Africa Across the Disciplines 2022 Abstracts

Africa Across the Disciplines

ASC Graduate Symposium 2022 Presentation Abstracts, in Alphabetical Order



Author:  Sara Ghebremicael

Title:  Gender, Climate Change, and Food Security in Ethiopia

Abstract:  Food insecurity is a rising problem, with two billion people experiencing a lack of nutritious and affordable food, resulting in malnutrition and poor health. Ethiopia has experienced recurrent droughts in the past few years. Current La Nina events have resulted in an ongoing three-season drought in the South, with political instability and unpredictable climate resulting in food insecurity in the North. About 10% of the population in Ethiopia are considered chronically food insecure, with this value rising to 15% during periods of drought. Research in climate change and food systems has generally emphasized crop production and child anthropometric outcomes, with limited focus on the complex linkages between climate variability, household food security, and gender. The impacts of climate change present varied challenges dependent on underlying levels of vulnerability, access to resources, diversification of income, education, and other socio-economic/demographic factors. Climate change also further contributes to inequality through the negative, imbalanced, distribution of harms experienced by men and women. In this paper, we will examine the direct impacts of climate on diet diversity and coping mechanisms by drawing on nationally representative longitudinal survey data from Ethiopia, by using multiple measures of food insecurity alongside high-resolution climate data on rainfall and heat shocks, and by addressing household vulnerability and resilience. We aim to measure gender-focused climate effects on the food security of male- versus female-headed households and on the child anthropometric measurements of boys versus girls. This project will build on our previous research that has measured climate exposure of educational achievement, nutritional status, and migration. A regression of food security outcomes as a function of climate anomalies, gender, controls and interactions between climate and gender will be used test our hypotheses on gender-based vulnerability and resilience and will provide insight into whether climate exposures contribute to gendered disparities in food security.



Author:  Taylor Hunkins

Title:  Temporary Spaces, Creative Places: Imagining Nairobi through Participatory Art

Abstract:  This dissertation, Temporary Spaces, Creative Places: Imagining Nairobi through Participatory Art analyzes the artistic practices of artists who are creating counternarratives of the city within it by creating new, creative places in which the public can engage these counternarratives. Such counternarratives and the places they express are vital because since independence, the Kenyan government has promoted the city as a symbol of Kenyan nationhood and economic opportunity, culminating in the current plan Vison 2030. Conversely, foreign humanitarian agencies and media adopted the narrative of the city as impoverished and in need of aid. Yet, the realities of urban life in Nairobi complicate and even invalidate such dominant narratives of urbanity. Throughout Nairobi’s history, Kenyans including some artists living and working within the city have negotiated and contested dominant construction of urban identity. Specifically, I examine how those artists use city space to create new places in which the public engage with these counternarratives through their participation with images and each other. I argue that these new and creative places, most of which are impermanent, are sites where artists, audiences, and participants situate these counternarratives within the city itself, challenging hegemonic conceptions of place, community, and subjectivity. Moreover, I propose that the political potential of these participatory projects—the ability to subvert and redefine dominating urban identities—extends beyond the images presented and is ignited within these reimagined urban spaces where the public can engage with one another and art. To support these claims, I will look at artistic projects in Nairobi from the 1980s to the present, including those by art collectives Sisi Kwa Sisi, Maasai Mbili, and SlumTV.



Author:  Marwa Ibrahim

Title:Does Basic Income Support Improve Healthy Ageing? Evidence from a Large Government Program in Malawi

