When Nicholas Ozor started an African Climate Change Fellowship in 2008, he was just approaching the field of climate change research, but he had a clear goal in mind: making an impact in his continent and his country, starting from his home university, the University of Nigeria Nsukka.
With the fellowship’s seed funds from START, Nicholas started a revolution of climate change awareness at his university, attracted new funds for climate change and development projects, and built a very successful research and policy career.
Today Nicholas continues to make waves as the Executive Director of the African Technology Policy Studies Network (ATPS) – a science, technology and innovation think tank based in Nairobi with national chapters in 30 countries.
On the 10th anniversary of his fellowship graduation, we sat with Nicholas to understand how the fellowship impacted his career.
START: How did you get involved with START?
Nicholas: My involvement with START began in 2008, when I was granted a teaching fellowship through the African Climate Change Fellowship Program (ACCFP). As opposed to other fellows who travelled to be hosted at institutions and universities abroad, I requested that I undertake the program in my home institution, the University of Nigeria Nsukka. I knew I wanted to make an impact right there, in my country.
I used the fellowship funds to organise the first ever climate change workshop in my university and to begin campaigning for the mainstreaming of climate change into university curriculum. Now the university has established a climate change innovation and development program for Master’s and PhD, the first ever of its kind in the country.
START: How has your involvement with START impacted your career trajectory?
Nicholas: Though the funds were relatively small, the fellowship seed fund led to every other achievement I attained as a climate change researcher and policy influencer in the continent.
Receiving the fellowship funds was exciting, because this was one of the first grants I was awarded in my career. I was determined to make the most out of this experience, and by leveraging the funds and knowledge from the fellowship, I won a much more substantial grant from DFID to develop an adaptation framework for the southern Nigeria region where I come from.
START: What is unique about your experience with START?
Nicholas: When I started my fellowship in 2008, START was a unique one-stop-shop for capacity development. It attracted a lot of very capable and passionate researchers and fellows, who went on to great achievements. Across the African continent, in most government institutions that are dealing with climate issues, you will find a START fellow who is influencing research and policy.
START: What has been the biggest advantage of being part of the ACCFP program?
Nicholas: The program allowed me to build a substantial network of friends and peers that I can refer to, even today in my work as the ATPS Director.
If I need to identify experts for meetings, or to collaborate on proposals or projects, whenever I can I work with START fellows. I have also hosted fellows from recent ACCFP rounds, and even hired one of them – I am proud of having graduated from being a fellow to being a mentor!
Apart from the network, other major advantages of the ACCFP program are the skills and technical know-how we garnered. Before, my area of expertise was agriculture and rural development, not purely climate change adaptation. The fellowship helped me to think how I can relate agriculture and development issues to climate change. Since then, I have deepened my knowledge on these linkages, and I have even written a book on developing a climate change curriculum!
START: Can you share one of your best memories from the ACCFP Fellowship?
Nicholas: I cannot say there is one ‘best’ memory, but it was always when we met. Each time we came together with all the fellows at annual meetings were great experiences. We shared deep-heartened ideas, knowledge, and experiences. You can’t beat that.