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This month we catch up with Professor Marcel do Nascimento Botelho, who undertook a PhD with CIDT back in 2003. This was made possible through a DFID-funded partnership between CIDT, University of Wolverhampton and the Federal Rural University of Amazonia (Portuguese: Universidade Federal Rural da Amazônia, UFRA) a Brazilian public University located in Belem, Pará state, Brazil.
In 2017, after an election process, Marcel became Rector of UFRA. Since then, he has put into practice all the knowledge acquired from the Pro-UFRA project and his PhD course at CIDT-University of Wolverhampton, to establish UFRA as a key player in the sustainable development of the Amazon Region.
Leadership of higher education responses to combat COVID-19 in Pará state
Under Marcel’s leadership, UFRA has implemented important COVID-19 research initiatives and is now leading a research group conducting a series of analyses on COVID-19 to support state government in its decision-taking process. UFRA’s contribution has helped to reduce the number of deaths in Para state by 45%, and positively impacted upon the wider Brazilian economy. Through a single two-week period UFRA interventions reduced state death rates in Para’s population of 8 million by 14%. The research team are using Artificial Neural Nets to predict new cases, deaths and hospital infrastructure, using data in different ways for each region to help optimise use of resources.
In a recent letter to the UK Secretary of State concerning the success of COVID-19 initiatives, Marcel commented,
“Back in 2001 your Department generously supported a project run with the University of Wolverhampton and Harper Adams University College to support the strengthening of the Federal Rural University of the Amazon (UFRA) in Belem-Para-Brazil, of which I am the current Rector. As a consequence of that support our institution has become a key player in the development of the Amazon region.
“As I write, we are providing vital scientific advice to the local and state governments about the Corona Virus (Covid19) outbreak in our region. Our ability to do this is in no small part due to the support which we received from DFID, and I would wish to acknowledge this contribution and express my thanks for it once again.”
When did you attend CIDT and what you were studying?
I was a University Lecturer at UFRA when I was selected to attended CIDT for the MPhil/DPhil programme.
I started my course at CIDT in 2003 and returned to Brazil to conduct my field research at Universidade Federal Rural da Amazonia (UFRA). Essentially I studied several aspects of institutional and professional development applied to institutional strengthening, comparable to the ‘Rural Extension’ field of research.
I completed modules in: Development in practice; Effective Communication; Project Management; Research Methods; Advanced Research Skills; Social Perspsctives in Development Practice; and Research Methods and Project Design.
The following photos show Marcel during his time at CIDT
How did you find your time studying with us?
During my studies in CIDT I was exposed to an environment of International Development focused on building professional capacity for change. Thus, all classes, discussions with my professors and classmates and of course, the findings from my PhD research, helped me to understand the need to address change as a process that must be based on internal motivation rather than external factors and that the time for it to occur depends on the level of success in creating this internal motivation.
How has your career developed?
Following my studies, I returned to Belém, the capital of the state of Pará in Brazil in order to resume my work as a university lecturer at UFRA. In 2007 I was invited to be the International Advisor of UFRA when I supported two international agreements with the United States and France.
In 2009 I was elected Director of the Socio-environmental and Hydro Resources Institute (at UFRA) for a four year mandate. During those years I implemented a participatory management strategy to develop the actions and projects within the Institute. As a main result of this management strategy it was possible to triple our research and extension budget with high impact upon the academic community and civil society. Some of our professors earned local, regional and even international prizes for their work during this time. The use of action research, which I had introduced as part of my PhD studies as a tool for professional development, allowed our professors to enhance their classes with clear benefit to our students.
Following this I was appointed Teaching Pro-Rector from 2013 to 2017, with a focus on implementation of a course assessment and development program, and an academic control system. The first, was a huge success so that our undergraduate courses were, for the first time, ranked level B according to the national exams. The second, brought an accurate control to academic activities, but more importantly, brought the tools for online interactions amongst professors and students.
During this time, I was elected President of Teaching Pro-Rectors of all the Federal Universities of the Amazon region and Vice President of the National Group of Teaching Pro-Rectors. These two groups were focus on developing strategies to strengthen undergraduate course policies.
After becoming Rector of the Federal Rural University of Amazon via an election process, some achievements in Marcel’s tenure so far are:
- The second best university in the region according to Ministry of Education
- The best university in the use of public funding in the Amazon
- 80% of the undergrad courses classified at B or A rank
- The best Agronomy degree course in the Amazon
- Permanent member of most boards of Agrobusiness in Para
Individually, and as a result of the performance of UFRA, he received recognition including:
- Agronomist of the year in 2017
- Personality of Agribusiness in 2018
- Commendation Order of Merit Cabanagem 2017
- Commendation Honor to Merit of Education 2018
- Commendation Merit of Civil Defence 2019
The following photos show Marcel in his role as lecturer and Rector, as well as receiving an agronomy award:
You can view some of Marcel’s publications using the links below:
- Rocha, J. E. C. ; Souza Junior, G. N. ; Brito, S. R. ; Folador, A. R. C. ; Ramos, R. T. J. ; Braga, M. B.; Botelho, M. N. . Redes Neurais Artificiais Na Previsão De Contágio E Óbitos Por Covid-19: Um Estudo No Estado Do Pará, Brasil. International Journal Of Development Research, V. 10, P. 35416-35421, 2020.