Abstract: Governments around the world are concerned with the adverse effects of an aging population, which include the increased burden on the health care system, the caring responsibilities of families, and the decreasing quality of life of older citizens themselves. In the U.S. an important policy response to an ageing population is to focus more public health resources on research and associated clinical practices on diseases of the aged (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease, cancer). In poorer countries with less developed health infrastructure, the burden of care as life expectancy increases falls on the extended family and includes direct costs of health care and the time cost of providing care. Government assistance to the elderly via old age ‘social’ or non-contributory pensions are widespread in Western Europe and are increasingly becoming a policy issue in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). South Africa was one of the first LMICs to implement a large-scale non-contributory old age pension; more recently Mexico, Uganda, Kenya, and Lesotho are examples of LMICs that have adopted a social pension. And China’s Dibao, the largest cash transfer program in the world reaching over 60 million people, targets elderly citizens living in poverty. More generally, poverty targeted cash transfer programs have expanded rapidly in LMICs. The World Bank estimates that over a billion people in LMICs receive some form of government cash support, mostly unconditional poverty-targeted cash transfers.
This paper studies the Government of Malawi’s Social Cash Transfer Program (SCTP), an unconditional cash transfer program targeted to rural ultra-poor households who are labor-constrained. The SCTP is the country’s largest poverty alleviation program, currently reaching 7 percent of the population, and providing an average $8 per month to eligible households (roughly 13 percent of consumption). The demographic eligibility criteria of the SCTP results in most recipients being elderly heads of household (63 percent are age 50 years or older). We use data from a long-term follow-up of an RCT to see whether this basic income grant has affected healthy ageing among household residents age 50+ at baseline.
The original RCT to evaluate the impact of the SCTP entailed a cluster-randomized trial with a baseline survey in 2013, a midline (2014), and endline (2015). In 2016 the control group entered the program, and we conducted a long-term follow-up in 2021, eight years after baseline. The 2021 survey focused on health and well-being outcomes of the elderly using measures of both physical and psychological health. We have a longitudinal sample of 2,033 elderly household members over eight years, with an early treatment group and a delayed entry group who entered the program three years later. For health outcomes collected at baseline we can estimate difference-in-difference estimates of program impact (8 versus 5 years of cash); for the suite of health indictors introduced in 2021, we provide single-difference comparisons relying on the fidelity of the original RCT for identification.



AuthorJuba Kafumba

Title:  The Ethics of Providing Assistive Technology in Malawi: A Policy Dilemma

Abstract:  Disability is a human rights and socio-economic development issue. As such empowering people with disabilities by providing them with assistive technologies is key to their development and livelihood. However, people with disabilities in Malawi do not have adequate access to assistive technologies. In 2017, only 4.5% of persons with disabilities had access to assistive technologies from a total of 1, 734, 250 persons aged 5 years and above persons with disabilities in the country (Eide & Munthali, 2017). In addition, the few persons with disabilities who had access still experienced procurement and environmental challenges when accessing and utilizing the devices. This paper argues that the government ought to take on the responsibility of providing for assistive technologies as they do for essential medicines considering that leaving their provisions to the market has left the majority of those who need them out from their consumption and thereby exposing them to exclusion and marginalization in society. Recognizing that there are resource constraints which make policy makers struggle to prioritize interventions, this paper tries to answer the question of how to allocate resources without discriminating against people with disabilities in a resource constrained country like Malawi. The paper recommends adopting a prioritarianizm approach in resource allocation which recognizes the need to give extra weight to people with disabilities while also taking cost into account.



Author:   Musopa Kalenga

Title: The Re-entry Policy in Zambia: Morality, Equality of Education and Harm Reduction

Abstract:  To promote equity and equality in education and to increase the number of adolescent mothers who have given birth to return to school, Zambia introduced the school Re-entry Policy in 1997. The policy addresses the persistent problem of girls dropping out of school after giving birth. The Re-entry policy allows adolescent mothers to continue with their education after they have given birth. However, some school administrations do not allow adolescent mothers to return to school after giving birth especially faith based schools as the girls are “deemed as bad influence” on other students (Human Rights Watch, 2018). Zambia being a Christian nation views sex before marriage as a sin, therefore it is associated with immorality. Therefore, the government faces the problem of ensuring that every adolescent mother returns to school after giving birth, as Faith Based schools do not implement the policy and excludes adolescent mothers. I believe that this policy problem can should be solved by the government as it is an obligation for every government to provide education for all.

