ARUA-CD researcher, Cornelius Okello, has been awarded the National Geographic Society Level II research grant. Level II Grants are extremely competitive and reserved for select projects that push the boundaries to achieve significant and tangible impact in a field. Grantees are further encouraged to provide mentorship within the Explorer community, contribute their expertise, and participate in relevant speaking engagements upon request.

Cornelius aims to use this grant to continue his research on coastal freshwater systems on Lamu Island, Kenya, specifically using the grant to help fund additional fieldwork. Additionally, the grant will be used to help fund some of the MSc fieldwork working in a similar area, helping students who can’t afford to complete their degrees and support early career researchers.

Currently Dr Okello has completed this first stage of his fieldwork which was combined with fieldwork aimed at gathering information for an upcoming documentary on Lamu Island.

“It was encouraging to see that people who still had access to freshwater were still cognisant of the problem, and would often help their neighbours who don’t have access by sinking ‘communal’ wells. There is a real sense of community,” states Cornelius.

Cornelius aims to continue his fieldwork over the next few years, with three or four trips planned to gather the data needed for the project.

Cornelius Okello travelling to his fieldwork sites, Kenya (Source: Cornelius Okello)

“This first stage of fieldwork has made the project feel more important than when I started,” explains Cornelius, “being in the field you can clearly see an important dichotomy in water accessibility. The huge range in accessible water over a couple meters is dramatic. It will be very interesting to see if this dichotomy is reflected in the statistics.”