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Geoenvironmental hazards and disasters in Africa are on the rise both in frequency and intensity with increasing heavy toll in human, economic and ecological terms. The need for cost-effective hazard assessment and mitigation is unarguable especially in countries where the geoenvironmental data base is still limited and rates of rural development are accelerated as part of the move towards poverty alleviation.
The Workshop on Geoenvironmental Hazards and Disasters in Africa was organized and co-sponsored by UNESCO Nairobi Office, Moi University, Africa Geoscience Review, University of Nairobi, Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD) and the Geological Society of Africa (GSAf).
The objectives of this Workshop were to present the latest scientific understanding of natural and human-driven geoenvironmental hazards and disasters on the African continent; to examine their effects on African societies and lives, assess the effectiveness of available mitigation options, explore possibilities for their improvement as well as contemplate on new measures for disaster management.
One focus of the meeting was to try and evolve a mechanism that would be effective in transmitting the information gathered by the scientific and technical experts to the policy makers and local authorities in the participating nations.
The Workshop was held at the UNESCO Conference Hall in Nairobi on 01 and 02 July, 2002. On 03 July, participants took part in a full day's field excursion to Lake Magadi, about 115 km southwest of Nairobi. This is a unique and fascinating part of the Great Rift Valley where participants observed varied features of environmental and geological interest. The field trip guidebook (see below for how to get a copy) provides a mine of information on the geological evolution of Magadi, the production and extraction of soda ash and environmental problems of the area as well as references. En route, the archaeology of the famous prehistoric site of Olorgesaile was seen and illustrated. This site offers an exceptional opportunity for the study of conditions of life during the early part of the Stone Age.
The Workshop attracted a group of over thirty participants from ten countries and comprised university researchers, government ministry officials and NGO representatives, providing a forum for assemblage of discussion and fostering a mutually beneficial exchange of information on major geoenvironmental hazards and disasters in Africa, essential mechanisms, impelling question marks and valuable suggestions for future research.
The Workshop started with an informal get-to-gether where participants took the opportunity to make scientific contacts and meet fellow researchers and policy makers in a bid to develop and strengthen collaborative studies and improve networking in regional monitoring, mitigation and rehabilitation strategies.
The Workshop was officially opened by Professor K. Ole-Karei, deputizing for Professor R.M. Munavu, Vice Chancellor, Moi University whose speech was read on his behalf. In this inaugural address, it was noted that the workshop theme was of major societal importance and that such a distinguished panel of African Earth scientists would succeed in addressing the issues as succintly as possible.
Welcome addresses were also given by Dr. Paul Vitta, Director, UNESCO Nairobi Office, Dr. Thomas Schlueter, Programme Specialist in Earth Sciences, UNESCO, Mr. D. Kaniaru, Director, DEPI, UNEP, Prof. C.A. Kogbe, Chair, Africa Geoscience Review, Prof. Isaac O. Nyambok, Vice President, IUGS and Prof. T.C. Davies, Chairman of the Workshop Organizing Committee.
The first session of the scientific programme comprised five keynote addresses, presented respectively by, Dr. A. Muma (deputizing for Prof. C.O. Okidi of the World Conservation Union) : "Legal Issues in Disaster Prevention and Management"; Prof. Isaac O. Nyambok : "Coping with Natural Disasters in Africa : The Way Forward"; Dr. T. Schlueter : "The Role of UNESCO's Earth Sciences Division in Natural Disaster Preparedness and Prevention"; Prof. T.C. Davies : "Reconstruction in the Aftermath of Environmental Catastrophes in African Countries" and Prof. C.A. Kogbe : "Review of Natural Hazards Caused by Volcanic Eruptions in Africa". The speakers noted inter alia that African countries have a primary responsibility to conduct a rigorous audit of the effectiveness or consequential identification of needs of their early warning and preparedness capabilities and that the conduct of response strategies and capabilities is particularly relevant following any disaster event.
The rest of the scientific programme was covered in sessions that addressed the following themes :
During the closing plenary, the following key and critical actions stemming from the summary discussions and conclusions, were proposed by Prof. I.O. Nyambok.
Workshop Resolutions and Recommendations
The Workshop was formally closed by one of the UNEP representatives, Dr. James Kamara.
The Organizing Committee of this Workshop is particularly grateful to UNESCO, Moi University, Africa Geoscience Review, DAAD, University of Nairobi and GSAf who generously provided financial and material support that facilitated the attendance of the African participants. We also acknowledge the contribution of the participants, facilitators and their institutions for offering their time and considerable expertise to the successful conduct of the Workshop.
For further details including request for a copy of the field trip guidebook, please contact :
Dr. Thomas Schlueter, UNESCO Nairobi Office, P.O. Box 30592, Gigiri, Nairobi, Kenya. Telephone : 0254 2 622 361. e-mail: Thomas.Schlueter@unesco.unon.org
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