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Canadian Minister of International Development visits AIMS and meets Women in Climate Science Fellows

Canadian Minister of International Development visits AIMS and meets Women in Climate Science Fellows

16 November 2018 – On Tuesday, the Honorable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie visited AIMS Rwanda with a delegation including Mrs. Leslie Norton, Assistant Deputy Minister, Africa, at Global Affairs Canada.

The visit began with a tour of the AIMS Rwanda campus led by AIMS Rwanda Chief Operating Officer, Boris Degan, and discussion about the academic program with Professor Blaise Tchapnda, AIMS Rwanda Academic Director. “The academic program coupled with the Pan-African nature of the campus is really conducive to a life-changing experience.”

Minister Bibeau then interacted with the AIMS students asking them why they were motivated to apply.On behalf of the class, the student leader, Jane Wanjiru, explained the composition of the class. “The AIMS Rwanda cohort this year is made up of 48 students, 16 women and 32 me representing 15 African countries.”

As a surprise, Professor Neil Turok, Founder and Chair of the AIMS and Thierry Zomahoun, President and CEO of the AIMS, joined the conversation via Skype from Chile. “If this work with your schedule, we would like to visit you in Canada, around January or February, which will also be an opportunity to connect with the universities that support the AIMS,” said Prof. Turok.

All attention was then focused on meeting the AIMS Women in Climate Change Science Fellows who had flown in from Ghana, Ivory Coast and South Africa. The Fellowship Program is funded under the Mathematical Sciences for Climate Resilience (MS4CR) Program which was made possible by a five year grant from the Canadian International Development Research Centre, with financial support from the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada. The program will see between 16 to 20 fellowships awarded from 2017–2022 to outstanding female scientists from all over the world who are applying substantive mathematical science concepts to address pressing climate change issues relevant to Africa.

Their research is expected to add significantly to the understanding of climate change and its impacts in Africa and to the development and implementation of innovative policies and strategies for mitigation, adaptation and resilience.

“I am Dr. Nana Ama Browne Klutse from Ghana. I am a Senior Lecturer in the Ghana Space Science and Technology Institute of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission. My Climate Change Science Fellowship will involve the use climate models to understand climate processes. We don’t have super computers in Ghana, therefore I will be hosted by the University of Cape Town, South Africa. I will investigate the dynamics of extreme climate in Africa and the impact of extreme climate under the global warming. My work will provide answers to the whys and hows of strange climate changes, and enable projections for future climate changes.”

Speaking in French, Dr. Evelyn Toure spoke about the impact of her research, “As a Climate Change Science Fellow, I will assess the impact of climate change on extreme rainfall and temperature patterns over the Ivory Coast in the context of the Paris Climate Agreement. The result of my work will provide valuable information to policymakers as they formulate mitigation strategies to reduce the impact of climate change on agriculture – especially on cocoa production, a central part of the Ivorian economy.”

The three Fellows will be using their research findings to inform policy. “I am Dr. Jessica Thorn from Namibia. I am currently a Postdoctoral Researcher at Colorado State University. My Climate Change Science Fellowship will combine the multi-scalar institutional analysis and ecosystem service qualification with probabilistic modeling to understand the synergies and trade-offs of ecosystem-based adaptation in peri-urban and areas in Namibia and Tanzania. I hope this will help advance evidence-based decision making under uncertainty, improve rural-urban linkages and increase the participation of the African scientific community in global research programs. I will be hosted by the African climate and Development Initiative at the University of Cape Town.”

Dr. Jessica Thorn (first from right) presents her Fellowship work, followed by Fauste and Ndikumana, MS4CR Interns

The Minister also met two AIMS alumni who are currently doing an internship supported by the MS4CR program at the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture in Rwanda.

The two Interns, Fauste Ndikumana and Theonille Mukamana, from Rwanda, graduates of AIMS Cameroon and AIMS Tanzania, explained the research they are currently conducting and its possible impact. Theonille shared how she expects to demonstrate the value of using climate services, particularly for farmers and Fauste on working to generate rainfall data to enable evidence driven policy-making and improve the decision making for small holder farmers.

After hearing about their journey to science and their research ambitions, Minister Bibeau shared her own experience using data to improve decision-making. “I’m always very impressed when I meet scientists…I consider myself a manager, and definitely not a scientist. So when I meet with scientists, I just see a different kind of intelligence. For politicians, for managers, I know how important it is to make good decisions with good data. That is something I strongly believe in. We definitely need you. When I was nominated as Minister of International Development I had the chance of completely reviewing policies. So we started consultations in 65 countries. We do not take decisions based on field experience alone, but also with support from evidence. The IDRC was our partner in this exercise. That is to say that I respect your work and intelligence.”

To conclude, Mr. Romeo Essou, AIMS Vice-President and Chief Programs Officer, who led the AIMS delegation gave the first copy of the newly published New Interventions for a Changing World: Celebrating African Women Scientists on the Front Lines of Climate Change to Minister Bibeau. “I need a second copy for my colleague, the Minister of Science. She is the one who advocated for this project,” said Minister Bibeau.

“We would like to thank the Canadian government as well as IDRC who have greatly supported the expansion of AIMS centres and programs and who are helping African scientists tackle climate change,” said Mr. Essou.

“We’d also like to invite you to the next edition of the Next Einstein Forum (NEF) Global Gathering in March 2020 in Nairobi,” said Mrs. Nathalie Munyampenda, NEF Managing Director.

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