The Upright Man. Ten Lessons From Thomas Sankara

Rising Continent


As Africa is struggling to find its true representative leaders who care for the continent’s people, it is worth revisiting past legendary figures like Thomas Sankara, and hope that present aspirant leaders could learn something from him. The following piece was initially published by Oyunga Pala.

Where did all the genuine African revolutionaries go? They were either assassinated; Patrice Lumumba, Eduardo Mondlane, Samora Machel, Amilcar Cabral, Steve Biko, John Garang, Muammar Gaddafi  or under siege from their own legacies. I am thinking of Nelson Mandela here. It has been decades since we saw a visionary leader that inspired the Pan African idealism of the revolutionary 60s. Look around. Africa is facing a leadership crisis. From South Africa to Egypt, Kenya to Senegal, there is a clear sense of ‘we deserve better’. As African men, stifling under the stereotype of rogue males in power, there are…

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Zimbabweland wins a prize!


Last week our work was runner up in the category of ‘Outstanding International Impact’ at the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council annual Celebrating Impact award ceremony. I had to go to London to receive the award (a trophy and some money that we will help keep the research going). They even made a slightly embarrassing film about the work that you can see here. It’s the 50th anniversary of the Council, and they are keen to demonstrate that research they invest in has an impact.

Over the years, we have received several grants from the ESRC for our work in Zimbabwe. The core of our work that became the book, Zimbabwe’s Land Reform: Myths and Realities, was funded as part of a regional project led by PLAAS on livelihoods after land reform. More recently the ESRC/DFID grant for the Space, Markets, Employment and Agricultural Development…

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Announcing the Leamer-Rosenthal Prizes for Open Social Science

Berkeley Initiative for Transparency in the Social Sciences

New prizes will recognize and reward transparency in social science research.

BERKELEY, CA (May 13, 2015) – Transparent research is integral to the validity of science. Openness is especially important in such social science disciplines as economics, political science and psychology, because this research shapes policy and influences clinical practices that affect millions of lives. To encourage openness in research and the teaching of best practices, the Berkeley Initiative for Transparency in the Social Sciences (BITSS) has established The Leamer-Rosenthal Prizes for Open Social Science. BITSS is an initiative of the Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA) at the University of California, Berkeley. The prizes, which provide recognition, visibility and cash awards to both the next generation of researchers and senior faculty, are generously supported by the John Templeton Foundation.

The competition is open to scholars and educators worldwide.

“In academia, career advances and research funding are usually…

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Who’s Biggest? The 100 Most Significant Figures in History


Who’s bigger: Washington or Lincoln? Hitler or Napoleon? Charles Dickens or Jane Austen? That depends on how you look at it.

When we set out to rank the significance of historical figures, we decided to not approach the project the way historians might, through a principled assessment of their individual achievements. Instead, we evaluated each person by aggregating millions of traces of opinions into a computational data-centric analysis. We ranked historical figures just as Google ranks web pages, by integrating a diverse set of measurements about their reputation into a single consensus value.

Significance is related to fame but measures something different. Forgotten U.S. President Chester A. Arthur (who we rank as the 499th most significant person in history) is more historically significant than young pop singer Justin Bieber (currently ranked 8633), even though he may have a less devoted following and lower contemporary name recognition. Historically significant figures leave statistical…

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Rethinking the Theory of Change in Development Interventions

From the Earth Up

The typical approach within the international development sector globally draws on a basic theory of change. This approach uses a simple cause-and-effect model. For example, a food aid programme sees a man who is hungry so gives him a fish. The effect is that he is no longer hungry today. Alternatively, an intervention intended to reduce poverty through creating additional livelihood sources might teach a man to fish and give him the tools he needs to do so. The effect is that he has a source of income from selling his catch, so his income is increased and economic poverty is reduced. Cause-and-effect means facilitating an intervention and that resulting in the planned outcome.

