Interview with Dr Seth Adu-Afarwuah from University of Ghana, speaker at YASE Conference 2018
The maiden edition of the Young African Scholars in Europe (YASE) conference took place on 6th July 2018 in Toulouse, France. Dr Seth Adu-Afarwuah, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Nutrition and Food Science, University of Ghana, was one of the panellists during the event. He was thrilled to share his experience with us in a brief interview.
The conference was an initiative of the online media Afriscitech, supported by the French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development and the Federal University of Toulouse Midi-Pyrénées. It is associated with the Euroscience Open Forum (ESOF), the biggest interdisciplinary scientific colloquium in Europe, which was held from 9 to 14th of July in Toulouse. YASE Conference aims at providing access to information, presenting initiatives and fostering networking so that young African scientists in Europe are better aware of opportunities to participate in the scientific and technological advancement of Africa.
This event was organised under the patronage of the French Minister for Higher Education Research and Innovation, Mrs Frédérique Vidal.
Dr Seth Adu-Afarwuah, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Nutrition and Food Science, University of Ghana, was one of the panellists during the event. He was thrilled to share his experience with us in a brief interview.
I am a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Nutrition and Food science. I got my PhD from University of California, Davis. After doing some post-doctorate studies, I returned to Ghana to work on a UNICEF project. Later, I joined the University of Ghana in 2009, where I began work as a research fellow working on a research project on lipid-based micro-nutrient supplements like Plumpy’Nut, the nutrition supplement produced by French company Nutriset. I eventually became a faculty member and then Senior Lecturer over the years.
The purpose of the YASE conference is to gather African academics and researchers in Europe to meet and learn from each other to get informed about research opportunities in Africa. It is a platform for them to exchange ideas, meet policy makers and government officials, and to establish new networks.
I was invited to take part in a panel to discuss science and applied research that seek to impact society. My presentation focused on the reasons why children in Africa had low nutrients consumption and thus, suffer from growth failure and how it can be solved. One way of increasing the nutrient intake of children is to enrich the foods by adding nutritive supplements to the food. So, we developed lipid-based nutrient supplements which when mixed with food for the child or mother will, in theory, provide them with right amounts of nutrients. This way, we can reduce the occurrence of low birth weight in babies and stem growth failure in young children. We observed that growth failure in children starts even before birth. Thus, the idea was to deal with this problem before the child was born by providing the mothers with the right nutrients to ensure that they give birth to healthier babies. Studies were conducted on the use of the supplements we developed in Ghana, Malawi and Burkina Faso. The presentation was a chance to present evidence of this method’s effectiveness and I hope that the findings and suggestion made by the study will ultimately influence policy making.
From a science and research point of view, I believe in collaboration as a way to learn from one other. In terms of community-based research there is a lot that researchers from developed countries can learn from coming to Africa to work in various fields just as much as we get to observe when we go to their countries. From new technologies, techniques and research topics to receiving funding, there is a lot to be shared through having these kinds of collaboration. Through their interaction with researchers in Africa, young African scholars in Europe are reassured of opportunities to solve problems upon their return to their home countries in Africa.
It is great that France is contributing to creating the opportunities for researchers in both countries to work together and share ideas. My time at the conference allowed me to make a lot of contacts which will be useful for future projects and to create new networks. I would also like to thank the French Embassy in Accra for sponsoring my participation at the YASE conference.