Africa and its People: Interdisciplinary lessons from ANU research

This symposium style event will examine the ANU's research work in Africa, with a focus on research from the Fenner School of Environment & Society.
Through a series of presentations and round table discussions, the event will facilitate interdisciplinary discussion and collaboration, bringing different perspectives together to develop new research opportunities.

A lunch will be provided, allowing for networking and informal discussion. A program can be found below the speaker list.




Dr. Rosie Cooney

Dr Rosie Cooney is a research at the ANU Fenner School. She has spent most of her career in international conservation organisations (mainly IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature), with stints in academic roles (as a Research Fellow at Institute of Environmental Studies at UNSW and convening International Environmental Policy at Fenner), in government, and as a consultant (to international organisations, governments and the private sector).She currently sits on the Science and Technical Advisory Panel to the Global Environment Facility (GEF-STAP), which provides strategic scientific and technical advice on GEF policies, programs and projects. She is currently carrying out these responsibilities while carrying out consultancies for international organisations, and developing a number of research ideas and projects.

Her talk will focus on human-wildlife conflict (both direct conflict, and the conflicts between their long-term needs) and the role of various forms of sustainable use of wildlife in offsetting conflict and incentivizing conservation. She wil discuss trophy hunting as a suitably contentious focus.


Dr Nick Abel

Dr Nick Abel is is a research at the ANU Fenner School. Nick is an interdisciplinary scientist who works with stakeholders and policy makers on ways to understand and influence the direction and pace of change in social-ecological systems. His recent work is on systems impacted by economic and climatic change on Australia’s coast, in the Murray Darling Basin and Africa. It continues work that began with studies of human-wildlife-ecosystem interactions in Africa and Scotland, followed by research on the dynamics of African and Australian pastoral systems. He integrates theories and methods from ecology, political economy, psychology and behavioural and institutional economics within a resilience framework as he seeks practical measures to promote and guide regional scale adaptations, transitions and transformations His understanding of social-ecological change and inertia have been deepened by long term political activism and observation of social change in southern Africa, the UK and Australia.

His talk will focus on Conservation ecology without political understanding . It’s a summary of what he has learned about conservation efforts in east and southern Africa


Rachael Lowe

Rachael is a PhD Candidate at the Fenner School. With a background in biodiversity conservation and ecology in both undergrad and honours, she is researching how African elephants (Loxodonta africana) are responding to climate change-induced drought in Southern Africa, and how that response may affect their own survival, that of other endangered species and also the impact it may have on local communities.

In her speed talk she will discuss the potential for Geographic Information Systems to be used as a predictor of human/elephant conflict around resource competition and the potential power of participatory mapping with local communities in mitigating this conflict.


Professor Jamie Pittock

Professor Jamie Pittock is a senior lecturer and researcher at the ANU Fenner School. He manages a research projects on irrigation in Africa (Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe) and on energy and food in the Mekong region.

Jamie is a fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA) and a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. He is a member of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists and the World Commission on Protected Areas, serves on the public fund of Water Stewardship Asia-Pacific and chairs the Eminent Scientists Group of WWF Australia. Jamie is an editor of Regional Environmental Change, Frontiers - Freshwater Science, and Ecosystem Services.

His talk will focus on how African nations can manage limited water supplies more sustainably while reducing poverty and improving food security. This presentation summarises ANU led research since 2013 towards transformation of failing irrigation schemes in southern Africa.


Dr Yandisa Ngqangashe

Dr Yandisa Ngqangashe is a research fellow in food regulation and governance for population nutrition at the School of Regulation and Global Governance (Reg-Net). She has expertise in Public Health and Social Sciences research. Her current research is on the regulatory and governance processes of food environment policies (food marketing, food taxes, food composition and food labelling) and their implications on policy outcomes. She is also examining the governance processes that contribute to the availability and the overconsumption of ultra-processed foods in the Asia Pacific with an end goal of steering these processes towards governance for population nutrition.

Her talk will focus on regulatory and governance processes of food environment policies and their implications on policy outcomes.


Jonathan Chikankheni

Jonathan is a Master of Environment student at the Fenner School. His expertise are in Irrigation and drainage research. His current research is on exploring the benefits of Simple soil-water and nutrient monitoring tools as an adaptive management in smallholder irrigation schemes in Malawi. He will also be examining the link between Data-information-knowledge and sustainable irrigation management with a focus on decision support systems at on farm, scheme and regional level.

His talk will focus on the benefits of simple soil-water and nutrient monitoring tools as an adaptive management in smallholder irrigation schemes in Malawi.


