A local resident walks on a road near the Rwenzori foothills, where USF senior Max Lucy lived with a family during his spring semester in Ghana, Africa.
If you equate thumbing through bibliographies in the Gleeson Library
stacks with going out of your way for academic research, try
“parachuting” into a remote African village to dig into microfinance,
journalist intimidation, or the treatment of the mentally ill by
That’s the type of research attendees of the
first annual student research symposium, Bringing the Continent Home:
Reflections on Africa, can expect to hear about on Nov. 11. The
symposium, organized by the African Studies Program, will include
research presentations by a handful African studies minors who spent
the spring semester in a number of countries on the continent.
include microfinance in northern Ghana, intimidation of journalists by
the government in Cameroon, non-medical treatments of the mentally ill
and disabled by spiritual healers in southern Ghana, the roots of
marginalized groups in Sudan, and community conservation efforts in and
around Rwenzori Mountains National Park, near Uganda’s border with the
Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Praising the academic quality
of the research, Heather Hoag, assistant professor of history and
African Studies Program director, said the research not only enhanced
students’ knowledge of African communities and enlarged their
worldview, but also embodied the University of San Francisco’s mission
to educate tomorrow’s leaders.
“From microfinance to press
freedoms to the continuing crisis in Darfur, our students are
contributing to a better understanding of the issues affecting African
communities in today’s globalized world,” Hoag said.
the case for senior sociology major and African studies minor Christina
Hebets, who was in Ghana from January to May studying the effectiveness
of micro-lending. Micro-lending, which provides the poor with very
small loans, has become a renowned tool for poverty reduction and
women’s empowerment. Lending organizations, often non-governmental
organizations (NGOs), target women entrepreneurs as borrowers, so they
can manage and control their income.
“I did my research in the
city of Tamale in the northern region, where 80-90 percent of the
population lives on less than $1 a day,” Hebets said. “It’s incredibly
hot and dry, making agriculture in rural communities an unreliable
means for living.”
From Tamale, she traveled to rural and urban
areas visiting with and interviewing the beneficiaries of such loans,
Hebets said. Interviewing groups of women, all predominantly Muslim,
was overwhelming and inspirational, she said.
senior international studies major Max Lucy, who is double-minoring in
African and environmental studies, slept in mud huts and saw elephants,
hippopotami, and crocodiles as he shadowed World Wide Fund for Nature
(WWF) and Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) workers attempting to improve
relations with remote communities.
Lucy studied community
conservation efforts in the lush, mountainous areas bordering the
Rwenzori Mountains National Park, where, up until recently, the
strategy depended on driving out trespassers and poachers with armed
“Frustrated, the local Bakonzo community, who have
lived in the foothills of the park for ages, accessing it for hunting
and bamboo to build their homes, has been shut out from resources that
are integral to their cultural integrity,” Lucy said.
now being piloted by WWF and UWA draw more on the Bakonzo community
involvement, including hiring them as rangers and involving them in
restoration projects, offer a new path using economic incentives for
conserving the park’s resources, Lucy said.
Bringing the Continent Home: Reflections on Africa, will be held from 5
p.m. to 6:30 p.m., Nov. 11 in the Maier Room, Fromm Hall.