.


Dr Avril Maddrell

I work in Social and Cultural Geography, with particular research interests in the Geographies of death, sacred mobilities and gender.

I am currently an Editor of two international journals Gender, Place and Culture and Social and Cultural Geography. I have really appreciated those occasions when Editors have helped me make the most of my research findings in papers, and now enjoy being an Editor myself; its always rewarding when authors write to say that reviewer and editorial guidance has helped them develop their arguments and showcase their research.

I will be starting a new large AHRC-ESRC research project on March 13th Deathscapes and Diversity: Planning for minorities’ and migrants’ bodily remains, ritual and remembrance practice with Yasminah Beebeejaun (Bartlett School of Planning, UCL) and Katie McClymont, (UWE Bristol) and the two project postdoctoral research associates: Danny McNally and Brenda Mattijssen (University of Reading).

International Women’s Day

Avril will be speaking at the University of Stockholm on 8th March as part of the book launch symposium for Contemporary Encounters in Gender and Religion. European perspectives (Palgrave 2016) with Swedish Co-Editors Lena Gemzoe and Marja-Liisa Keinnanen.

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Congratulations to GES PhD students Anna Freeman and Rebecca Emerton for winning prizes in the 2016 Graduate School Research Image competition and Graduate School Research Poster competitions respectively.

Anna Freeman

Congratulations to GES PhD student Anna Freeman (supervisor Andrew Wade), who won First Prize in the Graduate School Research Image competition 2016, for her entry ‘Big world in a small drop’, which featured a stunning microscope photograph of zooplankton from Farmoor reservoir, near Oxford. Anna received her award at the Graduate School Doctoral Research conference in June. Well done Anna!

The Universirty of Reading Graduate School Doctoral Conference 2106.

The University of Reading Graduate School Doctoral Conference 2016.


Rebecca Emerton

Congratulations to GES PhD student Rebecca Emerton (supervisor Hannah Cloke), who won First Prize in the Graduate School Research Poster competition 2016, for her poster entitled ‘El Nino as a predictor of flood hazard’. Rebecca received her award at the Graduate School Doctoral Research conference in June. The standard of posters in this competition was extremely high, but the judges were impressed by the clarity with which Rebecca was able to present complex science. Well done Rebecca!

The Universirty of Reading Graduate School Doctoral Conference 2106.

The University of Reading Graduate School Doctoral Conference 2016.

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The Andes present an ideal learning space to draw lessons on existing and emerging resilience challenges and opportunities. Andean people and societies have co-evolved with the unique high-mountain contexts in which they live, sometimes in altitudes of more than 3800 m. Although historical achievements including irrigation systems, domestication of cameloids (llama and alpaca) and crop preservation techniques facilitated the development of ancient civilisations in the Andes, modern Andean people face serious challenges in achieving food security and wellbeing.

A new Special Issue co-edited by Dr Giuseppe Feola and Dr Diana Sietz (Wageningen University) aims to improve our understanding of the key dynamics of socio-ecological systems that constrain or foster resilience in the rural Andes. The Special Issue, published in the journal Regional Environmental Change, comprises six papers that investigate three core features of resilience in a variety of socio-ecological systems: diversity, connectivity and development models. The novel insights into resilience dynamics include specific features related to the high-mountain contexts and socio-political tensions in the Andes. Future research can build on this knowledge to further not only resilience theory but also methodological approaches which reflect both case-specific and generic complexity.

Papers included in this Special Issue:

Sietz, D. and Feola, G. (2016) Resilience in the rural Andes: Critical dynamics, constraints and emerging opportunities.

Vallejo-Rojas, V., Ravera, F. and Rivera-Ferre, MG. (2016) Developing an integrated framework to assess agri-food systems and its application in the Ecuadorian Andes.

Doughty, CA. (2016) Building climate change resilience through local cooperation: a Peruvian Andes case study.

Zimmerer, K. and Rojas Vaca, H. (2016) Fine-grain spatial patterning and dynamics of land use and agrobiodiversity amid global changes in the Bolivian Andes.

Montaña, E., Diaz, H. and Hurlbert, M. (2016) Development, local livelihoods, and vulnerabilities to global environmental change in the South American Dry Andes.

Chelleri, L., Minucci, G. and Skrimizea, E. (2016) Does community resilience decrease social-ecological vulnerability? Adaptation pathways trade-off in the Bolivian Altiplano.

Easdale, MH., Aguiar, MR. and Paz, R. (2016) A social–ecological network analysis of Argentinean Andes transhumant pastoralism.

