February seminar: The role of information in climate change adaptation in rural Africa

We were excited to welcome Dr Chris Paterson (Media and Communications, University of Leeds) and Dr Lata Narayanaswamy (POLIS, University of Leeds) to lead our February seminar, hosted jointly with fellow GCRF programme  AFRICAP  and the Leeds University Centre for African Studies (LUCAS).

Focusing on work funded by the university’s quality-related Global Challenges Research Fund allocation, Drs Paterson and Narayanaswamy presented research conducted by a wider team in Kenya and the UK with two key objectives:

  • to explore how to provide nuanced understandings of how the local information ecosystem in rural Kenyan communities operates
  • to understand its effects on women’s ability to combine indigenous and externally-sourced knowledge in climate change adaptation

Using a multi-site quasi-ethnographic approach, the research was conducted in two rural communities in Kenya – Makueni and Kisumu – and used interview and observation techniques to understand how and why women are able to access as well as influence knowledge processes and information dissemination related to climate change adaptation. The research revealed that a range of communications channels are used with a preference for radio and mobile phones, though the information – particularly on weather and alternative seed varieties – it not always accessible in a timely manner. In addition, while many women are knowledgeable on climate change adaptation, their agency is limited by their wide-ranging community roles that go beyond agriculture. Suggestions emerging from the project to address these challenges include more informational and material resources to facilitate climate change adaptation and a ‘listening infrastructure’ to allow grassroots communities to feed up to decision- and policy-makers on their needs and experiences. The research team will be conducting a follow-up study during 2020 to include both Kenya and Ghana.

As well as staff and students at the University of Leeds, we were delighted to be joined by over 20 remote participants from a range of countries, including Kenya, Nigeria and Niger. For those who weren’t able to make it, the recording and slides are now available.

Desert Locust Swarms – East Africa

East Africa is currently experiencing its worst outbreak of locusts in decades, with large swarms spreading south across 14 Kenyan counties. A multi-institutional technical team, comprising of members from more than 18 Kenyan and international agencies, has recently been formed to discuss management of the current locust situation in Kenya. David Koros, from the Kenya Meteorological Department and an African-SWIFT partner, participated in the multi-agency team meeting on the 27th January 2020 in Nairobi. David’s role was to provide weather analysis and forecast information, crucial for decision-making. Analysis of past weather events, especially the October-December (OND) rainfall amounts, soil moisture, temperature, wind direction and speed, is vital for projecting locust migration and for control of the pest. Weather and climate forecasts also help in mapping the likely locust future migratory route. David states that the weather information provided has been praised due to its improved level of accuracy, providing confidence for decision makers and users. David attributes this improved accuracy to the techniques, training, as well as the sharing of ideas and skills, during testbeds and other African-SWIFT events.
Desert_Locusts_KMD_Jan2020
MULTI-AGENCY TEAM MEETING ON DESERT LOCUST SITUATION AND CONTROL IN KENYA _28.1.20 b(1)

JOIN US: New GCRF African SWIFT knowledge-sharing seminar

Photo by Ian Macharia on Unsplash
Photo by Ian Macharia on Unsplash

We are pleased to welcome you to this rescheduled GCRF African SWIFT knowledge-sharing seminar organised jointly with GCRF-AFRICAP and in collaboration with Leeds University Centre for African Studies (LUCAS):

The role of information in climate change adaptation in rural Africa: Pilot research in two communities in rural Kenya

This collaboration between UK and Kenyan researchers seeks to use a multi-site, quasi-ethnographic approach to develop nuanced understandings of how the local information ecosystem operates in rural Kenyan communities, and the resultant effects on local women’s ability to combine indigenous and externally-sourced knowledge in their engagement with, and pursuit of, climate change adaptation activities.

When: 10 February 2020 13:00-14:30 London (UTC+00:00).

Location: Worsley Seminar Room 8.34a or via webinar. Please register for the event here 

Guest speakers

Dr Lata Narayanaswamy

Lecturer in International Development @School of Politics and International Studies, University of Leeds

Dr Lata Narayanaswamy is Lecturer in International Development in the School of Politics and International Studies (POLIS) and Co-Deputy Director, Centre for Global Development (CGD) at the University of Leeds. Since 2001 Lata has worked as a research practitioner, consultant and now lecturer in international development. Her most recent book, Gender, Power and Knowledge-for-Development, raises questions about the essential utility of the knowledge paradigm and its underpinning presumption: that a knowledge deficit exists in the global South, particularly for marginalized women, which may be addressed by improving the supply-side of knowledge without accounting for the specific needs of the knowledge systems being targeted for support.

