Emmanuel Ahenkorah, a Spring 2016 Borlaug LEAP Fellow, is studying pollutants and developing remediation models for contaminated agricultural lands. Emmanuel has an undergraduate background in chemistry, and currently pursuing his Master’s degree in Environmental Science at the University of South Africa. His research is aimed at helping restore farming activities to abandoned agriculture lands as it seeks to analyze and develop pollutant-specific remediation techniques. Practically speaking, his research will help reduce the impact industries have on the environment, especially the mining industries. They often take over agricultural lands and destroy their arability, and then abandon them, making it hard for farmers to re-use the land afterwards. Agricultural outputs have decreased over the years in areas where this practice is predominant, hence, his decision to embark on this study and to contribute to the core principles that the Borlaug LEAP fellowship is built upon.
A career in agriculture-environmental interactions is something Emmanuel has always had in mind. The eye-opening results obtained from his undergraduate research in water quality analysis in Ghana led him to develop an interest in contaminants and their remediation. Analytical and instrumentation experience gained while working in chemistry laboratories kindled his interest in modeling environmental remediation techniques in the laboratory. Emmanuel’s job as a high school agriculture teacher allowed him not only to impart agricultural-based skills to the learners, but also serve as a tool to channel the interest of the youth into agriculture. Agriculture is traditionally an area that many youth perceive to be for the poor or less fortunate. Emmanuel feels that his style of leadership combines scientific methodology and the art of managing others to guide and inspire people. He often led student groups, embarking on door-to-door campaigns to advocate for backyard gardens in households. He has also had the opportunity to train and mentor interns while working as a laboratory assistant and a teacher.
Emmanuel feels privileged to be mentored by Professor Thomas Young at the University of California, Davis and Dr. Fred Kizito at International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in Kenya. Dr. Young's research explores issues of water and soil contamination and remediation. He will equip Emmanuel with new research methods, which can be used in his work on pollutants that pose a threat to agriculture. Dr. Kizito researches agriculture-environment interactions, helping to restore degraded landscape and soil fertility. His work will be an ideal match for the research Emmanuel is currently conducting, considering both of their research seeks to evaluate the potential of soil and water to be used for agriculture, following pollution degradation. His mentors will be assisting him with his methodology and thesis writing and will supervise his work in person both in the lab and in the field in Kenya. Emmanuel is on course to complete his MSc by 2018 and looks forward to enrolling for a Ph.D. in Soil and Water Science upon completion.