Building resilient communities: Africa University delivers on its pledge to capacitate communities affected by Cyclone Idai

A team of researchers led by Environmental Department Head in the College of Social Sciences, Theology, Humanities and Education, Dr Zanele Furusa revisited the community of NyaKopa in Rusitu Valley, Chimanimani as part of Africa University’s ongoing efforts to capacitate those affected by Cyclone Idai that devastated parts of Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe in March earlier this year.

Head of the AU Environmental Sciences Department
and environmental outreach lead Dr. Zanele Furusa

Part of the work that the team sought to carry out on this leg of a series of planned interventions in the area was to conduct an environmental impact assessment that will add to the body of knowledge that is being generated out of the disaster and will in the long term, inform national policy frameworks that shall guide the nation and others in the region regarding disaster preparedness strategies.

Also forming part of the team were research assistants who are part of our student body from the Environmental Sciences, International Relations, Social Work and Education. This multi-disciplinary approach to research fosters a more holistic and thorough analysis of events as they are understood from different disciplinary angles. Involving our students in fieldwork makes them gain first hand training in research and community engagement which is part of Africa University’s drive towards learning.
NyaKopa was one of the areas hard hit by Cyclone Idai. Livelihoods, property and families were negatively impacted. The objectives of the research were to identify ways in which the community environment was impacted especially the emerging new land use patterns and how households are coping and adapting to these new physical and human landscapes. Findings from this research will help mitigate future shocks that may arise as a result of other natural phenomena.

Under the scope of the preliminary investigations were an assessment of the scale of disruption to the livelihoods of the people of Nyakopa, an effort to bring into focus the effective coping mechanisms that can be supported and replicated in similar situations in other parts of the country, and to seek out areas of cooperation that can be pursued between the community of NyaKopa and Africa University.

Environmental research is one facet of a multi-disciplinary approach to the university’s interventions in Chimanimani that also touch on resource mobilization, psychosocial support, shelter and spatial planning, health, broader research and ICT related matters. One of Africa University’s core mandates is service to the community which is an homage to the founding values of the institution of nurturing global leaders, supporting talent and the philosophy of Ubuntu.

Story by
Jeanette Dadzie
Dr. Zanele Frurusa