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Vice Chancellor, University of Energy and Natural Resources in Sunyani, Ghana
Prof. Mrs. Esi Awuah was born to Mr. Emmanuel Broni Asare of Akim in the Eastern Region of Ghana and Madam Margaret Annan of Gomoa Dago in the Central Region of Ghana on September 14, 1954. Mr. Emmanuel Broni Asare was the Deputy Chief Conservator of Forests for the Ashanti and Brong Ahafo Regions of Ghana and the former Managing Director of Gliksten West Africa Limited. Her mother is a retired private teacher and a nurses aid. Both her parents are still alive. In 1968, she obtained a full Cocoa Marketing Board scholarship to study at the Akim Oda Secondary School for her O levels. She obtained her A level at Aburi Girls Secondary School in 1975.
In 1975, Prof. Mrs. Esi Awuah enrolled in the Biological Sciences program at the then University of Science and Technology in Kumasi and obtained a lower second class degree. After her national service at the then Forest Products Research Institute in Kumasi, she moved to the Department of Civil Engineering as a research assistant to Prof. A.M. Wright, the then Head of Department who was working on a World Health Organization (WHO) project on VIP latrines. In 1981, at the beginning of the International Decade for Water and Sanitation (1981-1991), she obtained a WHO scholarship to study Environmental Science at the College of Environmental Science and Forestry at the State University of New York in the USA. In 1998 she obtained a fellowship from the Netherlands Government to do a PhD in wastewater treatment, a discipline of environmental/sanitary engineering at The Institute of Infrastructural, Hydraulic and Environmental Engineering at Delft in the Netherlands. Her thesis served as a blue print to show that natural treatment mechanisms play a major role in pathogen removal.
Prof. Mrs. Esi Awuah started working at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in 1986 as a lecturer in the Department of Civil Engineering. She went on to become the Head of the Departmental Library and the lecturer in charge of Environmental Quality Engineering. Under her supervision, several water quality analysis projects were carried out to raise awareness on the pollution of several streams in urban areas and ground water contamination from on-site sanitation systems. Prof. Mrs. Esi Awuah has taught several courses at KNUST, the University of Cape Coast and the University Education Winneba at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. These courses have been on such topics as environmental studies, waste water treatment, landfill design and solid waste management, environmental microbiology, parasitology, environmental quality parameters, control of vectors and diseases associated with water development projects, community health, construction technology for on site sanitation structures, and pollution control.
She is known for her lecture notes on environmental and sanitation studies for the tropics which are sought after by students taking courses in environmental engineering and sanitation studies across universities in Ghana and other countries. She has developed several curricula in several disciplines for the establishment of academic programs in Ghana and Liberia. She has also supervised over 200 BSc students, 40 MSc students, two PhD students who have completed their dissertations and ten other PhD students who have made great progress on their theses under her supervision.
The students thus supervised have hailed from local universities such as KNUST and the University of Cape Coast, as well as international universities such as the University of Copenhagen, University of Edinburgh, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UNESCO-IHE Institute of Hydraulic, Infrastructure and Environmental Engineering in the Netherlands, and the University of Western Ontario in Canada. These students have come from countries as varied as Burkina Faso, Kenya, USA, UK, Switzerland, Sweden, Netherlands, Benin, Canada and Denmark. They have also represented several disciplines including theoretical and applied biology, chemistry, agriculture, engineering, renewable energy resources, as well as arts and social sciences. Prof. Mrs. Esi Awuah became a senior lecturer in 1996 and an associate professor in 2002. In 2008 she applied to become a full professor in environmental engineering in the Department of Civil Engineering at KNUST.
While at KNUST, Prof. Mrs. Esi Awuah held several leadership positions. She was the Head of the Department of Environment and Technology at the Institute of Science and Technology for Africa from 2004 to 2006, the Head of the Civil Engineering Department from 2006 to 2008 and the Dean of the Faculty of Civil and Geomatic Engineering from 2008 to 2010. In addition, she served on the College of Engineering Appointments and Promotion Committee, the College Infrastructural Committee, and the College of Engineering Library Committee. She was also a member of KNUST's Disciplinary Committee and as a member of the Faculty of Social Science Board. She was a member of the task force that developed the first document for the establishment of the two new public universities in Ghana. She is currently an executive board member of the Organization of Women in Science from the Developing World (OWSD) as representative of the African Region.
