Dr Luke Whaley

Department of Geography

Global Challenge Research Fellow, Dr Luke Whaley, aims to understand how people’s beliefs and different worldviews work to promote or impede equitable patterns of access to land and water in rural Uganda.

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About Dr Luke Whaley's research:

"Land and water are the cornerstones of rural lives, livelihoods, and the environment. They underpin many of the 21st Century’s global challenges, including the epochal challenge of food security. In Uganda, where 83% of the population live in rural areas, land and water have come under intense pressure. With Uganda’s population soon to be the fastest growing in the world, the impending population explosion coupled with the effects of climate change is set to greatly increase land and water scarcity, unequal access dynamics, and the degradation of important ecosystems. This pressing challenge, characteristic of Africa more generally, requires new insights and tools to achieve more sustainable and equitable forms of land and water governance.

"My project will investigate the interplay between worldviews and land and water governance in three cases (land, wetlands, water) in Eastern Uganda. Anthropologists and sociologists have shown how worldviews (beliefs, interpretations, and common sense knowledge) fundamentally shape patterns of access and inequality by legitimising particular practices and relationships whilst restricting others. This understanding of worldviews has important implications for rural development but has not been taken up in the literature on natural resource governance and sustainability studies. Moreover, there is little or no understanding of it in development policy and practice. This project addresses this gap, with important implications for developing more inclusive rural governance processes that better account for the interests of women and other vulnerable groups.

"The project will integrate different disciplinary lenses and methods. This includes combining mixed methods research, participant diary keeping, and a participatory arts-based approach to meaningfully engage rural Ugandans in the research process. Co-creating knowledge between sciences, arts, and local actors will generate socially robust knowledge. This knowledge will be developed into a set of elicitation tools (e.g. using theatre and storytelling) that explore land and water governance scenarios with communities and district stakeholders in Eastern Uganda. Using audio and video recording, the same tools will be packaged and disseminated to development practitioners and edited for broadcast on local radio to raise awareness and generate critical debate for practical action. The voices and experiences of project participants will be shared with international development actors through a one-off performance and discussion event at the annual Bond Conference in London in March 2021.

"I am thrilled to be given the opportunity to undertake this project. I am excited about the approach I am using as well as the partnerships I am developing with colleagues at Makerere University (Kampala), NGOs, and Government ministries in Uganda. My ambition is for this collaboration to foster a long-term and vibrant two-way partnership to carry out innovative and impactful research that continues to address key land and water development challenges."

Email: l.whaley@sheffield.ac.uk