Sustainability Awards

Pearl Deku, second from right, was honored at SIU's Sustainability Celebration. With Deku, from left, are Geory Kurtzhals, Connie Kaniewski and Interim Chancellor John Dunn.

With Africa’s population expected to increase to 2.5 billion people by 2050, solid waste management is a serious concern. In lower income countries, waste production is set to double in the next 20 years, with the cost also increasing by upwards of four times as much.

Few countries feel the weight of this issue more than Ghana, home to the world’s fastest growing economy. For Southern Illinois University Carbondale master’s student Pearl Deku, the situation is not hopeless. That's why she is analyzing current policies and increasing awareness for future change.

While policies for waste management in Ghana are starting to gain attention and become a common topic, real change and improvement is still missing. Current research suggests and recommends community participation as a means for waste management, with many studies postulating that involving people in the laws, policies and projects helps to sustain projects.

“My goal is to analyze Ghana’s community participation and awareness program/plan for waste management, with specific target on communities in the capital city of Ghana,” Deku said. “I will assess Ghana’s community participation and awareness program to identify its strength, weakness, threats and opportunities, and hopefully identify what needs to be done and corrected to ensure sustainable solid waste management.”

If the daily consumer is not effectively involved in the implementation of laws and policies, the problems do not change or hardly change, Deku said.

The focus of Ghana’s waste problem centers in the capital city of Accra. Home to most of the nation’s industry, people flock there on a consistent basis. This not only overcrowds the region, but it greatly increases pollution rates and waste problems

Often, people do not even notice the waste anymore because they are accustomed to it, Deku explained.

“Kids are really victims of the waste build-up,” Deku said. “Often the adults have built resistances, but kids haven’t.”

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A native of Ghana, Deku has an inside look into the concerns of the nation. After her father died when she was young, she faced many challenging economic circumstances. However, she completed her bachelor’s degree from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana, and is currently pursuing her master’s degree in geography and environmental resources at SIU.

To gather her information, Deku is targeting specific communities in Ghana and conducting interviews to understand how they are managing solid waste.

Deku’s current plan is to focus on three specific communities, holding three focus groups with 10 to 12 people in each area. She will also interview with the town councils in each of the communities and the head of the waste management in those municipalities.

Deku plans to travel back to Ghana this summer to conduct her research. While still on campus, she has already started the ball rolling with the interviews, thanks to help from a friend in Ghana.

“My main objective is to identify the exact policies in place for solid waste management,” Deku said. “Then I will work to identify community participation programs and evaluate if these policies are actually working.”

The most important part of the project for Deku is to get her research into the hands of someone who can use and implement it. In the research process, it is common to uncover a lot of information, but it isn’t always available to those who need it, Deku said.

“The endgame of my research would be to develop a blueprint from which decision makers from both government and nongovernmental agencies can develop frameworks for sustainable waste management,” Deku said.

In support of her research, Deku recently won SIU’s Graduate and Professional Student Council Research Award. The honor comes with $1,000 of funding, which Deku plans to use for her hands-on research in Ghana.

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