In this Q&A series we get to know a different One Ocean Hub researcher every month. Today we talk to Sirkka Tshiningayamwe. Dr Sirkka Tshiningayamwe a Lecturer at the University of Namibia. Her research focuses on exploring the interrelated challenges facing the Namibian oceans. This is to help suggest a governance framework appropriate for sustainable development of Namibian marine environment.

Meet our researcher in Namibia – interview with Sirkka Tshiningayamwe

Why did you become interested in researching the ocean, Sirkka?

Growing up in a country were everyone dreamed of spending holidays next to the ocean created a lot of curiosity in me to ask questions from a young age on what is the ocean? Why holiday at the ocean? And how the ocean environment is different from any other environment? Through education and various research studies and interventions, I have come to value and understand that the ocean is a complex system that have a big influence on people’s livelihoods. I further learned that there are various challenges facing the oceans, and as people relying on oceans directly and indirectly, if we do not take care of our oceans, they will not be able to take care of us and our children in the future. It is then that I have developed interest in researching the ocean, with the intention of contributing to the learning of people and with people who rely on it, in order to respond to the pressing challenges facing marine ecosystems and undermining their multiple contributions to sustainable development.

What major concerns do you have related to the oceans?

The major concerns I have related to ocean varies from unequal benefit, distribution, power and access of Namibian people to the ocean and its resources. The lack of knowledge regarding oceans among Namibians is also a concern to me. This have over past resulted in extensive ocean activities that have resulted in overexploitation of resources and pollution amongst others. Of late there have been media reports on deaths resulting from drowning of people in the oceans. Thus issues of safety around the ocean is also becoming a concern to me.

How would you describe your current research in three sentences?

My research aims to increase the One Ocean Hub’s knowledge and understanding of interrelated challenges facing the Namibian oceans. This is to help suggest a governance framework appropriate for sustainable development of Namibian marine environment.

How does your work help us to re-think the current ocean issues/challenges?

My research work has potential to enhance people’s knowledge and understanding of critical challenges facing the Namibian oceans. At practical level, this has potential to change people’s attitudes and mindsets towards the oceans, as well as encourage people to take action towards the protection of the marine environment. Ultimately, my research has potential to suggest a governance framework appropriate for sustainable development of Namibian marine environment.

What are the aspects of working in a collaborative environment such as the One Ocean Hub that you value the most?

What I value most from One Ocean Hub collaboration is the communication, support and sharing across the Hub partners. The ongoing networking, meetings and newsletters that keeps all partners updated on the wider ocean Hub activities is a great motivation for me as a researcher on the Hub. I also value the fact that I can email any Hub partner to inquire on any research issues that I am struggling with, for example, we are planning two weeks of fieldwork and one of the objectives is to administer questionnaires with community members in the coastal areas. Sampling of the community members have been a challenging task but with inputs and guidance from Dylan McGarry from South Africa and Georgina Yaa Oduro from Ghana, we have managed the process. We also had some of the Hub partners offering assistance in reviewing our Critique of the Namibia blue economy paper. For me that kind of support in the Hub is great to have. Capacity building opportunities and other forms of human and financial capital offered by the Hub to enable the Hub partners carry out their research activities and expand on their research through responding to ongoing emerging issues is also great.

What keeps you going/motivates you in your research? (or more formal: what motivates you?)

The complex interdisciplinary nature of the research which aims to connect science and policy on critical marine environment issues to enhance knowledge and understanding on ocean governance and management strategies that support productive and resilient ecosystems is motivating in itself. I am motivated by the fact that I am working with diverse people who have a common interest related to matters of the ocean. Listening to local communities expressing their visions and desires for the ocean, and thirst for wanting to be part of discussions and debates related to ocean governance and management is very motivating.

The One Ocean Hub aims to transform ocean governance. How does your research contribute to it?

My research broadly seeks to transform the way the Namibians preserve the oceans and how they think about the oceans. This is through ensuring that decisions on the oceans are informed by multiple values and knowledge systems and to ensure that the rights and worldviews of communities’ women and youth are recognized, valued and realized in context with a circular of the blue economy. The research hope to empower communities youth, women and other vulnerable and marginalised communities with new initiatives for conservation and sustainable use of oceans.