ISNAD-AFRICA MRP PROGRAMME: An essential programme for graduate research students in African Universities – Philip Omenge

My Journey and experience in the international arena – The conference angle

Since my admission in 2018 to the Mentorship for Research Programme (MRP), a programme of the International Support Network of Africa Development (ISNAD-Africa), I have up to now (August 2019) attended, participated and presented my research findings in two international conferences in Europe.  My first international conference experience was in my first year in the MRP programme precisely  17th -19th October, 2018 when I attended, participated and made a presentation of my first research findings for my PhD work atthe 2nd International Conference on Solar Technologies and Hybrid Mini-grids to improve energy access. This conference was organised by Trama Tecnoambiental (TTA) and the University of the Balearic Islands, Spain. The conference took place in Spain in the city of Palma de Mallorca, at the University of the Balearic Islands.  Notwithstanding the fact that I had completed my MSc. Programme from a European University in one of the Scandinavian countries, my participation in this conference in Spain was a whole new experience. I went from compiling a research paper for an international audience, designing a poster for international exhibition, connecting long to short range international and domestic flights, in Africa and Europe; to standing before a global audience of eminent scholars, researchers, academicians and industry practitioners as I presented my first PhD research findings. It was awesome! Thanks to ISNAD-Africa who made all this come to a reality through the well-thought-out and implemented MRP Progarmme. I made both an oral and poster presentation in the auditorium and poster exhibition area of my work ‘’Renewable Energy Resource Development and Procedural Application of Environmental and Social Impact Assessment Tool:  Lessons from Kenya’’. The planning, organisation and funding for my participation in this conference was made possible through the full sponsorship received from Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Energy (WISE), University of Waterloo, Canada. All expenses including conference fee, air tickets, hotel and accommodation for the first conference were fully sponsored by my ISNAD- MRP Mentor Prof. Dr Jathin Nathwani of WISE under the Affordable Energy for Humanity (AE4H) Global Change Initiative Programme.  Obtaining a Schengen visa to enter Spain was facilitated by ISNAD-Africa’s authority support letter alongside those from Egerton University (my university) and WISE.

Major milestones achieved from my first conference participation included communication of my research findings to a global audience, publication and dissemination of my research findings, international collaboration and networking. Whilst communication of my research findings and publication is a requirement under my PhD programme, the climax of my participation in this conference and showcasing my research work was my admission into the prestigious AE4H Global Change Initiative, an international collaboration between the world’s leading scientists, technology developers and practitioners on the topic of universal energy access.  Through this, I am now a participating member of AE4H’s Domain IV: Environmental and Human Dimensions of Energy Transitions. This conference has since opened more international opportunities for communicating my research findings to the international global audience, thanks to ISNAD-Africa’s MRP Programme that continuously made all these possible.

The ‘’8th International conference on Energy and Sustainability’’ held in Coimbra Portugal

ISNAD- Africa MRP Programme has continued to ensure its mentors realise the programme’s objectives and succeed in disseminating and communicating their research findings to a global audience.  The ‘’8th International conference on Energy and Sustainability’’ held in Coimbra Portugal was made known to me through ISNAD-Africa’s MRP Programme regular updates on opportunities available to Mentees via-email communication and posting on the website. This conference was organised by the Wessex Institute, UK and Itecons-University of Coimbra, Portugal. As a dedicated Mentee of the MRP programme, I initiated the communication with the conference organisers, developed an abstract for my paper and sent it to the conference scientific community for review and consideration. Once the abstract was reviewed and approved, I developed a full paper for consideration for presentation in the conference publication. Energy and Sustainability is an international conference which focuses on the topics of energy policies, renewable energy resources, sustainable energy production, environmental risk management, sustainable buildings, energy storage and distribution, energy management, biomass and biofuels, waste to energy, processing of oil and gas, CO2 capturing and management, pipelines, energy efficiency, sustainable energy from hydrocarbons, and much more. My paper for this conference focused on ‘’Public Participation in Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and its substantive contribution in environmental risk management: insights from EIA practitioners and other stakeholders in Kenya’s renewable energy sub-sector’’. Thanks to my ISNAD-Africa MRP Mentor Dr. Prof. Jathin Nathwani who despite his busy schedule made time to review the paper alongside the review of my University superiors. 

Once my paper went through the lengthy back and forth scientific peer review process and was finally successfully accepted for presentation and publication, I hardly had any time left to source funding support to attend the conference as I had about two weeks left to the conference. Thanks to my employer who on short notice agreed to sponsor my participation. Whilst my employer- Sigtuna Consultancy, fully sponsored my participation (conference fee, international insurance cover, air tickets, local travel in Kenya and in Portugal, hotel & accommodation and stipend),  Egerton University, WISE and  ISNAD-Africa once again provided the much needed authority support letters that facilitated the swift approval of my Schengen visa to enter Portugal in a record three (3) days! My travel experiences this time round was more thrilling adventurous and exciting, the most exciting part of it was the seamless connection of air- metro-speed train -road connection from Kenya all through to Coimbra Portugal! The metro encounter was my first time! The conference was held at ITeCons – Institute for Research and Technological Development in Construction, Energy, Environment and Sustainability, Coimbra, Portugal in the University of Coimbra, in the period 3rd -5th July 2019. My paper this time round was not only presented before a global audience of eminent scholars, scientists, researchers and industry practitioners but also published in the WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment, Volume 237, WIT Press, 2019, ISSN 1743-3541. In addition to this, I received an opportunity to publish for free another paper in the International Journal of Energy Production and Management as a bonus to my contribution in the conference.  A paper I am currently working on.

Highlights from my second international conference experience:

For details visit : https://www.wessex.ac.uk/conferences/2019/energy-and-sustainability-2019

A big thank you to ISNAD-Africa MRP for this life changing opportunity

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