Supported by the Department of Science and Technology’s Women in science programme, Dr Muthoni Masinde and Dr Jane Catherine Ngila will each be presenting important lectures at Scifest Africa that will focus on different aspects of the unending water-related challenges that confront sub-Saharan Africa.
As part of this year’s celebration, Central University of Technology’s Dr Muthoni Masinde will present a lecture titled Downscaling Africa’s Drought Forecasts through integration of indigenous and scientific drought forecasts.
Dr Muthoni Masinde has developed drought forecasting tool 2 help small-scale farmers decide when 2 plant, gr8 work ? pic.twitter.com/NQNRufwU9x
— South African Heroes (@SA_Heroes) August 18, 2016
In her lecture, Masinde will explore how Indigenous Knowledge (IK) and modern science weather forecasts can complement each other to produce more useful predictions for small-scale farmers in Africa than either could do separately.
Masinde’s presentation will focus on her research, using information technology to harness indigenous knowledge to make weather predictions more accurate and more relevant in marginalised areas of sub-Saharan Africa.
While weather forecasting, and especially drought prediction, are important to all farmers, those who are farming marginalised lands in arid and semi-arid areas are having increasing difficulty in predicting the weather.
Historically these farmers have relied on their indigenous knowledge of the environment, passed down from generation to generation, to know when to plant seeds, but the vagaries of climate change and ineffective large-scale weather forecasts have led to dangerous levels of unpredictability.
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All too often, in areas where farmers are most vulnerable to drought, there aren’t any weather stations. This means that weather services publish information that is too coarse, covering areas with an extent of 100 to 200 kms.
The weather services also tend to predict that seasonal rainfall will be ‘above normal’, ‘below normal’ or ‘normal’ which is information that lacks resolution to be useful.
Through case studies in some of the most arid regions of Kenya, Masinde and her colleagues have developed a system dubbed ITIKI (Information Technology and Indigenous Knowledge with Intelligence), an Mbeere name for an indigenous bridge.
The purpose of ITIKI is to integrate the most useful aspects of Indigenous Knowledge with modern meteorological forecasting. Masinde says that the main challenge facing this integration is however, the formal representation of highly structured and holistic indigenous knowledge.
Through her lecture, she will demonstrate how the use of ICTs (Information Communication Technologies) can address this challenge.
Retaining the focus on water, University of Johannesburg’s Dr Jane Catherine Ngila will present a lecture titled Why and how do we manage water quality and South Africa?
South Africa has a long history of droughts with the country categorised among the water-stressed nations of the world. The lack of a reliable source of water is serious, and even when there is enough water it is often not safe to drink.
In recent years, government has made a concerted effort to ensure that everyone has access to safe drinking water.
This is a legal requirement because South Africa is one of the few countries in the world that enshrines in its constitution the basic right of all citizens to sufficient water.
President Zuma: “10 000 youth are being trained as plumbers to assist with the water conversation in response to the drought”. #SONA2017
— Brand South Africa (@Brand_SA) February 9, 2017
In spite of this significant progress, 10% of the population still does not have access to safe drinking water.
Factors affecting water scarcity include; population growth, global climate change; industrial discharge into water systems; water supply misuse through illegal connections; collapsing dam structures in different parts of the country; and lack of smart water resource management.
Ngila and her team at the University of Johannesburg are working to address water treatment challenges including the development and application of advanced technologies.
These new developments include nanotechnology, which has a great potential to improve the efficiency of water treatment processes.
Scifest Africa, which will take place from 8-14 March 2017 in Grahamstown, Eastern Cape, and was established by the Grahamstown Foundation in 1996 to promote the public awareness, understanding and appreciation of science, technology and innovation in South Africa.
The festival promises a refreshing and educational experience for everyone so lookout for the electronic programme available at www.scifest.org.za.
Ticket bookings can be made at www.tickethut.co.za/scifes or for telephonic bookings contact 0860002004.
– Adapted from Press Release