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MikeGoodman_wProfessor Mike Goodman has been quoted by the Christian Science monitor in a recent article examining celebrity activism after Leonardo DiCaprio participated in a White House discussion on climate change. Research suggests that when people are exposed to a celebrity endorsing a cause, their main takeaway may not be the message itself but rather a desire to do more research on the issue themselves, says Mike: “They’re not necessarily picking up what these people say verbatim, but it gets them interested enough that they go out and look for further information.”

Read the article here:

Over the Easter break more than 100 students and staff from the Geography & Environmental Science department set off to explore Berlin, Naples or Crete for their annual field classes. Topics discussed ranged from the social production of history, contested urban space and the ‘transition’ movement in Berlin; exploring the volcanic activity near Mount Vesuvius; and the interaction between humans and the environment, tourism and biogeography in Crete.

Our staff and students documented their adventures on social media, so check out the Storify posts below for a real taste of what they got up to!





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UK Scout Jack Abrey, a first-year Geography student at Reading University, has recently embarked on an adventure with a difference – travelling to Madagascar with international charity WaterAid to help improve access to clean water and safe toilets across the country.

WaterAid works with the Scout Movement in Madagascar to campaign for water and toilets for all, and increase understanding of the importance of good hygiene among communities.

UK Scout Jack Abrey helps build a tippy tap at Kiadin'i Madagasikara Scout camp in Mantasoa, Madagascar. Credit to WaterAid/ Ernest Randriarimalala

UK Scout Jack Abrey helps build a tippy tap at Kiadin’i Madagasikara Scout camp in Mantasoa, Madagascar. Credit to WaterAid/ Ernest Randriarimalala

Jack, 19, and fellow Scouts Hannah Kentish and Becky Alexander, took the trip in conjunction with the ‘A Million Hands’ campaign to link with their Malagasy counterparts and see first-hand the impact of life without access to clean water and sanitation.

They will share their eye-opening experiences with 65,000 Scouts from across the UK, who have committed to ensuring everyone everywhere has access to clean water and sanitation as part of A Million Hands.

The trio camped with their fellow Malagasy Scouts, rising early for sports and ending the days around the campfire. They joined sessions on the importance of clean water, good sanitation and hygiene, and helped to build facilities at the camp, such as ‘tippy taps’ – a cheap way to wash hands where there is no tapped water. They also worked towards breaking down the taboos that shroud periods by joining discussions on menstrual hygiene and ways to educate others, even incorporating the subject into their campfire songs.

The participants will use these activities with Scouts back in the UK to help them gain an understanding of these important issues.

The young Brits also helped pass on the lifesaving messages to the wider community through performances and demonstrations at a ‘Dobodoboka’ – a type of festival organised by the Scouts with WaterAid on a busy market day.

Jack Abrey, 19, is Chair of the Community Impact Group at the Scouts Association, which is leading on the partnership. He said: “It was great to see how Scouts are working with WaterAid in Madagascar to transform lives by educating people about good sanitation and hygiene, as well as advocating for more investment in these basic facilities. I’ve been energised to take action on this important issue in the UK the ‘A Million Hands’.”

Jack saw why the work of WaterAid and the Scouts is so important when they visited Ambonidobo, a village that relies on dirty unsafe collected from a dirty pond. Lalasoa, 13, explained how she has to collect water twice a day, carrying 20 litres at a time up a treacherous hill.

Lalasoa said: “Fetching water is really tough because we have to climb up a very steep slope, and carrying the water gives me neck and head pain. The water is muddy and dirty.” 

WaterAid is set to start work imminently in the community to introduce clean water, toilets and good hygiene practices. 

The UK Scouts saw the difference these basic resources can make when they visited Manakasina, a community where WaterAid has worked to help transform lives

Jack added: “It was mind-blowing to see the changes clean water and good sanitation can bring. These basic resources are vital for a healthy and prosperous life, and I’m so proud that Scouts in the UK have chosen to take action on this important issue. Even by taking small actions, together we really can make a difference in poor communities in Madagascar and across the world.

UK Scouts Jack, Hannah and Becky join Tatiana, Tendry and Dylan to collect clean water from a new water point in their village, Manakasina, Madagascar. Credit to WaterAid/ Ernest Randriarimalala

UK Scouts Jack, Hannah and Becky join Tatiana, Tendry and Dylan to collect clean water from a new water point in their village, Manakasina, Madagascar. Credit to WaterAid/ Ernest Randriarimalala

“We learned so much about how we can join together with our Scout family in Madagascar, and across the world, to help get clean water and toilets for everyone everywhere.”   