In this paper, I argue that harm reduction is an ethical solution for the existing policy problem.
Harm Reduction is the name given to a social and health services approach that seeks to reduce the harmful effects of usually stigmatized behaviors. Harm Reduction measures include, supervised injection sites, STI testing for sex workers, comprehensive sex education for teens among others (Porter, 2020). I argue that the Zambian government should opt for the harm reduction approach to address the existing challenge of re-entry for adolescent mothers especially in Faith Based schools, where they are not allowed to return to school after giving birth on the basis that they are “bad influence” on other students or seen as “immoral because they engaged in premarital sexual activities”. Sex before marriage is viewed as a sin by Christians. I argue that harm reduction is a potential solution because it does not require Christians to change their deep beliefs and values on the morality of sexual activities. Finally, I argue that harm reduction will play a key role in promoting re-entry of adolescent mothers back in school and promote equality of education.



Author:  Nicole K. Kelly

Title:  Transactional Sex and Financial Savings Among Young Women in Rural South Africa: A Secondary Analysis of the HPTN 068 Trial

Abstract:  Background: Transactional sex (TS, sex with a male partner in exchange for money or gifts) is associated with adverse outcomes like HIV, yet many adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) in sub-Saharan Africa face competing challenges and may decide that the benefits of TS outweigh the potential risks. Previous research theorizes that TS is primarily motivated by short-term financial benefits (e.g., basic needs, improved social status). This study aims to determine whether AGYW can employ TS for longer term gains, such as saving money for the future.

Methods: A cohort was created of 1,144 AGYW who completed the final two visits for the HIV Prevention Trials Network 068 study in Mpumalanga, South Africa. Multivariable models controlling for age, socioeconomic status, education, and age-discordant relationship (male partner >5 years older) were used to estimate the association between TS (2015-2017) and self-reported financial savings at the next visit (2018-2019). We assessed whether this association varied by age-discordant relationship status.

Results: The prevalence of having financial savings was 6.2% lower among AGYW who engaged in TS in the previous year compared to those who did not (prevalence difference (PD): -6.2%; 95% CI: -12.3,-0.1%). Among AGYW with an older male partner, those engaging in TS had a 8.2% reduced prevalence of savings compared to those not engaging in TS (PD: -8.2%, 95% CI: -15.2,-1.3%). No association between TS and savings was observed among AGYW with an older male partner (PD: -1.1%, 95% CI: -12.8,10.6%).

Conclusions: These findings provide evidence that TS may jeopardize AGYW’s long-term financial stability through reduced financial savings. This association was particularly pronounced among those whose partners were similar in age. Yet, more information is needed to understand the motivations behind TS and whether hypothesized drivers, like materialism or basic needs, lead to increased spending and reduced savings in this population.



Author:  Devon V. Maloney

Title:  Assessing Patterns and Drivers of Land Degradation in West Africa with Drone Remote Sensing

Abstract:  This presentation describes the results of an initial pilot study in Savannes Region of Northern Togo for the use of mixed methods drone remote sensing and participatory mapping in accessing the patterns, drivers, and consequences of land degradation. Degradation, the loss of landscape fertility, is a widespread issue in West Africa resulting in loss of nutrient rich topsoil, decreased landscape greenness, lower agricultural yields, and increased food insecurity (Andersson et al. 2011). Northern Togo is characterized as a dry sub-humid savanna and is recognized by the United Nations Committee to Combat Desertification as a site of significant degradation (UN CCD 2013).

As degradation is the result of both anthropogenic pressures, such as land management and changes in land use/land cover (LULC), and ecological processes, such as drought, it important for research methods to reflect the both the socio-political and environmental context of degradation processes (Grainger 1984). High resolution drone imagery can detect fine-scale degradation signals that are obscured moderate resolution satellite data such as exposed rocks and erosion gullies as well as local land management patterns and mitigation interventions. Although drone remote sensing is an increasingly common tool in geographical research, the use of drone remote sensing has been spatially uneven, with relatively fewer studies of African landscapes.

