FAR-LeaF fellow Dr Emmanuel Chukwuma ended 2022 on a high note: Three studies were published in prominent international scientific research journals. Dr Chukwuma is a lecturer in the Agricultural and Bioresources Engineering Department of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University in Awka, Nigeria. Two of his published research works consider waste management. At the same time, one is centred on integrating GIS and an advanced decision model to tackle erosion, a significant environmental hazard in the South-east of Nigeria.

What is your research about, and why is it important?

Waste generated daily from human activities constitutes serious negative consequences when mismanaged; it affects aquatic life, human health, and the ecosystem balance. The state of the environment is critical for the survival of man. Therefore, concerted efforts must be directed through research to keep the environment in the best condition.

What challenges do you face – specifically in your geographical area and discipline?

Several environmental challenges are prevalent in the study areas and most developing countries. The increase in precipitation and the adverse effect of erosion hazards due to climate change is a significant environmental challenge in the South-eastern parts of Nigeria.

Other environmental challenges are associated with the lack of a systematic approach to waste management in the meat processing sector – which is growing because of the high demand for protein in the human diet. This is associated with an increase in wastewater generation, consequently leading to pollution of surface water bodies.

Apart from wastewater generated in abattoir operations, it produces animal hair as a waste product. This, and human hair waste, also need to be strategically managed.

Where did your interest in and passion for wastewater originate?

I was directed to the environmental engineering option by senior colleagues in my institution, mainly because there were few hands in that option in my department.

After my international fellowship research on mitigating marine plastic pollution and a series of capacity development programs, my interest in environmental sustainability grew. I am so passionate about the environment that I currently head an NGO on ecological sustainability. It is a passion for research and practical action that translates to the streets to make a societal impact.

What would your advice to young researchers be about publishing articles?

Young researchers should put their best into publishing their research work. A good carpenter cannot be known unless he strives to showcase his workpiece. Analogously, young researchers can only gain visibility if they publish their research work. It creates the platform for obtaining research grants, networking with other scientists, engaging in research collaboration.

Early career researchers need to collaborate with people within and outside of their discipline; this will provide enough platforms for research dissemination through a broader network. It is also critical to maximise social media platforms for research dissemination. The number of social media outlets that can help boost research work is increasing.


What does it mean to you to have three articles in quick succession published in reputable international publications?

It is a dream come true. On a personal level, it creates excitement and motivation to work smarter. Seeing your name in print in a reputable journal gives you the energy to invest more time in research because you would love to have that excitement repeatedly. Career-wise, it is vital for promotion in my institution. It also puts me on a trajectory to become an established researcher in my field.

THE ARTICLES

Geospatial-based analysis for soil erosion susceptibility evaluation: application of a hybrid decision model | Modelling Earth Systems and Environment | READ

The publication integrated advanced decision models to foster accurate prediction of erosion zones; this is critical in infrastructure development and risk management. The study provides the public with geospatial information on the level of erosion risk across the region, which is crucial in decision-making on the best locations for agricultural and industrial activities.

Application of synthesised Fish Scale Chito-Protein (FSC) for the treatment of abattoir wastewater: Coagulation-flocculation kinetics and equilibrium modelling | Scientific African | READ

The publication establishes that fish scale – generally seen as a waste material - can be employed in abattoir wastewater treatment and explores the concept.

Mechanical impact evaluation of natural fibres with LDPE plastic composites: Waste management in perspective | Current Research in Green and Sustainable Chemistry | READ

The publication discusses using human and animal hair waste to improve plastic properties. Using hair to make better plastics eliminates waste from the environment and produces improved plastic materials with high durability and an increased life cycle. This is essential in reducing the quantity of plastic in use which will eventually turn to waste.

Dr Emmanuel C. Chukwuma

Department of Agricultural and Bioresources Engineering
Nnamdi Azikiwe University
Nigeria


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Prof Stephanie Burton

Prof Stephanie Burton

Research and Postgraduate Education
FAR-LeaF Program Director
University of Pretoria
South Africa

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The Future Africa Research Leader Fellowship (FAR-LeaF) is a fellowship programme, focussed on developing transdisciplinary research and leadership skills, to address the complex, inter-linked challenges of health, well-being, and environmental risks in Africa.