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MSc DAP field trip and the tragedy in Kathmandu

ucfukpa4 May 2015

"Nepal relief location map" by Uwe Dedering - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

“Nepal relief location map” by Uwe Dedering – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

If the world today were as it was a little over one week ago, 35 students on the Development Administration and Planning MSc programme would be boarding a plane to Kathmandu for our annual overseas field trip. That they are not warrants relief and great sadness; relief at not being caught up in the tragedy of a powerful earthquake, and great sadness at the scale of loss in Kathmandu.

Since news of the earthquake came on Saturday 26 April, the figures of people who have died, are lost or have been forced to leave their homes, is steadily rising. Images of ancient places students were to visit as part of a city orientation, are images of rubble and dust. When tragic events happen in distant places it can be difficult to translate every statistic in a death toll to a real person and every crumbled building to a home.

For our Nepali friends and field trip partners life has changed in an instant. As phone lines and internet connections slowly come back online a sense of relief returns; email messages confirm they are alive and unhurt.

The messages also reveal people slowly coming to terms with the challenges before them. Some predict it will take at least a month after the shocks subside for a semblance of normalcy to return to the country. In the meantime, they and their families are sleeping outside and cautiously visiting homes and offices to check on damage, gather supplies and plan for what happens next.

All of our field trip partners are engaged in the development sector either as scholars or practitioners. For them, a priority equal to securing their heath is returning to work to assist some of the poorest and most disadvantaged people in Kathmandu, people who are disproportionately affected by the consequences of an earthquake.

In the process of cancelling our trip and reinforcing our distance from tragedy, we are inspired and humbled by the commitment of our friends and partners in coping with the inescapable realities of this calamity.

To support relief efforts in Nepal, donations to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) are very welcome: http://www.dec.org.uk/


Dr Kamna Patel is a lecturer at the DPU, where she co-directs the MSc programme in Development Administration and Planning.

Reflections from Ethiopia

Henry W Mathes21 June 2012

Post written in collaboration with Stephanie Butcher

From April 29th – May 14th, eighty-five students from the Urban Economic Development (UED) and Development Administration and Planning (DAP) programmes conducted a series of research projects centred on poverty reduction strategies within the burgeoning Ethiopian city of Mekele and its environs.

Mekele, located in the northern Tigray region of Ethiopia, is a mid-sized but rapidly expanding city home to some 200,000 residents. Ethiopia as a whole remains largely rural , and has somewhat  lagged behind in the rapid-fire urbanization occurring within the rest of the world – with its GDP still nearly 85% reliant on agriculture.  Mekele, however, stands out as a major urban centre in the country’s north, and is home to one of the country’s most prestigious universities. A recent grant from the World Bank has funded an urban beautification project, creating wide cobbled avenues populated by pedestrians, mototaxis, and the occasional donkey or camel. On the whole, we found the city to be safe, friendly, and patiently receptive to the student inquiries.

The following series of photographs illustrates our experiences in the city and surrounding countryside:

Although technically a city, Mekele retains a quiet, laid-back atmosphere, unlike the capital, Addis Ababa. The cobblestone streets shown here were recently paved as part of a beautification project funded partially by World Bank.

Monday is market day in Mekele. Women and men from the surrounding rural areas flood into the city to sell their produce and wares. Seen here: guava and cabbage.

This woman was kind enough to allow us to photograph her after she sold us a curiously large citrus fruit of some sort.

Part of the permanent market, on the outskirts of the city centre, where everyday household products are bought and sold. As sites of income generation, markets featured prominently in our students’ research.

A colourful market stall specialising in baskets of all shapes and sizes. In Ethiopia, basket weaving is traditionally women’s work.

A market of a different sort: Hawzien is small town 2 hour’s drive from Mekele, and very much within the city’s sphere of influence. Hawzien is also the site of a midweek market, seen here.

Many women travel to the Hawzien market from rural areas, some walking more than 4 hours, their young children often in toe.

The rural areas outside of Hawzien. This photo was taken from a village where the students were interviewing cooperative members.

We encountered this man in a village outside of Hawzien, he had just purchased colourful yarn for his wife.

Mekele is blessed with amazing produce, particularly fruit. Fruit salads of mango, guava, papaya, avocado and banana were a popular treat for students and staff.

All photos in this blog were taken by Henry Maths