African scientists to learn strategies for adapting to climate change at URI Coastal Resources Center

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Lessons to be based on Rhode Island plans, regulations, policies

NARRAGANSETT, R.I. – February 24, 2011 – Three young scientists from Ghana, Mozambique and The Gambia are spending three weeks at the University of Rhode Island’s Coastal Resources Center as part of an international fellowship program to help them develop strategies for adapting to climate change along the coastal zones of their home countries.

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.

“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,” said Virginia Lee, senior coastal manager at the Coastal Resources Center who is coordinating the visit by the African scientists.

“Both here 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,” she added.

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 participating African scientists are Sinibaldo Canhanga, an oceanographer at the National Institute for Hydrology and Navigation in Mozambique; Famara Drammeh of the National Environment Agency in The Gambia; 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 visiting scientists are among 12 selected for the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission’s Fellowship Programme for Young African Scientists, sponsored by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Department of State. The program aims to contribute to the career paths of young African scientists, develop their leadership skills in advocating science as an important contributor to good governance, and establish direct collaboration with decision makers of their home countries.

The fellows attended a workshop in Kenya in November 2010 where they partnered with their national authorities to select specific priorities for climate adaptation prior to traveling to Rhode Island.

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.

Pictured above

The African scientists visiting the URI Coastal Resources Center to learn how their countries can adapt to climate change are (l-r) Stephen Kankam of Ghana, Sinibaldo Canhanga of Mozambique and Famara Drammeh of The Gambia.