9 April 2011

African Scientists to Learn Strategies for Adapting to Climate Change At Rhode Island Coastal Resources Center

Three young scientists from Ghana, Mozambique and The Gambia are spending three weeks at the University of Rhode Island's (URI) Coastal Resources Center as part of an international program to help them develop strategies for adapting to climate change along the coastal zones of their home countries.

The Gambian scientist, Famara Drammeh is working with the National Environment Agency as a programme officer for Coastal and Marine Zone Units. The other participating African scientists are Sinibaldo Canhanga, an oceanographer at the National Institute for Hydrology and Navigation in Mozambique; and Stephen Kankam, an ecologist with Friends of the Nation in Ghana. They chose to visit the Coastal Resources Center because of its long history of helping developing nations around the world better manage their coastlines.

The scientists will meet with geologists, engineers, oceanographers and mapping experts at URI and elsewhere in Rhode Island, and they will leave with a work plan aimed at reducing the risks to coastal zones caused by climate change.

According to a news release from Virginia Lee, senior coastal manager at the Coastal Resources Center who is coordinating the visit by the African scientists, "We'll be using Rhode Island as a model for how to reduce these risks by studying municipal comprehensive plans, zoning regulations, hazard mitigation plans, coastal regulations and other policies." She added that both in the U.S. and in Africa, the people at greatest risk of harm from the effects of climate change are the poorest, the elderly and the sick.

Lee said that typical practices in Rhode Island, like building codes, construction set-backs and zoning are vital strategies for dealing with flooding and erosion but are not in place in most African countries. She said that in addition to learning how to manage relevant science to clarify issues of vulnerability, the visiting scientists will learn the basics of how to set up a permitting process, how to measure erosion, how to mitigate the vulnerability of infrastructure, and how to coordinate the work of government agencies and non-governmental organizations.

The lessons will feature local examples of effective plans and regulations, including those used in Charlestown, Narragansett and North Kingstown, as well as collaborations with Save the Bay, The Nature Conservancy, and the South Kingstown Land Trust.The visiting scientists are among 12 selected for a fellowship by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO and coordinated by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Department of State, and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency. The fellowship program aims to contribute to the career paths of young African scientists and develop their leadership skills in advocating science as an important contributor to good governance. The fellows attended a workshop in Kenya in November 2010 to establish national priorities for climate adaptation prior to traveling to Rhode Island.

According to Virginia Lee, the URI Coastal Resources Center is dedicated to advancing coastal management worldwide. In addition to assisting in the development and implementation of coastal management programs in Rhode Island and the United States, the Center is active in countries throughout the world promoting the sustainable use of coastal resources for the benefit of all. Its main focus is on building capacity to effectively manage coastlines and adapting to climate change.

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