Internationally Prof. Mrs. Esi Awuah is known for her teaching and research in environment, water supply and sanitation and has served on several boards locally and internationally. Her research interests are water supply, sanitation, waste water and water treatment, hygiene, environmental and risk assessment. She has over 100 publications in refereed journals, conference papers, environmental reports and book chapters.
Her major research findings include the development of a weighting system for impact assessment of water developments in Ghana; arsenic removal from ground water using local materials; determining the major pathogen removal mechanisms in waste stabilization ponds; identifying the role of arsenic in buruli ulcer disease; establishing risk factors associated with urban agriculture using waste water; environmental practices and risk factors associated with buruli ulcer; and health impacts associated with charcoal production and hygienic practices among food vendors. Her work has established the fact that the extremes of pH in waste stabilization ponds are more potent in pathogen removal than the fluctuations. Without predation, faecal bacteria in waste stabilization ponds could be higher than initial concentrations since these organisms actually grow in waste water.
She has also directed several international research collaborations in water supply, environmental health and sanitation. Notable among them are the SWITCH EU project on urban water management; the African SNOWS project on research capacity building for water supply, environmental health and sanitation; CapWa, an EU project on capturing of water vapor to conserve water and energy in industries; as well as the SMART sanitation project to develop smart toilet technologies for the urban poor initiated by UNESCO-IHE in the Netherlands. These projects have brought millions of dollars to the institutions involved, and have equally connected Prof. Mrs. Esi Awuah to several institutions on every continent around the globe.
Having travelled extensively herself to several parts of the world including Sudan, South Africa, Israel, China, HongKong, Denmark, Norway, Brazil, Colombia, and the United States of America, she is highly networked and well positioned to bring in resources and other expertise to help build the University of Energy and Natural Resources.
Though Prof. Mrs. Esi Awuah has taught and conducted research in environment, water supply and sanitation for the past 32 years, she has not limited her teaching to the classroom, but has done community outreach programs on environment and sanitation education across Ghana. In the late eighties and early nineties when HIV/AIDS became a big problem in her community, she wrote a play and staged it twice at the market square to educate the community and address their concerns. In order to stop open defecation around KNUST by neighboring communities, she wrote a proposal to the African Development Fund in Washington DC and organized 30 local artisans to construct latrines and provide ten-seater public toilets for the Sisai Akyi community, thus defying the fear of death surrounding the construction of public toilets in the community.
When Prof. Mrs Awuah learned of the burning down of a pump house supplying water to the people of Bimbilla, she, together with a team of Cornell University students funded by a David's grant, organized a workshop on hygiene education in Bimbilla, purchased water pumps and installed them. It was the first time in the history of the conflict between the Abudus and Andanis that the two factions met under one roof, discussing the issues on water and sanitation that were affecting their community. Prof. Mrs. Esi Awuah and her team showed how water pumps could bring peace. In addition to fixing the pumps, they also mechanized three boreholes in the community which hitherto had been unhygienically used. Prof. Mrs. Esi Awuah has since provided training for more local artisans not only in latrine construction, but also in hand-dug well construction, as well as training for school hygiene promotion tutors. She has also organized several leadership programs for women and church leaders.
For her meritorious work in environmental engineering as well as her extensive scholarly work on water supply and sanitation, Prof. Mrs. Esi Awuah received the UNESCO Mondialogo Award in 2008 for innovative research in engineering. She was also recognized by the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development in Ghana during the international year of sanitation. In 2011 she received the best research award (silver) for environment, water and sanitation during the first National Science Congress in Ghana.
Prof. Mrs. Esi Awuah is married to Prof. R.T Awuah, a plant pathologist and former Principal of the College of Agriculture atAshanti Mampong Campus of the University of Education and former Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture at KNUST in Kumasi. She has two sons: Ato, a student at the Ghana Law School, and Kobbina, a reliability engineer at ConocoPhillips , New Jersey, USA who is now a Harvard Business and Law School graduate student. Prof. Mrs. Esi Awuah is a devout and very active Christian in the Methodist Church Ghana at Mount Zion Society Kotei. She is a church organist and a member of the singing band. She was recognized by the Church for her role in the development of her society during the Methodist Church's 175th anniversary. She has a gospel album 'Yesu Ko Ma Me.' Her key sayings are that 'all human beings are created equal in the image of God,' and that 'the quality of everybody's environment is a determination of the quality of her mind set.' Her hobbies are music, walking and praying. Her favorite dish is fufu and abenkwan.
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