Leadership for Environment and Development (LEAD) is partnering with Rhodes University to implement a three year (2016-2018) research project titled Transgressive Social Learning for Sustainability Transformations in Times of Climate Change (T-learning). The project is funded by the International Social Science Council and it takes place in nine countries including Malawi. Each of the nine countries has unpacked T-learning according to their prevailing climate change circumstances. For Malawi, the research is taking place in the Lake Chilwa Basin to assess the potential of local farming practices to transform business as usual climate change adaptation practices through informal learning pathways. The study subjects are women and the crop that the study focusses on is maize.
So far, several T-learning processes and qualities have been identified that will potentially transform 13 local farming practices that the study has revealed. The processes identified manifest themselves as metaphors, social media primarily WhatsApp, thought experiments by local communities targeted, diversity blocks planted to various local crops chosen by local communities themselves and social networks to mention a few. Furthermore, the study has found that drought and dry spells are among the key catalysts of informal learning among rural communities. For example, use of banana root flour (as a coping strategy) in place of maize was more prominent during drought years of 1949, 1995 and 2002 as reported by local communities interviewed. The diagram below shows banana roots ground into flour used to prepare ‘nsima’, staple food instead of maize. Relish for the ‘nsima’ prepared from the flour is always okra (‘Therere’) shown as green stuff in a plate). Therere’ is slippery/jelly-like and this helps rapid swallowing since the nsima from banana flour is bitter
As a way of creating awareness about the project, LEAD has showcased the project at various international meetings including a conference convened by Future Earth on a theme ‘the role of science society and the Sustainable Development Goals in Africa’ which took place in Port Elizabeth South Africa from 9th to 11th May 2018. Presented below are the attendees to the conference under the T-learning research.