Carolyn Tyhra Kumasi, 2009 AWARD Fellow, Ghana
Dr. Carolyn Tyhra Kumasi is a visionary biologist and ardent environmentalist, and perhaps somewhat of an accidental advocate. This young scientist is conducting vital research on soil and water conservation to inform public policies affecting rural women—a bend in the career path upon which she initially embarked.
A gifted researcher, Kumasi obtained her PhD in 2010 at the age of 28, and began lecturing at KNUST. But she couldn’t forget the community members she had worked with during her doctoral research examining the impact of land use change on water quality along the Barekese catchment area. The Barekese reservoir provides more than 80 percent of the total public pipe-borne water for Ghana’s second-largest city, Kumasi, which is home to 2.5 million people. During the past two decades, persistent degradation of the watershed has raised concerns about deteriorating water quality.
Kumasi found that the reservoir is seriously polluted, in part by local communities’ sanitation and agricultural practices. She discovered that land rights dating back 40 years factored largely in the situation. People had little regard for the reservoir, whose construction had forced them off their farms and ended their way of life. Going far beyond her lab research, Kumasi submitted a policy brief to the government, strongly recommending land and environmental policy changes for displaced people living along the reservoir.
“If implemented, these recommendations could help solve many of the conflicts between local communities and natural resource conservation projects,” says Kumasi. “It is hoped that such a policy would provide communities with a sustainable livelihood, and that they, in turn, would begin to conserve natural resources.”
Kumasi says that the guidance she received from her AWARD Mentor has sharpened her career focus.