May 9, 2011  

Study of Botswana’s Okavango Wetlands Features Work of Carnegie Corporation-funded Researchers

A new case study examining Botswana’s Okavango Research Institute (ORI) and its work on wetland systems, focuses on the research of the Institute’s first cohort of graduate students, five of whom are supported by the Regional Initiative in Science and Education (RISE), a program funded by Carnegie Corporation of New York and administered by the Science Initiative Group (SIG) based at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, USA.  The case study is jointly published by TWAS, the academy of sciences for the developing world and SIG.

The five RISE-supported students are among dozens of African graduate students enrolled in institutions that agree to form networks with other institutions, giving students more flexibility in finding an advisor, research partners and laboratory instruments that may not be available in their home institutions. ORI is a member of the RISE-supported Sub-Saharan Africa Water Resources Network (SSAWRN), along with Rhodes University in South Africa, Makerere University in Uganda, and Eduardo Mondlane University in Mozambique.

For more than a decade, TWAS, the academy of sciences for the developing world, in collaboration with several other organizations and funding agencies – including the United Nations Development Programme’s Special Unit for South-South Cooperation (UNDPSSC), the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Packard Foundation and now its newest partner the Science Initiative Group (SIG) – has developed a large number of profiles of scientific institutions of excellence in the developing world. The profiles have been published as books (by Harvard University Press and Kluwer Academic Publishers), as articles (in Environment Magazine) and as news stories (in the TWAS Newsletter).

To date, more than 150 institutions have been examined. Each profile details how the institution has developed and how its research programs are organized. Each explores the institution’s strengths, probes its weaknesses – and, most importantly – describes how its experience can offer valuable lessons for other institutions seeking to build scientific capacity.

A major goal of this decade-long initiative has been to showcase the high level of scientific excellence taking place in the developing world and to illustrate how science is being put to work to address critical social needs in the South. In this way, we hope that our expanding series of ‘best practices in the applications of science and technology’ can serve as a valuable blueprint for policy-makers and those involved in the administration and management of national policies and programs.

The Okavango Research Institute is a unit of the University of Botswana on the fringe of the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa. It is dedicated to the study and conservation of one of the world’s largest and most intact inland wetland ecosystems: the Okavango Delta. In recent years, the institute's mission has been expanded to include the cultural, social and economic problems of the Okavango region, broadening its mandate from simply acquiring and distributing knowledge to applying it.