Fishing boats in Upper West Region, Ghana Fishing boats in Upper West Region, Ghana

This is how development interventions are expected to achieve their intended outcomes. I am questioning whether this actually reflects the reality of how intended outcomes are achieved in practice…

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Call for Manuscripts: African Journal for Rural Development



About the Journal
The African Journal of Rural Development (AJRD) is an online open access scientific journal that publishes articles thrice a year. It is a multi-disciplinary peer-reviewed journal with an ultimate purpose of sharing and increasing the depth of knowledge on aspects of sustainable rural development. The Journal welcomes submission of manuscripts that meet the general criteria of domain significance and scientific excellence. Papers will be published approximately three weeks after acceptance. All articles published in AJRD will be peer reviewed.

AJRD is an open access journal
One key request to researchers across the world is unrestricted access to research publications.Open access gives a worldwide audience larger than that of any subscription-based journal and thus increases the visibility and impact of published works. It also enhances indexing,
retrieval power and eliminates the need for permissions to reproduce and distribute content. AJRD is fully committed to the Open Access Initiative…

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Dissing the ZRP (Zimbabwe Republic Police)

Zimbabwe Absurdity

Driving out of town this morning I had to make a decision; gym or go home and try out my shoulder on the rowing machine. It has been giving trouble lately and I had a sneeky suspicion that it was due to the gym workout. I knew if I went to they gym I wouldn’t be able to resist doing more exercise than using the rowing machine there and I wanted to isolate the problem. So home it was. An unfortunate decision.

The police were at the Groombridge intersection on College Road waiting to catch those not stopping at the stop sign. I made a point of stopping and then they waved me over.

Bullshit! I thought.

“Did you see the stop sign?” the officer asked.

“Yes, and I stopped at it!”  I replied heatedly.

I realised that I was trapped. My word against his. I had no witnesses and…

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Event: AFAAS Africa wide Agricultural Extension Week, 2015


Date: 5- 10 October 2015

Theme: “Reinvigorating Extension Services for Market-led Agriculture within the Context of the Malabo Declaration”

AFAAS is a continental platform for mutual learning and innovation among agricultural extension and advisory services providers across Africa. From its inception, AFAAS had aligned itself with CAADP Pillar IV (technology generation, dissemination, adoption and training). Through this alignment, AFAAS has been contributing to African Union’s goal of delivering average growth rate of 6% GDP.

Cognisant of the fact that the African Union Commission (AUC) has recommitted itself to enhancing CAADP momentum based on the Malabo declaration of June 2014, which emphasises accelerating agricultural growth and transformation for shared prosperity and improved livelihoods. AFAAS is reaffirming its partnering with AUC in translating the commitments of the Malabo declaration into results; this is strongly articulated in the 2015 April MoU between AFAAS and AUC. In particular, AFAAS will play the pivotal role…

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An Exercise in Forming a Good Twitter Bio

The Online Academic

No-one reads your Twitter bio with care especially when they are surrounded by other bios and pictures. But you can create a Bio that will attract more of the right Followers not only from a glance but by appearing in topical search results too. 

Below I detail how I create them. Please feel free to add your comments at the end of the blog to share your best tips and ideas.

Below is a fictional academic departmental bio:

Originally an army medic, Professor John H. Watson M. D. Ph.D. joined the Department of Forensic Science and Psychology at the  prestigious London Holmes University in 2001. Dr Watson teaches courses in Criminal Psychopathy 101, Understanding Perverted Genius 221, and Army Medical Forensics. Recently awarded the Conan-Doyle prize for his research in child psychopathy, Prof. Watson adds this to his long list of merits as well as his most recent accolades for fictional writing. In his…

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How can we use evidence to translate awareness into new agricultural practice?

From the People's Market

More than 20 African countries were represented at a rural and agricultural finance conference held in Harare, Zimbabwe from 10 to 12 June 2015. A fundamental question that grabbed all participants is: How can we use existing knowledge to improve rural and agricultural financing? Tons of publications and suggestions have been produced and continue to be produced on issues affecting African agriculture. Everyone knows that agriculture is central to African economies yet the sector receives less finance from banks. About 500 million smallholder farming families (more than 2 billion people) rely on agricultural production. About 75% of the population in Africa reside in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. In the SADC region, agriculture contributes between 4% and 27% of GDP and approximately 13% of overall export earnings in the member countries. It is estimated that the continent’s agricultural output could more than triple from USD…

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