Meet RLC Bonn PhD student Irene Ojuok

Irene Ojuok from Kenya was selected for the RLC PhD scholarship 2020. In this interview, she introduces her research objectives and motivation.

How did you learn about the RLC programme at ZEF and what was your motivation to apply for it?

I learnt about the RLC Programme at ZEF through my colleagues and friends who knew my passion in Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) as a holistic community approach land restoration. The RLC research project was totally in sync with my interests and an opportunity to study at a German prestigious institution where there is rich expertise in environment and development issues was my greatest desire.

The RLC scholarship aims at connecting young researchers with Right Livelihood Award Laureates. Which are the partners you will be working with?

My key partners will be Laureate Tony Rinaudo who was awarded the Right Livelihood Award, also known as the “Alternative Nobel Prize”, in 2018. I will also be working together with World Vision Kenya who have been a key champion of scaling up community driven FMNR with the support of the Kenyan government.

What is your research topic and why did you choose it?

In light of severe land degradation challenges we face in Kenya, I sought to investigate the socioeconomic impact of FMNR on household resilience to climate change. This will unpack what drives farmers to take up different land restoration approaches and how this is linked to climate resilience.

What are your primary research objectives?

My key research objectives include:

  • To establish how women and men benefit differently from FMNR
  • To identify the link between income and scale up of FMNR
  • To explore to what extent networks and collaboration affect FMNR adoption
  • To establish how local level policy influence uptake of FMNR

Your doctoral programme was supposed to start in August already, but the COVID-19 pandemic rattled the usual timeline. How has the pandemic affected the start of your research and how do you look into the year 2021?

Due to the pandemic, I could not travel to Germany in time. Fortunately, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) offered to initiate online language courses which I was able to undertake while in Kenya. ZEF equally organised our academic programs from October to begin virtually so we started our classes. Even though I already arrived in Bonn, I still study in my room, this maybe the new world we are getting introduced to because of the pandemic. With the rise of COVID-19 cases, we have more limited physical interactions which do not help maximize our exposure and engagements to learn from one another. My hope for 2021 forward is that we may bounce back better and learn from the challenges we experienced from this pandemic.