Compiled by Deepa Pullanikkatil and Dave Gerow
It’s been two years since Anthony Kadoma joined Sustainable Futures in Africa. He was initially hired on a four-month contract to work as a research assistant, but through his hard work and intelligence, Anthony has risen from being a short-term Research Administrator to a PhD student at the University of Glasgow, and a valued member of the Sustainable Futures in Africa (SFA) Network. It’s an opportunity he doesn’t take lightly. “I know it is likely not to be a walkover,” he says of his upcoming PhD studies, “but rather hard work that calls for a lot of flexibility and commitment on my part.”
Anthony was originally invited to join SFA in 2017. He was enlisted by Dr. Twine Bananuka, who had been one of his lecturers when he was studying for his BA in Adult and Community Education at Makerere University. Anthony had subsequently earned his master’s degree in Applied Community Change and Peacebuilding at Future Generations University WV USA, which led to work as a consultant in Kampala. At that time, Twine and his colleagues were undertaking a scoping study in Uganda, and they needed someone to manage the enormous amount of audio and pictorial data they’d amassed. They also needed help coordinating their work with colleagues in other hubs of the SFA network. “Dr. Twine was aware of my working ability and skills,” Anthony recalls. “He recommended that I be given the Research Assistant job to assist the hub members in transcribing the data they had collected, organize it, come up with themes and also assist in the writing of draft papers. I was fortunate that the other members believed in him and gave me the job. That is how I joined the family of Sustainable Futures in Africa Network.”
While working with SFA, his immediate supervisor has been Dr. Alex Okot. Anthony describes Alex as “a very good man: approachable, transparent, and he gives me time to discuss network issues even when he is so busy”. Anthony also praises the other hub members he works with on a regular basis, whose “openness and support” he values. “Working with other research assistants and academicians from countries like Nigeria, Botswana, Scotland and Malawi promotes my international exposure,” he says. “This is something that I really enjoy.”
But Anthony’s experience with SFA hasn’t been entirely office-bound. He’s attended two international symposiums – one in Lagos, Nigeria and one in Lira, Uganda – which he even had a hand in organizing. He’s also done a significant amount of fieldwork, an opportunity he values. “I have personally visited communities, interacted with community members and learnt a lot from them: the way they live, how they cope with challenges. I have liked working with organized groups of students, farmers and youth in Alebtong district as they work towards improving their livelihoods. I like the challenge because indeed poverty still persists as a great challenge, and this calls for more training to come up with workable approaches to reduce it today, not in the future.”
Just as he does his part in helping SFA collaborate with communities, Anthony has also reaped personal benefits from his work. Not only does it provide him with a welcome source of income and a network of likeminded colleagues, but it has allowed him to sharpen his digital literacies. “For instance,” he says, “most of our meetings are done on Skype and Zoom, and we chat constantly through WhatsApp and emails, as well as sharing documents using Google docs among others.” He anticipates that these necessary skills will help him as he moves on to his next challenge: a PhD at the University of Glasgow.
His PhD is another opportunity that he traces back to his work with SFA, as it arose through a meeting with SFA co-founder Dr. Mia Perry at the 2018 Lagos symposium. In his conversation with her, he expressed his interest in pursuing a PhD, to which she replied, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Anthony told Mia that he wanted to work on community development, research and youth, and she suggested he send her a project proposal. As Anthony tells it, “She introduced my concept to her colleagues at the University of Glasgow, and by the grace of God it was selected, and that is how I became a PhD student on the study.” He’s about to begin his PhD in Environmental Sustainability, with a problem entitled Understanding the perception of multiple stakeholders of the ecosystem services provided by mangroves to improve restoration activities. He’s eager to seize every opportunity that comes his way: “While at the University of Glasgow, I hope to be intellectually stimulated since I will be living and working with intellectuals. From these people, I hope to get some motivation and courage to push forward.”
In just two years, Anthony has spun a four-month contract into ongoing work and a brand-new PhD project in Glasgow. Who knows what the future holds for this bright young man, and what contributions he has yet to make to SFA and to the communities of Uganda? Inspired by Gandhi’s famous quote, “Be the change you want to see,” Anthony plans to put his skills to good use. He says, “I believe that being informed and skilled enough will put me in better position to work with community members so that we can change our communities for the better.”