Cyclone Idai spurred UZ’s Professor Chirisa to ace his second PhD

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UNIVERSITY of Zimbabwe’s Professor Innocent Chirisa is elated after acing his second PhD with the University of the Free State (UFS), South Africa.

Prof Chirisa, who is the Dean of the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences at the University of Zimbabwe, received his second PhD qualification at the South African university’s graduation ceremonies held this April.

Idai gives Prof Chirisa ‘rude awakening’

In February 2019, tropical Cyclone Idai caused severe flooding throughout Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe resulting in at least 1,297 deaths, according to official figures from the respective governments.

Many African nations remain at the mercy of climate change-induced disasters including cyclones and famines due to weak early warning systems, low-budget disaster mitigation systems and poor infrastructure.

However, it is the rural communities particularly in Manicaland Province in Zimbabwe who are at the mercy of tropical cyclones, as shown by Cyclone Eline of 2000.

For Prof Chirisa, it was the disastrous Idai that reminded him how vulnerable the rural communities are in the face of ravaging effects of climate change. The disaster brought to the fore the challenges communities face, Prof Chirisa told the UFS university website.

Cyclone Idai: The aftermath

“In the aftermath of the 2019 disaster brought on by Cyclone Idai in the eastern part of Zimbabwe, I had a rude awakening to the terrifying effect of large weather events with unprecedented outcomes on rural settlements,” he said.

“I examine many aspects of rural vulnerability in my thesis, titled: Infusing Disaster Resilience Thinking and Practice into Rural Settlement Planning, Development and Management in Zimbabwe, and explain why there must be a deliberate effort and thinking to address and change the situation for the betterment of rural settlements and communities.”

At the UFS, Prof Chirisa was supervised by renowned academic Prof Verna Nel, and the Head of the Department, Prof Maléne Campbell. Both showed extreme dedication to duty and work, the Zimbabwean academic revealed.

A bit about Prof Chirisa

Having produced over 120 peer-reviewed journal articles, 80 book chapters, and 20 edited books during his career thus far, Prof Chirisa feels he has finally done justice to his otherwise uninspiring upbringing in rural Zimbabwe.

Prof Chirisa holds a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Rural and Urban Planning (University of Zimbabwe), Masters in Rural & Urban Planning (University of Zimbabwe), Bachelors in Rural & Urban Planning Honours, (University of Zimbabwe); and a Post-graduate Diploma (Land Management Informal Settlements Regularisation, IHS, The Netherlands),among others.

His first PhD thesis was titled: Housing and Stewardship in Peri-urban Settlements in Zimbabwe: A Case Study of Ruwa and Epworth.

The 2012 thesis examines the housing-stewardship nexus in peri-urban areas based on the case study of Ruwa and Epworth, satellite settlements of Harare, the capital city of Zimbabwe.

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