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IRES Track I: US-Ghana Collaboration: Providing Opportunities for Global Research on Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)

Sarina Ergas; Allan Feldman; Kebreab Ghebremichael
University of South Florida
Start date
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In much of the world, including sub-Saharan Africa, people lack safe drinking water and adequate sanitation. Although there have been a number of efforts to develop low-cost, efficient methods to treat water and wastewater, many of them fail in practice due to the lack of understanding of social and economic factors, and the lack of community engagement. This project will engage fifteen (15) IRES participants and three (3) graduate assistants from STEM, STEM education, public health and social sciences in carrying out research to develop, test and implement the technologies, such as biosand filters and decentralized sanitation systems, while uncovering and addressing social factors that limit their use in the field. The project will take place in collaboration with students and faculty at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), as well as teachers and pupils in a local secondary school in Kumasi, Ghana. US students will experience real on-the-ground water and sanitation situations that will enhance their research skills as they develop the global competence needed to work effectively in developing countries. Specific objectives are to: 1) increase the number of US students engaging in global water and sanitation research, 2) enhance student understanding of the complexity of water and sanitation challenges and increase their global competency, 3) engage secondary school teachers and pupils in Ghana in authentic science and participatory action research, and 4) develop strong collaborations between USF and KNUST for water and sanitation research and education.

The participating research teams will advance research and development of: 1) biosand filters that simultaneously address infectious disease and dental/skeletal health risks that are prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, and 2) decentralized ecological sanitation technologies, such as constructed wetlands, urine diverting dry toilets and biodigesters, which recover valuable resources (water, nutrients, energy) from human wastes. Each team will work on technology development, appropriate financing mechanisms and effective behavioral and educational approaches to improve WASH practices.

IRES participants will directly experience WASH research in the geopolitical, socioeconomic and cultural context of Ghana. These experiences will enhance their understanding of WASH challenges and build their global competency. We will recruit female and underrepresented minority students through programs and clubs that emphasize diversity, community colleges and minority serving institutions. Extensive professional development and mentoring programs are planned for IRES participants. Results will be integrated into courses taught by the PIs and outreach to the Tampa Bay community, K12 science teachers and students. The project will strengthen the partnership between USF and KNUST and create opportunities for future collaborations, particularly in WASH research.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Funding Source
United States Nat'l. Science Fndn.
Project source
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Project number
Bacterial Pathogens