Yemi collaborates with Natura Foundation Bolivia to explore the issues of participation, knowledge production, and the roles different actors play in the development of an indigenous-driven environmental intervention in Bolivia. His research seeks to provide policy-relevant insights into how society, scientists, and policy-makers could collaborate in developing effective environmental interventions. Yemi will speak about his research on April 12 at (Re)searching for Social Justice.

Research Description

My research deepens understanding about the emerging Joint Mitigation and Adaptation Mechanism (JMAM) – an alternative REDD+ program in Bolivia and its potential to achieve the dual goal of forest conservation and livelihood sustenance for forest-dependent communities. Within this context, I investigate how different forms of knowledge are produced, negotiated and used in building institutions and instruments for JMAM. In so doing, my research sheds light on the nature and extent of indigenous communities’ participation, the inclusion of local knowledge, and the strategies various actors use to assert the relevance of different knowledge. Ultimately, my research furthers understandings of the characterization of sociopolitical landscapes that enable the emergence of alternative REDD+ initiatives. This study provides insight into how project proponents, society and policy makers could develop joint management actions, thereby shaping how environmental interventions are conceptualized. This I hope, will support a plurality of values and knowledge, without marginalizing indigenous communities.

What does being a Public Scholar mean to you?

To me, being a public scholar means contributing to a larger community, and seeking roles that span beyond academia. As a Public Scholar, I expand research boundaries and the realms at which research results ‘matter’. Conceptualizing research studies has to make sense, not just to the academic community, but also to the lay community, organizations, and policy makers.

In what ways do you think the PhD experience can be re-imagined with the Public Scholars Initiative?

I see the PSI as a program that has come to save PhD students from some prevailing academic status quos, such as the way research are done and the popular notion that PhD degree holders are trained only to be professors. Conducting research, with PSI has to be impact-oriented beyond doing a ground breaking research and publishing the result. Impactful engagement with a larger community/organization is an important element that PSI brings into a PhD experience. And the experiences that result from collaborating with communities and or organizations are invaluable to transitioning into a more diverse career choices after graduation.

How do you envision connecting your PhD work with broader career possibilities?

My PhD work stems out of the experiences I garnered in my previous careers with a government ministry, a university, and an inter-governmental organization (United Nations). The experiences I acquired signalled issues related to community engagement and multi-stakeholder cooperation as important elements for resources governance. This is why my research focus on these issues. My PhD work will help me acquire more understanding about how to foster cooperation between multiple actors for the development of joint management actions and environmental interventions. With this PhD degree, my employability in both academic and non-academic careers is enhanced and I look forward to being a knowledge broker and a researcher in the interface of science and policy – working in environmental consulting, community animation, project and concept development with government and inter-governmental organizations/research institutes/NGOs.

How does your research engage with the larger community and social partners?

Conducting my research relies on establishing strong relationships with Indigenous communities in Bolivia, and collaborating with Natura Foundation Bolivia. This will afford me the opportunity to be embedded in the interactions between the multiple actors that are at the centre of my research issues – communities, the state, and NGOs. As a result, I am better able to function in organizational settings that seek to reconcile plural knowledge and foster multi-stakeholders partnership.This also develops my capacity as a scholar, researcher, and professional who can effectively function in both research and organizational roles.

How do you hope your work can make a contribution to the “public good”?

My research will bring together indigenous communities, an NGO and a United Nations specialized agency, through their shared interests and under the framework of my PhD study. This will create an avenue for social learning and interactions between these actors about their shared interests and how these intersects with the emerging JMAM initiatives. The Collaborative Learning Forums (CLFs) and Participatory Video Documentary which is proposed as part of my PhD work are innovative scholarships that harness shared learning, knowledge co-creation and help marginalized groups to engage in public policy discussions and take action concerning social issues that impact their lives. Moreover, the video documentary will contribute significantly to the goals of environmental movements of indigenous communities via its outreach roles.

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

Learning more translates into knowing more. I want to gain a deeper understanding in my field so I can be a better professional and a researcher. My MSc degrees from Bangor University, Wales and the University of Copenhagen, Denmark are foundational for this pursuit. My PhD program lets me take my skills a step further, enabling me to become an expert in my research niche.

Why did you choose to come to British Columbia and study at UBC?

UBC is a world-class institution and the Faculty of Forestry is perhaps the best forestry faculty in the world. So it was easy to make the decision to study here. Even though I often make my decisions based on answers to ‘what’ rather than ‘where', the answers to both ‘what’ and ‘where’ in this case were just delightful! I also get to live in Vancouver – one of the best cities in the world!


As a Public Scholar, I expand research boundaries and the realms where research results ‘matter’.