The College of Engineering (CoE) of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) has officially opened the West African Science Service Centre on Climate Change and Adapted Land Use (WASCAL).
The regional centre of excellence which was sponsored by the German Government was designed by Mrs. Harriet Eshun of the Development Office and constructed by Agyei Builders from Accra under the supervision of Professor Dzokoto Designing Services.
The Centre would provide opportunities for training and capacity building for the ten (10) West African countries participating in WASCAL.
The centre’s operation is based on the networking of universities from Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, the Republic of Benin, Senegal, Togo and the Gambia ably supported by German researchers.
The activities of the Centre will focus on building a critical mass of young scientists with the capacity to understand and solve climate and land use related problems. Speaking at the inauguration, Professor William Otoo Ellis, stated that globalisation has brought a myriad of challenges to human health, agriculture, the climate and land.
These challenges are seen in the areas of food production and processing, acidification of the ocean, the melting of glaciers which has resulted in a rise in sea levels with diverse effects of floods and other disasters such as tsunamis and many other negative impacts.
The impact of globalisation on the general environment of man and all living organisms on planet earth has been phenomenal and if appropriate measures are not put in place now, our very existence is under great threat. Prof Ellis stated that man’s activities had resulted in climate change which constituted a serious threat to humanity.
He said it was in view of this that WASCAL was providing support for graduate research programmes in climate change and adapted land use currently being run in KNUST. The programme would focus on capacity building at the PhD level to help develop the knowledge necessary for sustainable development.
Professor Samuel Nii Odai, Pro Vice-Chancellor and founding director of WASCAL Climate Change and Land Use Centre said the commissioning of the Centre was the fulfilment of many years of dedicated work by many people from many regions.
It was also timely because of the changes in climate conditions compounded by poor land management practices under unsustainable conditions. Professor Nii Odai indicated that environmentalists, researchers, policy makers and politicians have been talking about climate change.
The sub-region risks not achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’S) due to climate change and the unsustainable management of land in the sub-region. There was therefore the pressing need for a comprehensive understanding of the change in the climate of the sub-region and its impact on land use.
This, according to him, called for adequately trained human resource in land use and related geo-sciences for the sustainable development and use of land for the present and future generations. He revealed that the German Government had supported the centre to build regional capacity at the PhD level with an amount of 1.9 million Euros.
This initiative was supporting West African universities to synergise their efforts on a regional basis and maximise their capabilities to improve training in land use, climate change and geo-sciences for better overall results and increased benefit to West Africa.
The programme ultimately aimed at strengthening the research, educational and policy capacity and competence of West African countries to deal with issues of climate change and adapted land use on a scientific basis in partnership with German institutions.
Professor Dr. Paul Vlek, founding executive director of WASCAL, said Africa was still struggling with problems. However, it was important for stakeholders to be concerned with issues of climate change. He called for stronger policies, research, data and the requisite human and material resources to address this issue. Prof. Dr. Vlek said it was clear that West African states had no clear land use policy and no reliable data on climate change.
It was therefore prudent that the German Government was supporting the West African states in these areas. There are currently sixty (60) West African students on the WASCAL programme with the hope of increasing the number to one thousand masters and doctoral students in the field in the near future. Reverend Paul K. Boafo, the Protestant Chaplain, prayed and dedicated the building.
Dr. Laurent Sedgo, Executive Director of WASCAL assisted by other dignitaries cut the tape to open the Centre.