A Million Hands gives half a million Scouts the opportunity to keep their promise to help other people and take action on four social issues they feel strongly about.

Keith Dunmall, Youth Engagement Manager at WaterAid, said: “It’s easy for us to take clean water and toilets for granted, but far too many young people in developing countries live without these basics, impacting on their health, dignity, and education.

“The UK Scouts visit to Madagascar demonstrated how young people really can drive change by uniting across the world.”

You can view a short video about their experiences here.


About A Million Hands campaign:

The A Million Hands campaign is enlisting half a million Scouts to work with some of the UK’s biggest charities – Mind, The Alzheimer’s Society (Dementia Friends), WaterAid, Guide Dogs for the Blind and the Leonard Cheshire Disability Trust – over the next four years.

The charities were chosen by Scouts themselves:

  • Ensuring everyone everywhere has access to clean water and sanitation.
  • Improving the lives of those affected by dementia.
  • Improving the lives of those disabled by society.
  • Improving the mental wellbeing and resilience of families.

A total of 209,000 young people have signed up to support A Million Hands; 34% selected water and sanitation as their issue, meaning around 65,000 will take action for WaterAid.  
For further information, visit:

WaterAid’s vision is of a world where everyone has access to safe water and sanitation.  The international organisation works in 37 countries across Africa, Asia, Central America and the Pacific Region to transform lives by improving access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation in some of the world’s poorest communities.  Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 23 million people with safe water and, since 2004, 21 million people with sanitation.  For more information, visit, follow @WaterAidUK on Twitter, or visit us on Facebook at

  • Around 900 children die every day from diseases caused by dirty water and poor sanitation.
  • Over 650 million people (around one in ten) are without safe water
  • Over 2.3 billion people (around one in three) live without improved sanitation
  • Just £15 can help provide one person with access to safe water.

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ShovonlalRoy_wLast week, GES lecturer Dr Shovonlal Roy delivered an invited talk at the International Symposium “Space – the final frontier for biodiversity monitoring?” held at the Zoological Society of London.

The symposium brought together “leading experts in biodiversity monitoring and satellite remote sensing to discuss ways to better capitalise on this technology to monitor biological diversity globally”, and arranged a “workshop on scientific writing offered to all attendees and organised by the journal Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation editorial team”.

The talks aimed at addressing the “societal, economic and scientific interests in mapping biodiversity, measuring how biodiversity is faring, and asking what can be done to efficiently mitigate further biodiversity loss are at an all-time high.”

Dr. Roy presented on “Ocean remote sensing for modelling and monitoring marine autotrophic biodiversity”.

More than 120 international delegates, including a number of early career researchers and PhD students, attended the symposium. More about it can be found here, and Twitter responses from the audience can be found using the hashtag (29th April 2016):  #RSConservation.


Visit Dr Shovonlal Roy’s staff profile page.

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The School of Archaeology, Geography & Environmental Science has been successful in receiving the Silver Athena SWAN award, given by the Equality Challenge Unit.

Athena SWAN was established in 2005 to encourage and recognise commitment to tackling gender inequality in higher education. It has traditionally covered science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM) disciplines, but has been expanded to include arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law departments (AHSSBL) as well.

The winning submission from the Gender & Fieldwork photo competition, by George Hibberd

The winning submission from the Gender & Fieldwork photo competition, by George Hibberd


SAGES received the Bronze Athena SWAN Award in 2011 and has continued to be committed to creating an inclusive environment for all. Our School-specific objectives for Athena SWAN are:

1. To aspire to a culture of equality for our staff (academic, admin, research and technical) and students;

2. To enhance induction, communication and consultation processes within and between Archaeology, GES and SAGES;

3. To improve collegiality and achieve a more cohesive structure in SAGES;

4. To foster a supportive culture of mentoring, review (PDRs), training and promotion across SAGES (regardless of career stage).

Dr Nick Branch, current Head of School, says “The last three years has been a period of rapid and positive change for the School. Since our Bronze Award, we have extensively refurbished the School infrastructure, changed the School name and mission, and prioritised equality, diversity and wellbeing. Athena SWAN has been the key platform for transforming the culture and improving working lives within the School.”

Ellie Highwood, Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, said the silver award to SAGES reflected the impact of innovative actions, such as a year-long School-wide “Gender in Fieldwork” project, on everyone in the School.

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