Tanzania Alumna Wins Forum on Education Abroad’s Undergraduate Research Award

Shavonne in Zanzibar

Shavonne in Zanzibar

SIT Study Abroad congratulates Shavonne Stanek, alumna of SIT’s Tanzania-Zanzibar: Coastal Ecology and Natural Resource Management program, for being awarded The Forum on Education Abroad’s 2015 Undergraduate Research Award. Shavonne was nominated by her home institution, Oberlin College, for her Independent Study Project “The Pelagic Artisanal Fishing of Mangapwani, Northern Unguja.”

Shavonne is the fifth SIT alumnus to win this award. In 2013, Madison Stevens of Franklin University Switzerland won the award for research on land conflict that she conducted on SIT’s Uganda: Post-Conflict Transformation program. Other alumni who have won the award for research they conducted on an SIT program are Beth Ann Saracco (University of Dayton) in 2009 for research in Chile, Demetri Blanas (Columbia University) in 2006 for research in Senegal, and Brian Hoyer (Middlebury College) in 2004 for research in Tanzania.

Helen Peeks, former academic director of SIT’s Zanzibar program, said of Shavonne, “In Zanzibar, it is often hard for foreign women to be accepted, especially in male dominated fields such as fishing, but Shavonne, with the help of her newly learned Swahili conversation skills, was able to communicate with fisherman and earn their respect. She will be remembered in the village for her use of Swahili, cultural sensitivity, and professional, academic approach.”

Shavonne told us a few things about her research and winning the award.

On her Independent Study Project:

This anthropological research conducted in Mangapwani, Zanzibar, assessed the current conditions of pelagic artisanal fishing in one village on the island of Zanzibar. The local fishing industry was assessed for sustainability and economic stability using interviews conducted in Swahili, observations at the landing sites, and governmental documents.

The goal of this research was to yield preliminary data on the status of this particular village, which is also home to a large sardine drying industry. The data from this particular village would hopefully be used to help show trends and push the government to start trying to regulate the industry with a more intense eye.

I owe my advisor a huge thank you because it was her who told me that this would be an interesting topic to research because there was very little research before this, especially in relation to the sardine drying industry.

On her findings:

Throughout the research I learned about the complex relationship between the fishermen and the fish, and the struggles the fishermen face to try and provide for their families. Through the research a trend emerged, that over the past 30 years the amount of fishermen per landing site has increased tremendously, leading to more fishermen trying to fish the same amount of fish, which means those fishermen would have to exert more effort by either fishing for longer amounts of time or traveling farther distances away to find fish than they use to. This increase in fishermen is due to a large population, an increase in tourism, and increase in price for fish.

On winning the Undergraduate Research Award:

This award is affirmation that my research was important and that this is something we should care about. To me personally it gives me the opportunity to present my research at a larger forum and meet people who are also interested in my topic.

On what’s next for her:

My plans for the future will be related to resource management. I am interested mostly in water availability and making sure that everyone has clean drinking water.

Shavonne will present her research at a plenary session at The Forum’s 12th Annual Conference to be held in Atlanta in April 2016.

Learn more about SIT’s program in Zanzibar.

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