Dr Chris Paterson

Senior Lecturer in International Communication @School of Media and Communication, University of Leeds

Dr Chris Paterson, Senior Lecturer in International Communication at the University of Leeds’ School of Media and Communication researches global journalism, media and development in Africa. He led the 2019 GCRF funded pilot research on climate change communication in Kenya, upon which this seminar is focused. His recent GCRF project, Aid and Journalism, examined how development aid from foreign powers influences media systems in Africa. Chris is the author of two books and numerous journal articles, and recently co-edited Africa’s Media Image in the 21st Century: From the ‘Heart of Darkness’ to ‘Africa Rising’.

 

 

The Ghanaian users’ policy brief is ready!

The Ghanaian users’ policy brief presents the main key lessons learned from the first national workshop on the needs of users “How to support users’ understanding and use of climate and weather services in Ghana” hold in Accra on 8th – 9th November 2018.

The workshop focused on:

  • Identifying key meteorological hazards for different sectors.
  • Exploring the potential for Impact Based Forecasting in Ghana.
  • User-evaluation of current forecast provision with national and regional decision makers.
  • Exploring how the communication of forecast products and tools could be improved.

The policy brief presents the key lessons obtained from the discussions on the above topics grouping them under five themes: i) Impact Based Forecasting, ii) accessibility, iii) communication, iv) public and private collaboration, and v) scientific development. It also presents a series of next steps on how African SWIFT and its partners can address the weather and climate needs for Ghana users.

Download the Policy brief here

An African perspective on climate change

There are only a handful of African scholars conducting world-class research in meteorology and climate change – and Dr Benjamin Lamptey is one of them. As a contributor to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), his international reputation is well-established. His move to Leeds as a Cheney Fellow has given the University a highly-respected African voice on climate change and weather, while giving Dr Lamptey time and space to develop his own research.

Dr Benjamin Lamptey

Douglas Parker, Met Office Professor of Meteorology at the University, has known Dr Lamptey for many years, but their first close collaboration was through the African SWIFT project, a Leeds-led research programme to improve weather forecasts in Africa, funded through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). Dr Lamptey, then Acting Director General of the African Centre of Meteorological Applications for Development, was the Africa lead researcher for African SWIFT, before becoming a Cheney Fellow in February 2019.

Professor Parker believes the move to Leeds, which has been noted in international circles, has had a positive impact on the University’s reputation for research in the field of meteorology. The influence and connections that Dr Lamptey has within Africa is also having a positive impact on African SWIFT – and for other Leeds GCRF-funded projects that involve research linked to climate change, weather forecasting and land use in Africa.

Providing leadership

With large international projects such as African SWIFT, leading a team of 80-100 people to work effectively together can be very hard, especially across geographical and cultural differences. Dr Lamptey, first as lead researcher for Africa, and then – following his move to Leeds – working side by side with co-lead scientist Professor Parker, has helped to overcome these challenges.

“Ben brings his vision and understanding of the African context, to improve delivery on the ground with our local partners and his engagement and leadership have been invaluable,” says Professor Parker. “Being able to work alongside him in Leeds has helped us move things forward so much faster. Ben is also leading a pilot project in Ghana, looking at how to deliver reliable weather forecasting to farmers, ensuring the models we’re developing can reach the people who need to benefit from them.”

The Cheney Fellowship is also allowing Dr Lamptey to apply his knowledge, expertise and connections to support another African-focused GCRF project based at Leeds – AFRICAP – which aims to make agriculture and food production in Sub-Saharan Africa more productive, sustainable and resilient to climate change.

Dr Lamptey explains. “I coordinated the Diets Impacts Migration Communication (DIMCool) group for a while, and chaired a DIMCool session during the AFRICAP International Workshop in Leeds. The aim was to see how their findings can be used from an African perspective and help them to communicate better with important stakeholders in Africa. Sometimes it’s very practical help: reading a document to see how I understand it, to ensure it’s presented in the right style and format for an African to engage with.”

