Winners of the Africa Thesis Award 2013!

Esther Bergstra and Roxanne Hornman (Wageningen University, Landscape Architecture & Spatial Planning) have won the Africa Thesis Award 2013. For their thesis Cyclone Resilient Landscape: the Case of Vatomandry, Madagascar, Bergstra and Hornman conducted research into the effects of cyclones in Madagascar. They focused on the Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) programme of the non-governmental organization CARE, that aims to diminish the effects of cyclones. The students conclude that an approach that would integrate the ‘landscape based design approach’, a method commonly used in landscape architecture, could improve the resilience of the landscape and its people.

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The prize winners 2013Disaster prone region
Madagascar, one of the poorest countries in the world, has to deal with cyclones every year. The impact of a cyclone can be devastating, leaving areas with broken houses, floods and damaged crops. The aftermath has an even greater effect. The floods increase the number of people affected with water-borne and related diseases. In their thesis, Bergstra and Hornman state that within the DRR program of CARE, the landscape based design approach, a method commonly used in the field of landscape architecture, is not yet integrated. This integral approach could improve the resilience of the landscape and the standard of life for its inhabitants. The students asked themselves: What actions related to the landscape based design approach are needed to establish resilience in a disaster prone developing region? The actions should relate to methods for CARE and physical actions enforceable by the inhabitants of Vatomandry, the case study of this thesis.

Participatory workshops
To answer this question different methods were used, partly in The Netherlands and partly in Madagascar. Landscape analysis was performed and participatory workshops were organized. The participatory workshops were important as they provided this research with local knowledge. Even more relevant was the establishment of ownership with the inhabitants. The data gathered in Madagascar were analyzed and ordered in The Netherlands and were used as input for the design to enhance the resilience. The results from the participative workshops were transformed from short-term solutions for individual benefits to a long term landscape plan for community benefits.

The design is not a blueprint design. The landscape plan provides recommendations for environmental improvements of Vatomandry and design principles generally applicable for similar cities along the east coast. Interventions involve a drainage system against floods, shelterbelts, sand fence, purifying wetlands and vegetation for shelter, health and income. The final answer to the research question consists of several actions – methodological and physical – to reach improved resilience of the landscape against tropical cyclones. The overall methodology should be replicable for similar cities who are also suffering from natural disasters.

Second and Third Prize
Anouk Evers (Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, Social and Cultural Science) won the second prize for her thesis Barack Obama, back off!: Framing Strategies and Postcolonial Discourse in Debating Uganda’s Anti-homosexuality Bill. The third prize was a joint prize for two theses: The Afrikadeutschen of Kroondal, 1849-1949 by Marcus Melck (Universiteit van Pretoria), and Grande Hotel Beira Mozambique: Adjustment of a Vertical Slum in Mozambique for to Improve the Living Conditions of the Current Inhabitants, by Robert Cruiming (TU Delft, Faculty of Architecture).

Presentation of the award
Presentation of Africa Thesis Award 2013The award has been presented on Saturday 23 November 2013 during the NVAS Afrikastudiedag 'Everyday Africa' in Leiden. Read the jury report.




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