Climate change and sanitation experts and early career scientists working in Africa are meeting in Accra to discuss their research works with the aim of coming up with antidotes to water insecurity, climate change, flooding and sanitation issues confronting Ghana and other parts of the continent.
It is the first regional conference and school to be held in West Africa that is dedicated to discussing water, climate change and environmental sanitation.
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The meeting will particularly focus on the perennial challenges facing Ghana with regard to water shortage and sanitation.
The four-day conference and school is on the theme: “Responding to the challenges of climate change, water security and environmental sanitation: Role of early career scientists in the 21st century.”
The first two days of the conference are dedicated to Ph.D students, post-doctoral graduates and junior lecturers or researchers less than 40 years of age to make presentations on their research findings on the conference’s thematic areas — climate change, climatic systems, resilient WASH systems, integrated water resource management, hydrology, hydrogeology, water security, vulnerability and early warning systems.
Poverty and technology gaps
The event is jointly organised by the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences and the World Bank.
Speaking at the opening, the Deputy Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Ms Patricia Appiagyei, observed that the continent’s poverty gap was one of technology gap.
She encouraged young scientists on the continent to devise innovative ways of dealing with the challenges confronting the continent.
Having recognised the importance of science and technology, she said, Ghana had reviewed its school curricular to allow schoolchildren to embrace science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Research indicates that climate change will increase in intensity with time and result in drought and water shortage, which will negatively affect agriculture and sanitation. There will also be flooding that will disturb human and animal habitats.
The deputy minister said, “As a continent, we need to contend with these challenges in order for us to develop and enhance the living conditions of our citizens.”
“This is where you, as young scientists, are needed to help bridge the knowledge gap and build the capacity of our continent.
“We believe in you, and that is why we are supporting this programme. This forum, therefore, gives you the opportunity to hone your skills and build a peer network for your careers,” she stated.
She said as part of measures to provide more resources for the country’s scientific institutions and make them more innovative to meet their needs, the government had increased funding allocation to scientific research institutions from 0.25 per cent to one per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).
Ghana’s GDP in 2016 was $42.69 billion.
The Centre Leader of the Regional Water and Environmental Sanitation Centre in Kumasi, a facility managed by the KNUST, Prof. Samuel Nii Odai, noted that many countries in other continents of the world had shown that knowledge was critical in overcoming debilitating challenges, including low access to quality water and good sanitation and the complex effect of climate change.
He said understanding the challenges and developing appropriate antidotes to them were key.
“Higher education thus plays a key role in helping to understand such challenges and formulating appropriate solutions,” he said.
The President of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences, Prof. Aba Bentil Andam, called for close collaboration among young scientists across the continent as they worked to find long-lasting solutions to the many challenges confronting Africa.