Making connections

Dr Lamptey is also helping the University to leverage the network created through African SWIFT and another GCRF project called DARA – which provides training in radio astronomy, to help develop a scientific base in this discipline in Africa. The telescopes used for radio astronomy share their engineering and data-processing techniques with the radars used for weather forecasting. Both systems – radio telescopes and weather radars – demand very high levels of technical know-how to keep them operating, with similar skill sets. Dr Lamptey is helping to connect the African meteorology community in Africa with the continent’s fledgling astronomy community. The initial aim is to form a cluster of scientific expertise in Ghana to enable the country to maintain its radio telescope and radar which will provide warnings of severe rainfall.

As well as adding value to Leeds-led research, the Cheney Fellowship has also given Dr Lamptey something important – the time and space to work on his own research.

Ensuring informed decisions

A key project he has now completed looked at the potential for solar energy generation in West Africa. Dr Lamptey used climate models to look at four cities in Niger and Mali, to identify which have the most potential to generate solar energy and assess how climate change would affect that potential.

Panel discussion during Dr Lamptey public lecture

While at Leeds, he has also been overseeing the validation of two seasonal forecasting systems, in use in other parts of the world, to determine how well they perform across the African continent. The aim is to see where within Africa each one works best in providing accurate seasonal predictions, complementing African SWIFT which focuses on short-term weather forecasting.

Dr Lamptey is passionate about the need for strong science to underpin African decision-making on climate change and this was the subject of his public lecture, conducted as part of his Cheney Fellowship.

“In Africa, we are already seeing more intense floods and droughts, but attributing this purely to climate change is complex,” he says. “Africa’s emissions are low, but changes in land use and land degradation also contribute to extreme weather events. We need the science to inform regional and national policies and strategies to reduce emissions and mitigate climate change. But we also need better infrastructure, particularly around weather forecasting, to help us understand when this extreme weather might occur and minimise their impacts on society, environment and the economy.”

About the Cheney Fellowship

The Cheney Fellowship is a fellowship programme established thanks to a generous donation of £2.5m made by Bacteriology and Biochemistry graduate Peter Cheney and his wife Susan to the University of Leeds. Thanks to the fellowship outstanding scholars, like Dr Benjamin Lamptey, from around the globe are able to move to Leeds and to develop their research at the University. More information about Peter and Susan Cheney Fellowship can be read here.

 

African SWIFT 2019 Round-up Newsletter is out!

Along 2019 the SWIFT team was very active and worked very hard with its partners to achieve the project aims. In order to share all the activities and news with SWIFT stakeholders, we prepared a Round-up Newsletter with a compilation of the most relevant actions and events implemented during 2019. It also has a section with interesting publications generated by the project and a couple of inspiring interviews with SWIFT female scientists from Sub-Saharan Africa.

The newsletter can be accessed here.

 

Heavy Rainfall and Tropical Cyclones affect East Africa

Prepared by Caroline Wainwright, Declan Finney, John Marsham, David Koros, Linda Hirons

This year’s short rains over East Africa have been extremely wet, with some regions receiving more than double their usual rainfall. This has led to a constant stream of news stories on heavy rainfall, floods and landslides from Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Somalia and South Sudan, with the regional snapshot from OCHA (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) suggesting that over 2.8 million people have been affected. Further to this, last week there were 4 tropical cyclones located in the Indian Ocean, which further exacerbated the heavy rainfall over parts of East Africa. The SWIFT project is working to build capacity for forecasting such events, so that communities can be better prepared for weather extremes.

Recent floods in East Africa.

Cyclone Pawan made landfall over Somalia on Saturday 7th December, marking the highest number of cyclones in a single year in the North Indian Ocean since 1976 (8 cyclones this year). While it had weakened as it passed over the northern tip of Somalia it led to substantial impacts; rainfall totals exceeded 75mm1,2, heavy rain and high winds destroyed 50 homes2, and vehicles were swept away3, in a country where half a million have already been affected by flooding this year4.

Two days later, on Monday 9th December, Cyclone Belna made landfall over Madagascar, with maximum wind speeds of 165 km/h and risks of flooding. The Red Cross estimated that 260,000 people were at risk5. Thus far, nine people are reported to have died, and more than 1400 displaced6. Concurrently a third cyclone, Ambali, was located in the Indian Ocean, although it didn’t interact with any populated regions.

