UL Sustainability Challenge Competition winner Rebecca Tumwebaze, used a bottom-up approach involving local matooke (green bananas) farmers, larger commercial farmers, agriculture specials and government officials to develop specific frameworks to encourage sustainable agriculture practices in the Rubaya region of Uganda. Picture: Alan Place
A ground-breaking project focusing on sustainable agriculture practices and knowledge sharing in Western Uganda has been announced as the winner of the UL Sustainability Challenge Competition
Rebecca Tumwebaze, who is a PhD student in the Kemmy Business School, used a bottom-up approach involving local matooke (green bananas) farmers, larger commercial farmers, agriculture specials and government officials to develop specific frameworks to encourage sustainable agriculture practices in the Rubaya region of Uganda.
Her project was one of five finalists selected after UL President Professor Kerstin Mey set a challenge to the campus student community last November to come up with novel ways to tackle the climate crisis.
The selected projects each received up to €10,000 to develop their ideas and to stimulate sustainable solutions which were to be tested on the UL campus or in the wider region.
The projects demonstrated the depth of research within the UL community and covered areas such as plastic recycling, thermal energy monitoring, improving sustainable agricultural practices in Uganda, biodiversity in the Shannon Estuary, and efficiency improvement and cost reduction in hydrogen manufacturing.
The overall winner was announced following a Dragon’s Den style event as part of UL’s Research Week during which the five teams had to pitch their projects to a panel of experts.
They were evaluated on the basis of targets, feasibility plan and societal impact.
Congratulating the winners, UL President Professor Kerstin Mey said: “The rapid pace of societal growth has caused us to exceed many of the Earth’s planetary boundaries and the defining challenge of the 21st century will be to balance social progress with these environmental boundaries. It is therefore encouraging to see the level of innovation and ingenuity that UL students have brought to this challenge. At UL we are determined to provide the space and mentorship for our students to develop into citizens who act as stewards of sustainability, both in their personal and professional lives.”
Speaking after being announced as the winner, a delighted Rebecca said: “This shows that UL is interested in tackling climate challenges not just on a local and regional basis but on a global basis. I was doing work in a rural community in Uganda and it’s such a pleasure to see my work gaining recognition here today.”
“My work in Uganda can be adapted and used in other parts of the world. Parts of Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa are some regions that the results and conclusions from Uganda can be adapted and can contribute to sustainable agriculture else in the world, so it brings a new aspect of how knowledge should be created within communities, not the current or traditional top-down approach but we now have to be all inclusive and involve local communities in developing their own practices as sustainability in general must be looked at as context-specific.
UL Vice President for Research Professor Norelee Kennedy said: “The UL Sustainability Challenge is an excellent example of the interdisciplinary approach needed to underpin research focused on global challenges – working together towards a sustainable society is a key challenge of our time. These awards showcase the best ideas from our student body in ensuring sustainability is at the heart of our research”.
The UL Sustainability Challenge emerged from a partnership between the Bernal Institute, Kemmy Business School and Buildings and Estates Department at UL, along with the Office of the Vice President Research, to encourage students to contribute to sustainable development.
Director of the Bernal Institute Professor Luuk van der Wielen added: “Sustainability, climate change, renewable energy, circularity”– we all realise their importance, but the words seem abstract, far away and even overwhelming. The UL Sustainability Challenge was designed to bring them closer and make them more tangible. The challenge offered a platform for our students to action research ideas, concepts and ambitions. It’s great to see the progress of our diverse finalist teams, which we all consider to be winners. And where they win, we all do.
The challenge was part of the UL50 programme of events taking place over the past year to mark the anniversary of the establishment of the University.