Founding director and former head of the Pastoral and Environmental Network in the Horn of Africa (PENHA) and teaching fellow at the Bartlett Development Planning Unit at University College London, Zeremariam Fre, is next to be featured in ‘The faces of INCLUDE’. We spoke to Zeremariam during the writer’s workshop on Social Protection in March 2018, as he is leading the research group ‘Social protection for inclusive development in the Afar region of Ethiopia’. In line with his previous work experience in Africa (on agriculture and land use policy, project monitoring and evaluation, among other things), his project on social protection in the Afar region of Ethiopia evaluates the effectiveness of development interventions on poverty, food security and livelihood. You can find more information on the research group and their latest publications by clicking on this link.
We started our conversation by asking the question: ‘What does the platform provide and what does it do for you personally?’ Zeremariam explained how he appreciates the facilitating role of INCLUDE in enabling professionals (researchers, policymakers and other stakeholders) to connect and network in an international setting:
“I like the international teaming up. That is to say, you got the Dutch on the one hand and the Africans like myself on the other. Between the two of us is an upfront relationship that I value a lot.”
He elaborates on this, saying he values the sense of equality between the different stakeholders, which includes academics, practitioners and project partners:
“There are direct discussions possible and there is no feeling of constraint. I feel there is a great sense of being equal to each other, and because there is this level of respect, you talk to one another.”
Zeremariam highlights INCLUDE’s creative potential as a point of distinction. He also values the productive environment that INCLUDE provides for knowledge sharing and dissemination, as well as for conducting important research:
“The platform creates the right environment, the conditions are here, to do a couple of things: to share what you have brought in (in terms of research) and to catch up on something you have been disconnected with. The platform is important because it creates these conditions for you as a researcher or a team of researchers. It is the inquisitiveness of intuitive and innovative thinking that appeals to me personally.”
Furthermore, the platform encourages a high level of ‘inquisitiveness’ as mentioned in his statement above. Zeremariam sees this as associated with the work of the research group, compared to what he calls ‘normal research’ in the social protection context. He links this to the demand for policy:
“Normally you deliver and go home, but I think this platform has created the intellectual inquisitiveness to enquire, to be critical, and to suggest. To actually ask ourselves: are we regurgitating or are we bringing new things to the table? This is what policy is all about. This inquisitiveness, this openness to be critical, to even question your own research questions.”
However, there is more potential for the platform. Zeremariam stresses the presence of INCLUDE in the region (in this case, the Afar region in Ethiopia) and the need to bring policymakers and researchers together, enabling a dialogue on social protection between the two:
“There is a very important presence for INCLUDE in the region. Make sure you have some key people invested in this. Target and hunt for key people.”
- Fre, Z., Temesgen, G., Negash, Z., Araya, S.T., Tsegay, B., Teka, A.M. and Weldesilassie, B. (2017). Social protection for inclusive development in the Afar Region of Ethiopia: Participatory rural appraisal report. SPIDA Working Paper Series – SPIDA/WPS/102/2017,p 52.
- Fre, Z. and Dixon, N. (2017). Social protection among the Afar pastoral and agro-pastoral communities in Ethiopia: critical reflections on the multi-partner efforts, achievements, challenges and some lessons learnt. SPIDA Working Paper Series – ADU/PENHA/DPU-UCL, p 30.
- Fre, Z., Tsegay, B., Temesgen, G., Araya, S.T., Kenton, N. (20170. SPIDA policy brief: social protection among the Afar pastoralist communities in Ethiopia: beyond survival towards transformation. ADU/PENHA/DPU-UCL SPIDA Policy Brief, p 4.
- Exploring the implications of informal and formal social protection practices among the Afar communities in Ethiopia’ on http://www.penhanetwork.org/spida-research-policy-and-practice-resource
- Fre, Z. (2018) Knowledge sovereignty among African cattle herders, University of Chicago press.