Africa: Tackling One of Africa’s Greatest Enemies – Drought

Susan Ojochide (from Nigeria), talks about her research that will contribute to tackling one of Africa’s worst enemies – drought:
Tell us about yourself. Where were you born and where did you grow up?
I was born in Kwara State, western Nigeria and I grew up in Kano State, northern Nigeria.
What inspired you about science in general, and specifically your field of research?
I was fascinated by nature and the environment from an early age. As such, I always knew that I wanted tostudy science. The major turning point in my scientific path came during my undergraduate studies at Kogi State University in Anyigba town, central Nigeria. I noticed that the town’s periphery was always cooler than the centre within which the university is situated. This scenario sparked my curiosity and desire to understandvariations in temperature in different spaces.

Therefore, as part of my BSc studies in Geography and Planning, I conducted an analysis of the university as an urban heat island. I proceeded to an MSc at the Federal University of Technology Minna, Niger State to study spatio-temporal variation of temperature in Kano State.
What is the focus of your PhD research?
I commenced my PhD studies in 2020, supported by the Regional Scholarship and Innovation Fund (RSIF). I am registered at Bayero University Kano, Nigeria, an RSIF host university.

My research employs earth observation datasets and climate models to investigate drought as the result of spatio-temporal variations. My area of focus is northern Nigeria, a semi-arid region that is part of the Sahel. While this region is a major producer of cereals and grains in Nigeria, it is prone to constant drought, with significant implications for food security.

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I aim to develop a model integrating ground station meteorological data, earth observation data and climate models. I will undertake part of my studies through a two-year sandwich programme at the Natural Resources Institute (NRI), University of Greenwich in the United Kingdom, to analyse climate models using high computational systems.
How does your research contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals?
This research contributes particularly to SDG 2: Zero Hunger. Drought is one of the major causes of food insecurity in Nigeria.
My findings will boost existing knowledge of this phenomenon and also contribute to the development of early warning systems to predict possible drought episodes. The results will be useful to agro-meteorologists, farmers, decision-makers and many stakeholders in agricultural production. Beyond the study area, the knowledge could also be applicable to other semi-arid regions across the continent.
Who have been your key mentors?
First is Professor Salihu Danlami Musa, my supervisor during my undergraduate studies and an environmental enthusiast who brought a captivating way of learning through practical examples and analysis that are applicable in real life.
Second is Dr. Michael Thiel, who co-supervised my postgraduate studies, and whose research focus is on climate change, land use, land cover and the application of remote sensing for climate change studies in Africa. He has been very crucial in my growth, mentoring me in all research pursuits and encouraging me along the journey.

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