- SOUSA, Adriano Marlisom Leão De; ROCHA, Edson José Paulino Da ; Vitorino, M. Isabel ; Souza, Paulo Jorge De Oliveira Ponte D ; BOTELHO, M. N. . Variabilidade Espaco-Temporal Da Precipitação Na Amazônia Durante Eventos Enos. Revista Brasileira De Geografia Física, V. 8, P. 13-24, 2015
- Sousa, Adriano Marlison Leão De ; Vitorino, Maria Isabel ; Castro, Nilza Maria Dos Reis ; Botelho, M. N.; Souza, Paulo Jorge Oliveira Ponte De . Evapotranspiration From Remote Sensing To Improve The Swat Model In Eastern Amazonia. Floram – Revista Floresta E Ambiente, V. 4, P. 1-9, 2015.
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June 2020 saw the launch of an awareness raising campaign against the coronavirus in the forestry communities of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). An association of non-governmental organisations – which together form the National Network for Independent Observers, Le Réseau National des Observateurs Indépendants (RENOI) – led the campaign. A strong delegation visited the District of Maluku, in the eastern part of the Congolese capital, Kinshasa; in order to raise the awareness of the inhabitants of this municipality against COVID-19, which has raged in the urban-rural area since March.
This visit was an occasion for the network of environmental civil society organisations to carry a message of hope and solidarity in the fight against the pandemic of the Coronavirus, which has shaken the entire world. RENOI also distributed sanitation kits including soap bars, handwash, hydro-alcoholic solutions, masks etc.
“Many people don’t respect social distancing measures imposed by the authorities. We try to raise their awareness and to do community follow-up. I am happy that you have brought these kits to fight against this illness here to Maluku. We hope this act will continue”, declared the deputy mayor of Maluku, Apollinaire Kwedi Makuntima.
During the awareness raising session, particular emphasis was placed on respect of measures of good hygiene and social distancing recommended by the government and by the WHO in order to reduce the risk of contamination of this pandemic.
“Malukhu represents the gate of entry of all the logs coming out of the forestry provinces, especially the Bandundu, Equator and Oriental provinces. We wanted to raise the awareness of the populations living in this district and those who live in communities where the wood arrives. If they understand the importance of protecting themselves, they will protect others and hence stop the spread of this sickness”, stated Essylot Lubala, the coordinator of the OGF organisation (Observatoire de la Gouvernance Forestière).
This action is conducted within the framework of the CV4C project led by the University of Wolverhampton’s Centre for International Development (CIDT) in the DRC, funded by the European Union, the FAO-FLEGT programme and DFID.
Translated by Habiba Mohamed, CIDT
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CIDT staff last met face-to-face with third year students from the ‘Environmental Issues of the Developing World’ module on 16 March 2020. This module taught by CIDT is part of the Urban Geography and Climate Change degree offered by the Faculty of Science and Engineering.
In that final face to face session we discussed the ‘possibility’ of online teaching ‘in case’ we were to be ‘locked down’, something none of us really understood the meaning of at that stage.
By the end of that tumultuous week the whole University had been shut down. However, both CIDT staff and students decided to persevere. All students continued to attend weekly four-hour lectures online and 1:1 tutorials were also conducted virtually. CIDT staff were very impressed at how quickly this group of students adapted to virtual learning.
In late May, CIDT staff coordinated their first ever online group presentation student assessment! Under normal circumstances, students would make such presentations face to face with their tutors, but this year due to Covid19, the assessment had to be online via conferencing software Big Blue Button. This posed a challenge to both students and lecturers who, though well versed in distanced conferencing, were concerned that the challenge of conducting distanced, assessed presentations and marking would be too demanding for all concerned.
Nevertheless, the students rose to the challenge by working doubly hard. Through numerous group calls and effective team working they were able to produce effective presentations. This involved getting to grips with the conference technologies and also ensuring they had a strong wi-fi signal in their different locked-down home environments, ranging from the Midlands, London, Devon and even the south of France.
We at CIDT are happy and proud to report that both group presentations were well-conceived, very interesting and well presented, and that the four-hour Big Blue Button (BBB) conference took place without a hitch!
Above: Screenshot of the Big Blue Button conference call between students and CIDT.
We would like to congratulate all eight students on the module for their dedication during such an unprecedented time and wish them success and good luck in their postgraduate endeavours.
One student commented:
“Please give my thanks to all the members of the CIDT team that contributed to the module, it was incredibly informative and really beneficial to have specialists in each field that could give examples and had personal knowledge of the taught curriculum. Hopefully one day I’ll come across them as I continue my professional career in the sector. The entire module was brilliantly organised and a pleasure to take part in and the passion of each of the contributors really came through and helped to inspire.”
Having witnessed the events of the past few weeks, colleagues at CIDT would like to express their unwavering solidarity to those among us that have endured and experienced the consequences of racial inequality and injustice.
CIDT colleagues recognise and express our pain and righteous anger about racial inequality and injustice anywhere in the world. As a Centre focused on social development, through our work we are aware of underlying systemic racial inequalities at local, national, regional and global levels. Racial injustice and discrimination is apparent in all areas of society, we cannot ignore the racial biases that exist within education, justice, health and society in general.
The killing of George Floyd in America and the recent data from Public Health England on the disproportionate impact of Covid 19 on ethnic minorities have thrown a spotlight on the racial inequalities and i