Building Evidence for Action on Climate Change

According to the UN, the past decades have seen sub-Saharan Africa experiencing more frequent and more intense climate extremes than the rest of the world. Africa is also projected to experience some increase in hot nights as well as longer and more frequent heat waves particularly in regions within 15 degrees of the equator (United Nations, 2020).

Rising sea levels, warming temperatures, fiercer storms, raging fires are all damaging effects of climate change on a global scale. ClimapAfrica is a DAAD programme funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). It is aimed at providing collaborative data-driven solutions to mitigate the ravaging effects of climate change in Africa.

For a short interview, climapAfrica’s Yakubu Musah got in touch with Dr Lailah Gifty Akita, one of the postdoctoral researchers of the programme who is contributing here quota towards mitigating the effect of climate change.

Yakubu: Dr Akita, what is your current scientific focus?

Dr Akita: My research interests as a lecturer at the University of Ghana include aquatic ecology and paleoclimate and aquatic ecosystems dynamics. My climapAfrica project focuses on the use of biological organisms such as ostracods (microscopic crustaceans) to understand climate and environmental changes in Lake Volta, Ghana. Ostracods (“Seed Shrimps”) inhabit fresh to marine environments. The species-specific environmental requirements are sensitive to changes in particular habitats and therefore serve as useful indicators of environmental changes.

Yakubu: What motivates you to participate in the climapAfrica programme?

Dr Akita: The programme has some noble objectives to which we are all contributing to make it a success, like helping to understand climate change in West Africa using biological indicators. We are building a network of international researchers in climate science and want to sustain the scientific collaborations between scientists from Ghana and Germany.

Yakubu: How did you get in touch with climapAfrica?

Dr Akita: I heard about climapAfrica at the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) in Bonn, Germany. The visit to the DAAD was organized by Leibniz University of Hannover and funded by Volkswagen Foundation for PostDoc Alumni to get to know more about funding opportunities facilitated by Germany. Additionally, when the DAAD programme managers came to Ghana, they also invited me to participate in a programme organized by WASCAL (West African Science Service Center on Climate Change and Adapted Land Use). However, my PhD supervisor in Germany was first to share the news when climapAfrica was advertised. What got me pass the post was that my research proposal was innovative with well-structured objectives coupled with systematic approaches to solving the problem statement. It also involved sustained collaboration with Ghana-Germany partners and good recommendations.

DAAD climapAfrica Postdoc Fellowships

Apply now for the 4th scholarship cohort of DAAD's climapAfrica Postdoc Fellowships. Please note, that funding will start on 1st July 2021 and end on 31st January 2023 and is limited for a maximum of 18 months. Application deadline is 15 February 2021.

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Yakubu: What is special about the climapAfrica programme?

Dr. Akita: What sets climapAfrica apart is the creation of thematic research groups for collaboration within the region and the excellent backstopping from experienced researchers in Germany. The scientific support with training (e.g., workshops, conferences) is also particularly important for continuous professional and personal advancement. The research stay in Germany is also great.

Yakubu: Apart from the financial support, which other support are you getting from the climapAfrica programme?

Dr Akita: I get the opportunity to participate in conferences and workshops as well as capacity building trainings coupled with continuous support in diverse ways.

Yakubu: What advice would you give to future applicants?

Dr Akita: Take your chances; you never know what is possible! Sow your seeds in the morning as well as the evening because you never know which one will sprout in a fertile soil. The climapAfrica programme provides stipends to the scientists who will carry out the innovative research. The programme also provides research funding for the implementation of the project. That makes it a particularly good opportunity for young scientists to upgrade their skills and be more innovative. 

Author: Yakubu Musah Seidu

  • Yakubu Musah Seidu Yakubu Musah Seidu
  • Dr. Lailah Gifty Akita Dr. Lailah Gifty Akita

Yakubu Musah Seidu is a team member of the Climate Research for Alumni and Postdocs in Africa (climapAfrica) Programme and the main contact person in sub-Saharan Africa. You can contact the programme on climapafrica(at)daad.de.

Dr. Lailah Gifty Akita is a Lecturer at the Department of Marine and Fisheries Sciences, University of Ghana. Her lecture courses include Introduction to Climate Change Science, Benthic Ecology and Coastal Ecosystems. Her postdoctoral research focus was on Ostracods as bioindicators for understanding environmental climate changes in Lake Volta which serves as a major freshwater fisheries resource to the country, particularly to communities along its banks. 

Background

Africa’s food production is largely rain-fed which means that millions of people in Africa depend on rainfall to grow their food, which makes them more vulnerable to changing rainfall patterns (UNFCCC, 2020). Also, the adaptation capacity to climate change is exceptionally low. In comparison to other inhabited regions, Africa is grossly understudied (IPP Media, 2020). Africa may be sleep walking into a potential catastrophe if urgent steps are not taken to ameliorate the negative effects of climate change.

Dr Laila Gifty Akita’s contribution to mitigating the ravaging effects of climate change is in coastal ecosystems. Coastal ecosystems serve as valuable resources for food, water, aesthetic, cultural, educational, medicinal, economic and social well-being of the coastal communities in all countries. Coastal ecosystems (e.g., lakes, estuaries, lagoons etc) are most vulnerable to environmental and climate changes. Laila Gifty Akita is focusing on Lake Volta, Ghana. Her work involves several stakeholders such as fish farmers, the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture, the Fisheries Commission, Volta River Authority, Kpong Farms Limited and Volta Lake Transport Company. She will be organising seminars for sharing of major findings of the project and policy recommendations to raise awareness on the environmental changes in Lake Volta.

January 2021