Visual analysis of orthomosaic drone images found heterogeneous patterns of land management and signals of degradation. Supervised classifications were used to calculate per-site LULC and estimate tree cover, uncultivated vegetation, bare soils, exposed rocks, and overall greenness. These landscape patterns were positioned socially and temporally through interviews with residents who identified trends over time and provided the context to land management practices. These findings confirm that participatory drone mapping can be used effectively in accessing fine-scale patterns and potential drivers of degradation in West Africa and more broadly in socio-ecological research.



Author:  Aisha M. Muhammad

Title:  Depictions of Decay in Landscape in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Abstract:  My project centers around contemporary artistic explorations of mining and decay in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Natural resources such as cobalt, copper and tin are abundant in reserves throughout the county, making the DRC one of the most valued exporters for technology-based industries. Unfortunately, this relationship between the DRC and its importers is exploitative, rooted in historical precedent of Belgian colonialism. During its tenure the Belgian Congo depleted natural resources through mining practices and corporate consolidation, then exported the materials to the metropole to profit, profiting off harsh labor conditions native Congolese residents had to endure.

Contemporary Congolese visual artists employ several mediums to confront the continuing effects of Belgian colonial occupation, which formally ended in 1960. Paintings, installations and performances are the most popular mediums, allowing for artists to express their personal relationships with sites in states of physical decay, most notably the aforementioned mines. These artists draw parallels of the physical decay of the landscape to fissures in post-colonial Congolese society, a country which continues to grapple with the social, economic and governmental legacies of Belgian occupation. The artists I examine in my project create works that highlight the afterlife of sites in physical decay, particularly the depleted mines which are continuously used.

My presentation will focus on artists and objects that serve as reflections and commentary for states of natural and artificial decay of landscape in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The relationship between decay and landscape is incredibly broad. Therefore, my analysis be confined within a 21st century Congolese context, in which the complexities of colonial occupation are highlighted in the works of these artists. I examine how artists conceptualize the relationship between body, decay and landscape in their art objects.



Author:  Takondwa Musa

Title:  The Psychology of Poverty: A replication based on Zimbabwe’s Harmonized Social Cash Transfer Program

Abstract: Marwa Ibrahim, Yunwei Chen, Audrey Pereira, Takondwa Musa, Dharini Bathia, Sudhanshu Handa
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599
We perform a scientific replication of a recent paper in the Journal of African Economies that reports evidence from Malawi that an unconditional cash transfer program affects psychological states such as life satisfaction and subjective well-being as well as economic decisions involving intertemporal choice. Using data from Zimbabwe we find similar results. Together these two studies are the first from outside a laboratory setting that support the idea that poverty can have psychological effects which in turn influence economic decisions in a way that perpetuates poverty. These results, if found to hold in diverse settings, open up the policy space for a broader range of interventions that could reduce the number of people living in poverty. As this is a relatively new idea in economics with important policy implications, replicating these results in other settings is important before they can be widely generalized.



Author:  Audrey Pereira

Title:  ‘Joy, not sorrow’: Men’s Perspectives on Gender, Violence, and Cash Transfers Targeted to Women in Ghana

Abstract:  Cash transfer programs have the potential to impact intimate partner violence (IPV) through improving economic security and emotional wellbeing; reducing intra-household conflict; and increasing women’s empowerment. However, there are at least two scenarios in which transfers could lead to an increased risk for IPV. First, if there are disputes between partners on how cash is spent – there may be increases in intra-household conflict. Second, if women gain agency and power in the household as recipients of cash, partners who feel threatened by such changes may reassert their authority or attempting to extract the cash using violence. Therefore, a key and underexplored question related to cash transfer programs that target women is: how do the male partners of participating women react to their receipt of transfers?
The purpose of this study was to explore men’s reactions to their wives receiving cash transfers as part of the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) 1000 cash plus program in two districts in northern Ghana. The LEAP 1000 program is an unconditional cash transfer paid to eligible women in poor households, paired with a health insurance premium waiver.
We used data from focus group discussions (FGDs; 35 men in total) and thematic analysis techniques to examine dimensions of gender roles and respect, control over transfer money, and impact on IPV. The study received ethical approval by the Institutional Review Board at UNC and the Navrongo Health Research Centre in Ghana.

