Western Engineering celebrates partnership with institute in Ghana

Image of Graduates at AISWM in Ghana
Western Engineering News | December 20, 2016

Half way around the world in West Africa, the population of Ghana has risen to almost 30 million people in a country less than half the size of Saskatchewan.

As this population and urbanization increases, it is becoming more difficult to provide basic water and sanitation services to everyone.  Over half the population in Ghana live in urban areas, yet these people lack access to safe sanitation facilities.

In July of 2007, Western Engineering participated in the First International Conference on Environmental Research, Technology and Policy (ERTEP 2007).  Held in Accra, the capital of Ghana,  in partnership with the then Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the theme of the conference surrounded building capacity for sustainable development.

Dr. Ernest Yanful, Civil and Environmental Engineering professor at Western was the Chair of the conference. “I’m from Ghana originally,” he said.  “I really felt we could make an impact.”

From that conference, came the commitment to develop short courses that would train people in environmental protection, sanitation and waste management.  Ghana and other sub- Saharan regions suffer from sanitation problems and the negative consequences of these problems such as diseases, flooding, land degradation among others.  This workshop would be the first step in closing the gap in the waste management industry through research, development and training.

Two years later, the first workshop began led by Dr. Yanful and Western Chemical and Biochemical Engineering professor Shahzad Barghi.  Engineers, policy makers as well as people in government and industry attended the workshop.  One of the attendees, Zoomlion Ghana Limited (the nation’s largest waste management company), realized the need to continue training people to contribute to environmental protection.   Zoomlion announced they would build an institute committed to providing this training.  Dr. Yanful and Western Engineering were eager to be involved.

Together with Kwame Knrumah University of Science and Technology and Zoomlion Ghana Limited, Western Engineering established the Africa Institute of Sanitation and Waste Management (AISWAM).  The AISWAM offers diplomas and certificate programs in Sanitation Management and Environmental Sciences as well as undergraduate and graduate programs in business, finance, public health and engineering.  

Patterned after Western Engineering’s Master of Engineering (MEng.) programs, AISWAM offers modular courses taught by Western professors who travel to Ghana mostly during the summer.

“Our long-term goal is to make this a Regional  Centre of Excellence,” said Professor Yanful.  “We are using Western knowledge, Western experience to impart knowledge and experience to the people of Africa.”

Recently, Andrew Hrymak, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Julie McMullin, Western’s Vice-Provost & Associate VP (International), traveled to Ghana to visit AISWAM.

“It was an honour to visit AISWAM and celebrate these accomplishments,” said Dean Hrymak.  “We’re thrilled to be part of this initiative which will equip Ghana’s present and future generations with the skills to make Ghana a cleaner and healthier environment.”

So far, it’s working.  The institute has grown in the last 3 years to welcome close to 600 students into its various programs.  New students were matriculated to start the following programs in January of 2017: MSc Civil Engineering, MSc Mechanical Engineering, BSc Civil Engineering, BSc Environment and Public Health and BSc Mechanical Engineering.  Convocation for approximately 150 students is expected in June of 2017.

Dr. Yanful plans to expand beyond his home country of Ghana.  He has set his sights on the water and health issues which exist in East Africa.  His goal, is to eventually open another Centre of Excellence and train students to deliver safe water to the ordinary person and eliminate the water borne illnesses that have plagued that region for so long. 

“We want to give the people of Ghana dignity," he explained. "And give them opportunities to live healthier, longer lives so they can become stronger, happier citizens and contribute to the global enterprise.”

To learn more about the Africa Institute of Sanitation and Waste Management please visit their website:  www.aiswam.com.