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The University of Southampton
Geography and Environmental Science

Exchanging sargassum knowledge in the Western Region of Ghana, January 2023

Published: 21 February 2023
Dr Sien van der Plank
Dr Sien van der Plank

Welcome to the coast of the Ghanaian Western Region. Seemingly endless beaches of coconut and palm trees. A biodiverse tapestry of coastal, forest and coastal ecosystems.

A blend of cosmopolitan towns, gas terminals, farmland, tourist resorts, and smaller villages. In every locality, there is land to farm to the north, coast and the Atlantic to sustain fishing livelihoods to the south. But here too, sargassum seaweed influxes are causing a major headache – both rhetorically and physically.

Dry and fresh sargassum.

In January 2023, researchers from the University of Southampton (UK), University of Ghana, Mona GeoInformatics Institute (Jamaica), and Ghanaian Environmental Protection Agency travelled ten hours west of Accra to share our knowledge on the causes and biology of sargassum, as well as possible management and usage opportunities. Dr Maxam, Romario Anderson and Darren Fletcher from MGI shared their learning from similar sargassum experiences in Jamaica, and presented their work on an early warning system. But that is only half the story: we also sat down for a day with local headteachers, teachers and community representatives to learn about their experiences, responses and needs regarding these seaweed influxes.

Ghanaian coast
CoastSnap, photo snap points in Beyin, Sanzule and Esiama, Ghana.

For three further days, the international team of fourteen researchers travelled between Beyin, Sanzule and Esiama to engage junior high school children in the SargSNAP! citizen science project. Building on teaching from an earlier visit in June 2022, we tested the students’ general knowledge on sargassum. We also asked what their experiences and interests in sargassum are. We extended an invitation for them to join this research by collecting data in two ways: first, by taking photos of sargassum impacts on their everyday lives; second, by using a newly launched CoastSnap point in their locality to systematically record the absence and presence of sargassum. We are grateful to all schools and children for accepting this invitation, and look forward to continuing to co-produce this research with them.

This work has been made possible by:

  • University of Southampton researchers: Dr Victoria Dominguez Almela and Dr Sien van der Plank
  • University of Ghana researchers: Prof Kwasi Appeaning Addo, Dr Philip-Neri Jayson-Quashigah, Dr Winnie Sowah, Millicent Acheampong, Evelyn Naa Boeteng, Bernice Wilmot Oppong
  • Mona GeoInformatics Institute researchers: Dr Ava Maxam, Darren Fletcher, Romario Anderson
  • Ghana Environmental Protection Agency representatives: Peace Gbeckor Kove, Charles Bamfo, Mawuli Gbeckor
  • Beyin teachers and community members: Felix Cudjoe, Joyce Ackah, Francis Armoh
  • Sanzule teachers and community members: Gladys Agyalu, Veronica Esslen, Festus Agbodohu
  • Esiama teachers and community members: Prosper Amihere, Afful Bemie Millicent

We also gratefully acknowledge the contributions of University of Southampton staff and PhD students (including Prof Emma Tompkins, Prof Jadu Dash, Yanna Fidai, Daniela Rivera Marin, Lucy Graves and Sarah Ryles), and further University of Ghana colleagues.

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