Men expressed that poverty constrained their ability to provide for their households, which they felt negatively affected their physical and mental wellbeing as well as their marital relationships and reputations in the community. The cash transfer allowed their wives to pay for household expenses, including children’s school fees, medical costs, and food during the lean season, which reduced men’s provider responsibilities. As women also invested the cash in poultry and livestock, households benefited from improved long-term economic security. Furthermore, men provided examples of their wives covering sudden expenses, such as funeral costs, which protected men’s reputations in the community. In these aspects, men were generally accepting of the cash transfer, and largely viewed its effects as positive. However, men also expected to be informed about and consulted regarding transfer money expenditure and felt disrespected when women did not do so.

Our findings suggest that cash alone may not automatically increase women’s agency. Cash-only programs work within existing normative frameworks, where the man has control of any cash or asset inflow into the household. Complementary interventions may be needed to transform existing gender norms to be more equitable and reflective of the reality of men’s and women’s contributions. Future research can identify cash-plus strategies that are successful in transforming gender norms without placing women at further risk of IPV.



Author:  Paul Sirma

Title:  The Dosage Effect of Unconditional Cash Transfers: Evidence from Malawi

Abstract:  In this paper, I study whether later participants in the Government of Malawi’s largest poverty alleviation program—the Malawi Social Cash Transfer Program (SCTP), an unconditional cash transfer program currently reaching the poorest eight percent of the Malawi population—caught up to earlier participants across a range of welfare indicators such as food security, consumption, and asset accumulation. Using baseline (2013) and endline (2015) data from the original randomized control trial (RCT) involving 3,500 households and an 8-years follow-up data (2021) of the original households, I find that the short-run impacts on multiple indices reported before the later participants became eligible for transfers were not enough to permanently lift the early participants out of poverty.



Author:  Graham Zulu

Title:  The Association of Social Support, HIV Stigma and HIV Disclosure among Youth Living with HIV in Zambia

Abstract: Background: Disclosure of HIV status is viewed to have positive effects on preventive and treatment behaviors. However, disclosure can also be associated with adverse social outcomes, including stigma, discrimination, and isolation. Prior research has identified social support as a vital predictor of HIV disclosure in adults living with HIV. However, fewer studies have examined the role of social support in HIV disclosure among young people living with HIV (YPLH). This study examined the association of different forms of social support and disclosure efficacy and perceived adverse disclosure outcomes in a sample of YPLH in Zambia.

Methods: Cross-sectional data were obtained from a sample of 120 YPLH. Data were analyzed using ordinary least squares regression after missing data were imputed using multiple imputations by chained equations.

Results: Sixty-three percent of participants were female. Mean age was 19 years old. Parental social support (β = -0.19, 95% CI: -0.37, -0.01), emotional social support (β = -0.28, 95% CI: -0.56, -0.01), and social adjustment (β = -0.31, 95% CI: -0.54, -0.09) were negatively associated with perceived negative outcomes of disclosure. Positive attitudes about living at home were associated with higher disclosure efficacy (β = 0.41, 95% CI: 0.18, 0.64). Internalized and enacted stigmas were also significantly associated with disclosure.

Implications: Overall, results support our hypothesized relationship of social support with disclosure self-efficacy and perceived negative disclosure outcomes in a sample of YPLH in Zambia. In addition to social support, HIV stigma remains a significant predictor of disclosure among youth. Disclosure of HIV status can be influenced by higher levels of social support. However, disclosure can also be negatively associated with undesirable social outcomes. Thus, successful treatment outcomes in YPLH may be enhanced through social support and stigma reduction interventions that are culturally appropriate and responsive to youth’s needs.

Keywords: disclosure, HIV stigma, social support