In addition to bringing heavy rainfall and strong winds to the regions where they make landfall, tropical cyclones also affect the weather in other regions. Cyclones don’t form within 5⁰ of the equator, so cannot hit Kenya directly, but the weather in Kenya is strongly impacted by the presence of cyclones in the Indian Ocean. However, the interaction is complex; Cyclone Idai in March 2019 coincided with a delayed onset of the rainy season and lower rainfall over Kenya, while Cyclones Dumazile and Eliakim in March 2018 were associated with enhanced rainfall. Recent work has indicated the location of the cyclones as a key factor in these effects7. Cyclones to the east of Madagascar (including Belna) seem, on average, to lead to equatorial westerly winds and enhanced rainfall.

Infra-Red satellite image indicating location of Belna cyclone and wind flow over East Africa left panel and its trajectory at the right panel.

The figure on the right shows that the meridional (north-south) branch of the rain-bearing InterTropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ, dotted black lines) is currently over Eastern Africa. The moisture-bearing winds at medium level (green lines) converged with warm moist airmasses (associated with the warm sea surface temperatures) from the western Indian Ocean and Lake Victoria, which led to an increase in the energy available for storm formation and acted to concentrate convective systems toward southern Kenya. The southward trajectory of Tropical Cyclone Belna (shown in the right panel) deepened to a central pressure of about 994 hPa, with winds of 60 knots (110 km/h), which led to deep convection and enhanced precipitation over Kenya.

KMD issued a press release on the cyclone, stating that it would not hit Kenya, but would create favourable conditions for heavy rainfall over southern Kenya, and 5 counties were “put on alert”8,9. New stories suggest that roads were cut off and a restaurant was flooded9.

The present conditions in the Indian Ocean are favourable for cyclone formation because sea surface temperatures in the western Indian Ocean are particularly warm, as the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) has entered an unusually strong positive phase10, which has contributed to the heavy rainfall during the short rains, and damaging impacts across the region.

Indian Ocean Dipole. Source: bit.ly/2RPjD0c

In addition to warm sea surface temperatures, a sub-seasonal tropical atmospheric phenomena within the atmosphere which enhances convective activity, called the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO), has been active over Africa and the Indian Ocean at times over the past few months. In certain phases, the MJO can enhance rainfall over East Africa and increase the chance of cyclone formation and intensification over the Indian Ocean11,12. Other tropical waves, originating from convection in the central Indian Ocean may have contributed to the recent cyclone formation.

Thus far during the 2019 short rains, there have been 11 cases of severe weather predicted by Kenya Met Department (KMD), 1-2 days before the start of the events. Advisories/warnings were issued and disseminated to the disaster risk management authorities and other users for mitigation against adverse effects.

Advisory from KMD issued during the 2019 short rains.

David Koros, from KMD commented that SWIFT testbeds have led to improved predictability skills for such events. He also noted “the high consumption of the weather information” by users, and collection of user feedback, implemented as part of the SWIFT user engagement package, including verification and validation of warnings issued, suggested that forecasts have “tremendously improved”.

The SWIFT project aims to deliver a step change in African weather forecasting capability to improve the forecasts for such extreme seasons as this year’s East African short rains, and high impact events such as the tropical cyclones. Recently, the SWIFT project held a testbed event in Kenya, bringing together forecasters, researchers and forecast users to co-explore the reliability of forecast information on the 1-4 week timescales to aid decision-making.

SWIFT aims to pull such developments of weather prediction to selected users in its testbed, demonstrating the value of improved forecasting to decision making on the ground. This will provide evidence to support mainstreaming of SWIFT research into operational practise across the SWIFT partner countries, and ultimately across other nations of Africa and in the wider tropics.

Another important activity of the SWIFT team is the preparation of reports on severe weather events, for example, on Cyclone Idai or on heavy rains in Kenya. These reports are available on our website here.

