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BRECcIA Case Study: Research as local process

Local realities and process are essential in successful research projects. Watch Sospeter Wekesa, a Hydrology Research Assistant explain more.

In this next BRECcIA case study, Sospeter Wekesa, a Hydrology Research Assistant in the BRECcIA Project at Technical University of Kenya, shares the importance of understanding and incorporating local knowledge and realities into research.

In 2020, Sospeter installed water sensors in the Olkeriai river (Kajiado County, Kenya) to monitor the river’s hydrological characteristics. The aim of this investigation was to understand how socio-economic activities throughout the riverine system influenced variations in the river’s water flow. With this information, Sospeter and the project team intend to provide evidence-based recommendations for the sustainable management of dryland rivers and their water resources.

As Sospeter’s project got underway and he began speaking to Kajiado County residents who understood river and groundwater flows, he realised that his team’s design criteria for primary data collection was flawed. Local knowledge of groundwater level variations resulting from the Olkeriai’s flow was subsequently incorporated into the project.

As Sospeter recognised the value and importance of integrating local experience and expertise into the research project, he modified project methodologies accordingly to ensure accurate results and project success.

In this video, Sospeter sits in a home office between visits to the study site and shares his experience of working with community members to improve project data collection. A video of his field work plays in the background. Sospeter’s experiences highlight the importance of BRECcIA’s Principle 5: in research on global challenges, gathering robust data and creating scientific knowledge is often the result of a research team and a local community weaving their knowledge together.

The project, “Hydrological modelling and forecasting for water and food security: Upscaling data and methods for national to regional risk mapping and early warning,” was the work of the following BRECcIA team:

Lead Researcher: Mr. Sospeter Wekesa (Technical University of Kenya)
Research Team: Dr. Luke Olang (Technical University of Kenya), Dr. Francis Oloo (Technical University of Kenya), Dr. Daniela Anghileri (University of Southampton), Prof. Justin Sheffield (University of Southampton)

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