By: Rafiq Islam, PhD, Soil and Water Specialist
Dr. Rafiq Islam, Senior Research Scientist and Soil, Water & Bioenergy Program Director at The Ohio State University South Centers and Dr. Warren Dick, Professor in the School of Environment and Natural Resources, Ohio State University recently traveled to Ghana from August 26- September 5, 2015 to deliver an innovative workshop entitled “Climate change, sustainable agriculture and soil health” at the University of Cape Coast.
The visit stemmed from their earlier participation in the Norman E. Borlaug International Agricultural Science and Technology Fellowship Program - a short-term research program, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service, which aims to address critical issues related to food security with a collaborating researcher from a developing or middle income country.
These two Borlaug programs were managed by the Office of International Programs in Agriculture at The Ohio State University. While Dr. Islam advised Emmanuel Amoakwah, a research scientist at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’s (CSIR) Soil Research Institute in Kumasi, Ghana, in 2013, Dr. Dick mentored Kwame Frimpong, a professor in the Department of Soil Science and a colleague of Emmanuel’s, shortly after in 2014. Both Ghanaian researchers completed three-month research fellowships with their respective advisors at The Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, and are now back in Ghana applying the skills that they acquired and advancing novel research in the field of soil health and quality.
Ghana’s University of Cape Coast, specifically its Department of Soil Science, hosted the two day workshop and welcomed more than 75 participants including university faculty members, graduate students, and research scientists from Ghana, Burkina Faso, and Liberia.
During the workshop, several field-based measurement techniques such as residue measurement, soil texture, diversity of soil fauna, available nitrogen and phosphorus, soil pH, and active carbon tests were all demonstrated to the participants. In addition, a ready-to-use soil quality analysis handbook was provided to each participant as a future reference, along with an economic and convenient field-based soil test kit, which participants were taught how to use in field sessions.
Dr. Dick presented on soil organic carbon and quality of science, while Dr. Islam delivered instruction on soil quality and sampling, and a systems approach to sustainable agriculture. One of the highlights of the workshop was a brain-storming session led by Dr. Islam to identify priority-based research needs in Ghana to sustain agricultural production systems. According to Dr. Islam, the session prompted serious, but healthy debate amongst participants on the appropriate research approaches needed to promote greater soil health in a region of the world that is directly experiencing the effects of climate change.
“Low soil fertility and climate change are already affecting Ghana’s dwindling natural resources and agricultural productivity,” says Kwame Frimpong. “There’s an urgent need for a clearer understanding and implementation of soil fertility management strategies that will promote increased agricultural productivity and food security in a socially equitable and an environmentally and economically sustainable manner.” Moreover, Dr. Islam conducted another workshop at the CSIR-Soil Research Institute, Kumasi on August 27, 2015 along with Emmanuel Amoakwah (Borlaug fellow 2013).
Both Dr. Dick and Dr. Islam, along with Rian Lawrence, an undergraduate student in the School of Environment and Natural Resources who assisted with the development and delivery of the workshop, all deemed the workshop an overwhelming success.
“It was probably one of the most beneficial international programs I have been associated with,” shared Dr. Dick, who has been engaged in international teaching and research, especially in Africa, for decades. “I definitely see this workshop style as a model for similar types of training activities in the future.”