References

  1. https://www.accuweather.com/en/hurricane/trio-of-tropical-threats-steadily-developing-in-the-arabian-sea/639409
  2. http://floodlist.com/africa/somalia-tropical-cyclone-pawan-december-2019
  3. https://twitter.com/MoradNews/status/1203214914665492480
  4. http://floodlist.com/africa/somalia-floods-november-2019
  5. https://reliefweb.int/report/madagascar/madagascar-red-cross-teams-alert-ahead-cyclone-belna-s-arrival
  6. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/12/deadly-cyclone-belna-landfall-northwestern-madagascar-191211092755338.html
  7. https://rmets.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/qj.3698
  8. https://twitter.com/MeteoKenya/status/1204042649470218240
  9. https://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2019-12-10-five-counties-put-on-alert-after-monster-cyclone-lands/
  10. https://www.severe-weather.eu/news/unusually-strong-indian-ocean-dipole-australia-europe-fa/
  11. https://rmets.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/met.1475
  12. https://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/full/10.1175/JCLI-D-13-00483.1

 

Master of Science Students at the University of Rwanda Trained on Nowcasting Tool: NWCSAF

Between 19th August and 4th September 2019 African SWIFT Postdoc Researcher, Bethwel Kipkoech Mutai, was invited to teach the Weather Systems module, as part of the MSc. Atmospheric and Climate Science programme at the College of Science and Technology at the University of Rwanda in Kigali. Through structured regional and international collaborations, the University of Nairobi is one of the institutions that contribute in supplying visiting lecturers and supporting research activities.

Having met the prerequisite course requirements, the twelve students from diverse training backgrounds and with substantial knowledge in Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry, were trained on the application of the nowcasting tool NWCSAF to predict tropical weather on very short timescales in Rwanda.

As part of the course work assessment strategy, Bethwel Kipkoech Mutai, prepared a practical on the use and evaluation of nowcast tool (NWCSAF) in hindcast mode for nowcasting of storm movement, growth, decay etc. against (i) satellite data (ii) surface weather over Rwanda.

Students of the MSc. Atmospheric and Climate Science programme.

Provided with satellite images of five parameters taken at 3-hour interval (i.e., at 0400Z, 0700Z and 1000z) the students had to prepare a 6-hour nowcast i.e., the state of the atmosphere from noon onwards and they were required to arrive at the nowcast based on a group-consensus.  The exercise also included the evaluation of other group’s nowcast against what was observed on that day (Rwanda Met/NWC-SAF).

Having benefited himself from the two SWIFT testbeds organized in Nairobi in January and April 2019, this was a good opportunity for Bethwel Kipkoech Mutai to help build capacity on potential future forecast users and providers and a step towards SWIFT objective to embed research results into operational practice.

Aimed at developing sustainable African weather forecasting capability, the Nowcasting work package of the GCRF African SWIFT project investigates nowcasting techniques and the development of systems that can be used by meteorological agencies in Africa to predict high impact weather on very short timescales (0-6 hours). As part of the African SWIFT activities NWCSAF SEVIRI nowcasting products, originally developed for Europe, are being made available for tropical Africa.

SWIFT female scientists: Jemimah Gacheru-Ongoma interview

As part of African SWIFT actions to promote female participation and gender balance in its activities, and to attract more women in the fields of science and meteorology in general, we asked some of SWIFT African female scientists to reflect on their experiences of working in this field, including any barriers that they might face, and tell us their career development stories.

In this post we share the interview with Jemimah Gacheru-Ongoma from Kenya. Jemimah is a researcher at the Kenya Meteorological Department and is a member of SWIFT Work Package R5, working with synoptic methods and Work Package C1, promoting operational training and university programmes in Africa.  Jemimah answered questions related to their motivation to start a career in meteorology, their opinions about the state of meteorological research in Africa, the main barriers for women in forging scientific professional careers in sub-Saharan Africa and in Kenya, and how programmes like African SWIFT can help other women in the scientific world.

             Jemimah Gacheru-Ongoma

1. How & why did you get into this career?

I stumbled upon meteorology by accident. I had been admitted into an under-graduate course that I did not like so I walked into the Admissions Office at University of Nairobi and requested for a list of all the courses that they were offering. Being very picky about the campus that I wanted to attend I wasn’t exactly spoilt for choice when it came to courses to pursue. So my criteria became the class size. Meteorology had the smallest class on the list, so meteorology it was. I walked into my first lesson a month later than everyone else, terrified at the prospect of 6 units of Math and Physics; but one lesson of Introduction to Meteorology confirmed that I had made the right choice.

