The OAD has funded more than 200 projects since 2012. Due to the nature of these projects and their small scale, it is difficult to conduct thorough assessments or evaluations in all cases. We present here examples of the impact of astronomy on development in the form of a few Case Studies from the activities funded and coordinated by the office.
Astrostays: A Community-centred Astro-tourism Model for Creating Sustainable Livelihoods
The Astrostays model of Astro-tourism aims to achieve sustainable development in remote and rural communities by leveraging astronomy and tourism in conjunction with other elements. In 2019, a pilot project was run in the northern India state of Ladakh where villagers from a remote mountainous community were trained on basic astronomy and telescope operation. They were then assisted to setup homestays in a portion of their house as well as trained on hospitality, book keeping, and other aspects required to host tourists. Potential visitors could book one of the homestays online, experience local tradition and culture by staying within the community, as well as partake in the stargazing sessions at night run by the villagers. The project generated a big boost in income for the community, creating a total revenue of 5200 USD and engaging more than 600 tourists during the first 4 months of operation.
In addition to direct income, the project benefitted the community in other ways, leading to a holistic impact.
- Women empowerment: project participants were majority women (since the men in the villages are typically away for work), thus improving employability and employment of women.
- Sustainable tourism: homes of the villagers were converted to homestays which tourists could book online and spend the night in. Staying with a local makes for an experiential holiday as well as promotes cultural exchange. The village itself runs on solar-based microgrid installed by our project partner Global Himalayan Expedition. So the travelers stay is also climate-friendly.
- Revenue generated has been invested back into community and local infrastructure projects such as solar heating and greenhouses.
- Scientific temper: exposure to astronomy and the training slowly led to increased scientific temper and interest in science among the youth, even those not directly involved in the project
Astrostays is a project of the OAD Flagship ‘Sustainable, local socio-economic development through Astronomy’
Impact of Astronomical Facilities on Local Development – Perspectives from Sutherland
Astronomy has played an important role in shaping our understanding of the universe and ourplace in it, especially since our identity as the human race is in one way or another tied to the stars. In recent times, the role of astronomy in socio-economic development on the home base(Earth) has been brought into the spotlight, leading to the establishment of the Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD) of the International Astronomical Union (IAU). Put simply, the OAD’s mandate is to work on translating astronomy into development related outcomes, guided by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The OAD strives to promote the attainment of various SDGs through participating in and funding different activities. Based on anassessment of past project lessons, experience, international consultations and trends, the OAD identified “flagship projects” that would be driven from the office itself. “Sustainable Local Socio-Economic Development Through Astronomy” is one of two main flagship projects that the OAD is currently seized with driving into the foreseeable future. This theme seeks to harness the potential of astronomical facilities (such as observatories) to stimulate local socio-economic development, mainly through astro-tourism. To achieve that, it is important to understand development from the perspective of the community. Hence a diverse team of OAD fellows visited Sutherland [a town in Northern Cape, South Africa that hosts the Southern Africa LargeTelescope (SALT)] in June 2019 to seek some community perspectives and to also qualitatively assess the impact of the SALT telescope and the Sutherland Observatory in general on local socio-economic development. After a series of interviews with different stakeholders of the Sutherland community, we note overall that the populations are either satisfied with, or have neutral opinions about the presence of the observatory and its outreach activities. The study reveals that although the SAAO has positively impacted local socio-economic development in the town of Sutherland through creation of jobs and its diverse outreach activities, many challenges such as unemployment and school dropout still face the local communities. We propose different ways in which the observatory can further use astronomy to leverage socio-economic development in Sutherland, and improve its relations with the localcommunities.
A Pilot Project to Evaluate the Effect of the ‘Pale Blue Dot’ Hypothesis
The One World Experiment was carried out as a pilot effort in Cape Town, South Africa, to test whether exposure to anastronomy intervention affects empathy and altruism in children. The intervention focused on introducing children to knowledgearound the Earth’s position in the Universe and collecting data to assess the effect. This paper presents the projectbackground as well as the methodology and results from the project’s first phase, designed to understand the possibledifference in empathetic response between a child and other “ingroup” and “outgroup” children; for any child, an ‘ingroup’child is one belonging to their own social group (in this case, nationality), and an ‘outgroup’ child is one belonging to asocial group other than their own. It is found that the students across the study have a strong cohesion to those of the same nationality but that there is no nationality bias in their feelings towards how other children share their joy with them.
The OAD Flagship ‘Science diplomacy through Astronomy: Celebrating our Common Humanity’ is based on this idea.
Astronomy as a Tool for Peace and Diplomacy: Experiences from the Columba-Hypatia Project
Science, and astronomy in particular, can be used for the benefit of society and for achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In this article we present the Columba-Hypatia project, a flagship Astronomy-for-Peace project, whose goal is to use the vision of the cosmos that astronomy imparts us with, to promote peace and diplomacy in post-conflict regions (SDG 16: Peace Justice and Strong Institutions) while also empowering women to be leaders in STEM and in the peace-building process (SDG 5: Gender Equality). The project is a joint endeavour by GalileoMobile and the Association for Historical Dialogue and Research (AHDR) that takes place on the divided island of Cyprus. Columba Hypatia brings together children and educators from the separated communities of Cyprus to inspire them to be curious about science, while using astronomy as a tool for promoting meaningful communication, a feeling of global citizenship and a Culture of Peace and Non-violence. The report describes the successes and challenges faced by the project in order to serve as an example of implementing Astronomy-for-Peace projects in other post-conflict regions.
Under the same sky with Amanar
Due to its technological, scientific and cultural dimensions, astronomy is a unique discipline to help achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are currently nearly 30 million refugees in the world. While there are many (and very necessary)programmes supporting their basic needs, different indicators suggest that the resolution to refugee and internal displacement situations require not only humanitarian interventions, but also development-led actions. One of these initiatives is Amanar: Under the Same Sky, a project designed to support the Sahrawi refugee community by using astronomy to enhance their resilience and engagement in the community, through skill development and self-empowerment activities.
AstroBVI Astronomy for BVI (Blind Visually Impaired) communities in Latin America
The AstroBVI project aimed to make astronomy in general, and galaxies in particular, more accessible to children with visual impairments. The project created and distributed educational kits composed of tactile 3D maps of galaxies accompanied by a manual and multimedia material to educators working with BVI students and/or science outreach coordinators who want to do more inclusive Astronomy. They trained selected teachers on Astronomy and on working with BVI community. The kit, audio guide, video manual can be downloaded freely.read paper (arXiv) download materials