Kirsty Wissing

Kirsty Wissing is a PhD candidate within the discipline of anthropology in the School of Culture, History and Language at the Australian National University. Her research considers Akwamu customary attitudes to and ritual uses of water as related to purity, power and resource control in Ghana.  The focus site for this nexus is the Volta River as manipulated by and to the Akosombo hydro-electric dam.  This research is informed by 14 months of field research in 2016, 2017 and 2019.  In today’s presentation, Kirsty will unpack national, local and non-human claims of control over the Volta and ask where does the ultimate (hydro-)power rest?

Her talk will focus on Akwamu customary attitudes to and ritual uses of water as related to purity, power and resource control in Ghana.


Adegboyega Adeniran

Gboyega is a PhD student at the Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University. He tutors and works as a research officer at the School.

Gboyega worked as a Project Officer with the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Services (NPWS) – Newcastle, on the Tomago Wetland Rehabilitation Project. He completed a BSc (Hons) in Geography in 2004 and a PgDiploma in Social Work at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, in 2009. He also obtained a Master of Engineering Science at the University of Newcastle, Australia in 2011. He is an alumnus of the Institute of development studies at the University of Sussex.

His talk will focus on politics and governance of water infrastructure in Nigeria


Dr Bruce Doran

Dr Bruce Doran is a senior lecturer and researcher at the ANU Fenner School. Most of Bruce's research is focused on social applications of GIS, particularly in the areas of (a) the impact of commercial gambling at a community level, (b) mapping fear of crime and (c) developing mapping approaches for Native Title decision making. Bruce has an ongoing partnership with the Yawuru people, the traditional owners of country in and around Broome, Western Australia. The partnership focuses on developing practical uses of GIS to support Native Title decision making.

His talk will focus on remote sensing, irrigation tools and farmer livelihoods – some reflections from a TISA project in Zimbabwe.


Tingbao Xu

Dr Tingbao Xu is a researcher at the Fenner School. He has been actively engaged in research/development in spatio-temporal and bioclimatic modelling and relevant fields since the early 1980s, and gained extensive experience in climate change and climate data analysis, environmental and natural resources investigation, assessment and mapping, agricultural crop yield and production forecasting, and other relevant applications.

He is currently involved in the project “Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network” and various climate change research and other projects in the School. He provides central support to two of the School's main themes - Global Change and Landscapes, Water and Biodiversity - and key contributions to the School’s undergraduate and graduate programs, as well as to international cooperation activities across the ANU.

His talk will focus on data, tools and skills for improving regional resilience and adaptive capacity to climate change.





  • Adegboyega Adeniran - Acknowledgement of Country
  • Fenner Circle - Decolonising research

Morning session - Ecology

  • Introduction to people and wildlife - Rosie Cooney - Sustainable Use Of Wildlife In Offsetting Conflict And Incentivizing Conservation

Speed Talks (10 mins each)

  • Nick Abel - Conservation Ecology Without Political Understanding - Is It Pointless?
  • Rachael LoweIs Climate Change Irrelephant? The Intersection Of Elephants, People And Climate Change.

TEDX Talks

  • Moreangels MbizahHow Community-Led Conservation Can Save Wildlife
  • John KasaonaHow Poachers Became Caretakers

Morning tea break

Round table discussion



Afternoon session - Food, Water & Climate

  • Introduction to people and agriculture - Jamie Pittock - Transforming Irrigation In Southern Africa

Speed Talks (10 mins each)

  • Yandisa Ngqangashe - Regulatory And Governance Processes Of Food Environment Policies And Their Implications On Policy Outcomes
  • Jonathan Chikankheni - The Benefits Of Simple Soil-Water And Nutrient Monitoring Tools As An Adaptive Management In Smallholder Irrigation Schemes In Malawi
  • Kirsty Wissing - Akwamu Customary Attitudes To And Ritual Uses Of Water As Related To Purity, Power And Resource Control In Ghana
  • Adegboyega Adeniran - Politics And Governance Of Water Infrastructure In Nigeria
  • Bruce Doran - Remote Sensing, Irrigation Tools And Farmer Livelihoods – Some Reflections From A TISA Project In Zimbabwe
  • Tingbao Xu - Data, Tools And Skills For Improving Regional Resilience And Adaptive Capacity To Climate Change

Afternoon tea break

Round table discussion


Closing of Synposium

  • Wrap up of formal proceedings - Adegboyega Adeniran
  • David Lucas – ANU/Africa Research Circle

Drinks and networking