2. How would you describe the state of meteorological research and advancements in Africa?

Africa is still lagging behind in research. Only a handful of meteorologists can boast of having published papers or undertaken any form of research. This is probably due to the fact that many meteorological institutions lack the funding to carry out research. In other instances meteorologists may not have the necessary skills to come up with advancements in their field.

3. What do you think the main barriers are for women in forging scientific professional careers in sub-Saharan Africa?

 Cultural norms. Women (even those who are educated) are expected to pay more attention to raising families than to building their careers.
 Lack of funding to further their education.

4. What do you think the specific issues are in your home country for female scientists in advancing their careers?

 Cultural norms are an issue in Kenya. Women have to strike a difficult balance between career and family. They have to find ways to make enough money to convince sceptics that their careers matter. However, tough economic times are bringing somewhat good tidings to women as more men allow their wives to go back to school or spend more time at work in the hope that their wives will be able to put more food on the table.
 Lack of funding to further their education is also an issue.
 There may also be a lack of interest in research since some view it as difficult and time consuming. A lot needs to be done to create interest in research among female scientists.

5. How do you think programmes such as GCRF African SWIFT can help other women in a similar situation to yours?

It would be nice if programmes such as GCRF African SWIFT would allocate more funding to supporting women’s education especially at post-graduate levels. Such programmes could also finance short-courses that improve women’s research skills and motivate them to write and publish high-quality papers.
In focusing on women it is important that attention be paid to the duration of courses because the longer the duration, the less attractive the course becomes to women with families. Where course duration cannot be compromised, partnerships local universities/colleges should be sought. It is great to see that GCRF African SWIFT has made great effort to make its fellowship programme attractive to female scientists.

SWIFT female scientists: Marian Amoakowaah Osei interview

As part of African SWIFT actions to promote female participation and gender balance in its activities, and to attract more women in the fields of science and meteorology in general, we asked some of SWIFT African female scientists to reflect on their experiences of working in this field, including any barriers that they might face, and tell us their career development stories.

In this post we share the interview with Marian Amoakowaah Osei from Ghana. Marian is currently working at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) and is involved with SWIFT Work Packages (WP-R) 2, 3 and 4, related to forecast evaluation, satellite remote sensing and nowcasting, respectively.  Marian answered questions related to their motivation to start a career in meteorology, their opinions about the state of meteorological research in Africa, the main barriers for women in forging scientific professional careers in sub-Saharan Africa and in Ghana, and how programmes like African SWIFT can help other women in the scientific world.

                            Marian Amoakowaah Osei

1. How & why did you get into this career?

My journey into a career in the field of meteorology has been quite an interesting one. As a young child, growing up in the capital of Ghana (Accra), my father was determined to give me the best of education although financially, we were not well to do. He therefore enrolled me in a private, international school, which in Ghana are known to educate children better than those of the public schools. At the basic school (primary class four in the year 2000), I had my first encounter with the word “meteorology” from my teacher who was taking the class through a spelling bee. I was intrigued by this word and looked up the meaning and realised it had to do with weather.

At that instant, I thought to myself that becoming a meteorologist would be an exciting job for me in future. I was later told it would be difficult to obtain such a job in the country since there were no degree programmes that offered meteorology at the university level in Ghana. Although I was deterred by this revelation, I continued to enjoy looking up to the sky, and admiring clouds just for the fun of it. I remember spending most of my free time reading a textbook from the school library, “Focus on Science: Exploring the Physical World” by Frank J. Flanagan and enjoying especially the chapter on weather and physical interpretation to weather phenomena. Due to my interest in science, I undertook General Science at the senior high school level (in the year 2006 to 2009) and thought it would be best if I change my career path into medicine.

However, I observed at this level that my grades in physics were always better than biology and I enjoyed the former more than the latter. Fortunately, my dreams of becoming a medical doctor was crashed because my grade from the West African Secondary School Exams (WASSCE) were not good enough for admission into medical school. During my application to the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in 2009 for a bachelor’s degree, I observed through their list of accredited programmes, the introduction of the Meteorology and Climate Science course. I was over-joyed and it seemed that my dream of obtaining a career in meteorology was finally becoming a reality. I was admitted in 2010-2014 for the bachelor’s programme, 2015-2017 for a master’s degree and 2017 for a doctoral degree all in the field of Meteorology and Climate Science. Since this has been my passion from my childhood, I have never regretted this choice and I am excited to be part of the wonderful group of meteorologist both in academia, research and the Met. Operational centers. I feel so keen on increasing my knowledge in the field and improving my skills especially in forecasting at the operational centers to become one of the best for my country and the world at large.

