Recently, a new project and network was launched at the International Conference Centre of the University for Development Studies, UDS in Tamale. The project, a partnership between the University for Development Studies (UDS) and University of Leicester in the United Kingdom (UK) aims at using integrated GIS/Remote Sensing and Social-Ecological Techniques for Mapping and Designing COVID-19 Early Social Protection Interventions for Rural and Deprived Urban communities in Ghana. The launch event and workshop was attended by more than 30 participants drawn from the academia (UDS, University of Ghana- Legon), Regional Directorate of the Ghana Health Service in the Northern sectors, the Ghanaian Media and civil society organizations, including African Centre for Sustainable Savanna Communities (ACESSCO), a multi-sectorial, interdisciplinary research for development organization, working in the frontline to facilitate uptake of evidenced-based development outcomes.
The Innovation: Science, Policy and Practice Linkages
The innovation of the project applies the Science-Policy-Practice approaches to co-designing and delivering development projects with demonstrated impact for needy communities. In a keynote address, the Vice Chancellor of UDS Prof. Gabriel Ayum Teye, emphasized on the history and mandate of UDS in delivering the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He stressed the importance of the project nationally and internationally and enumerated specific benefits to the poor in the urban and rural communities in Ghana. Prof. Teye acknowledged the Project Coordinator, Dr John Atibila, who initiated the project between the University of Leicester and UDS and led proposal development for funding from the Global Challenge Research Fund (GCRF).
Explaining the project aims and importance of research Networks, Dr John Atibila, Senior Innovations and Sustainability Consultant reiterated that, the aim of the network is to bring key COVID-19 stakeholders in Ghana, especially, in the northern sectors, to work together and find solutions to preventing the infections spread and loss of human lives, particularly among vulnerable populations. He emphasized that, the project aims are in line with World Health Organization (WHO) “Global Research Collaboration for Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response)”, goals which enable Ghana to apply evidence from science and technological innovations to fight COVID-19. Touching on the rational for establishing and launching the Ghana-Leicester Epidemics Control Network (GLECON), he observed that research networks were essential parts of intellectual life of academics and researchers. He stated that networks comprise of scientists (interdisciplinary) working together on specific themes with the intention of finding solutions to intractable development challenges. The GLECON will therefore be a national platform for medium to long term research to enable Ghana’s preparedness to deal effectively with COVID-19 as well as future unforeseen epidemics.
Contributing to the launch virtually from Leicester, the Director of the University of Leicester Centre of Landscape and Climate Research, Professor Heiko Balzter, who is a professor of Physical Geography, stated that Remote Sensing uses data from satellites, aircraft, drones and other platforms for land-use mapping, weather observation and forecasting, environmental and natural hazards studies, as well as resource exploration. Prof Balzter indicated that satellite data have become much more widely available but also the processing demands computing time and expertise to analyze those data to provide relevant information for local stakeholders. He observed the University of Leicester has the expertise to build capacity of young career scientists in Ghana in the application of Earth Observation System tools and techniques to conduct high quality and interdisciplinary research to track and develop dynamic COVID-19 maps showing the spread of the infection for the Ghana government, working with donor community and other stakeholders to use the evidence to provide effective social protection interventions equitably across the country.
Project Co-Production with Participants Contribution
The main innovation of the event was the opportunity given to key stakeholders of health promotion, disease prevention and control to contribute to designing a project that will have high impact and beneficial to them and the general population. Unlike conventional workshops, where attendees sit and listen to “experts”, this Co-Production Workshop, incorporated a co-learning Round-Table Discussion Session whereby participants worked in six groups to identify COVID 19 control and mitigation challenges and provide inputs to design a R&D project to find solutions to control COVID 19 and save lives.
The Vice Chancellor, Professor Ayum Teye formally launched the Ghana–Leicester Epidemics Control Network (GLECON) at the event, which was expertly moderated by Dr Mamudu Akudugu, Deputy Director of the Interdisciplinary Institute for Research and Consultancy Services (IIRaCS) of the University for Development Studies. Membership is open to academic and non-academic institutions including civil society organizations (NGOs). Individual membership is also available. The event was attended by ACeSSCo represented by Ms. Magdalene Ayamga (Gender and Development Officer), Mr. James A.S. Akudugu (Social Entrepreneurship Officer) and Mr. Emmanuel Akayeti (affiliate from GBC). For further information about the project or membership contact ACeSSCo.