2. How would you describe the state of meteorological research and advancements in Africa?

I believe there has been great strides made in recent years in meteorological research. Co-operation between the operational centers and academic institutions has served as learning grounds and knowing of research gaps that have been observed by the operational centers. On the other hand, research in the academic institutions has greatly improved due to the freely available access to datasets such as from model outputs, reanalysis or satellite estimates over regions in the continent which otherwise has no or sparse data network for meaningful studies into atmospheric events. Researchers are also being equipped with state-of-the-art research skills (most of which were obtained outside of the continent) which upon return to their respective African countries has contributed a lot in atmospheric research. Another aspect in this advancement is the availability of high performance computational facilities which although are few (South Africa and Ivory Coast; probably in other countries not mentioned) aid in faster processing of outputs from climate models. Collaborations between African meteorological scientists and international partners in joint undertaking of projects such as SWIFT, DACCIWA, AMMA and QWECI are also avenues which has helped to advance atmospheric research over the continent.

3. What do you think the main barriers are for women in forging scientific professional careers in sub-Saharan Africa?

Well though rigorous efforts are being made to empower women in science, it is still a male-dominated world. Most careers in science are still being linked to “a man’s job” more than “a woman is equally eligible to do it’s job”. For instance, a discipline like Physics and Engineering are mostly thought to be for men. The few women bold enough to venture into such disciplines may be looked down upon by the dominated males in the area. The women in science are not properly and adequately motivated by other women in the field. Some women are discouraged by peers and even family to take on lesser roles in science. To rise through positions in a particular field for women require an extra effort when the competition is against other males. In the nutshell, most barriers for women are the lack or inadequate motivation, discouragement, and lack of self-confidence to proudly stand firm and compete fairly in a scientific chosen field of career.

4. What do you think the specific issues are in your home country for female scientists in advancing their careers?

Inadequate female mentors to coach women in science for the various scientific disciplines. Lack of confidence in women to take up careers in science or scientific roles. Women in Ghana are not adequately motivated to fight for their scientific rights. One pitfall in the educational system in Ghana is the inability to tailor students towards scientific areas in which they have passion for. Most women find themselves in scientific disciplines in which they have absolutely no passion. For instance, there is a culture of children constantly being advised by parent and family when growing up to take up careers in medicine because it pays most in the country. Meanwhile the passion of the child might lie in chemistry or physics and not in any form of biological sciences. This ill-advice results in women in a situation of “square peg being fitted into round holes”; in careers they don’t enjoy.

Therefore it is important to educate parents in steering their children especially girls into taking careers which in science are towards their passion. This will help in empowering women in science instead of discouraging or being a barrier for them in pursuing scientific careers. Also, struggling in a male-dominated career, the courage and confidence of women in science competing with fellow men is usually translated to be arrogance on the part of the women by the men or society in general. There is also inadequate training of women to encourage them advance in their scientific disciplines. The crown of all barriers for women is the issue of marriage. Our culture somehow belittles women who are not married at a certain age, especially by 30 years. It has become the norm in Ghana that as a woman advances in her career especially in a scientific field, obtaining higher degrees, it becomes practically impossible to get a man to marry. This stereotyping of women who advance in science makes it increasingly unattractive for Ghanaian women to engage in science as they are scared of not being able to get a husband. Again, resulting issues from child birth implies most women have to stay home, or sacrifice the advancement of their education to care for a growing family, thereby struggling to balance career and family responsibilities. Finally, the issues of sexual harassment of women is also a challenge for women advancement in science and careers as a whole in Ghana.

5. How do you think programmes such as GCRF African SWIFT can help other women in a similar situation to yours?

Programmes like these foster close link and collaboration between female scientists who are under such projects. Women can be a source of strength to each other in dealing with both scientific and domestic issues. It gives opportunity for the women advanced in the field of the project to take on mentorship roles for junior ones and be an academic coach for them. These programmes also serve as fertile grounds for women to increase their knowledge in their scientific discipline in order to gain enough expertise to compete fairly with the male counter-parts. It also gives a sense of confidence to women of “not being alone” in the field as well as encourage each other into taking up more roles in science.

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