Inspiration. Innovation. Results.Meet and learn from renowned thought leaders on how to generate, foster and launch ideas to bring about real change through a nexus approach.
Safe water and health matter
Originally posted on Tallahassee Democrat | April 27, 2016 | Victor Ibeanusi, Ph.D.
Within the nexus of energy, water and food, access to safe drinking water remains one of the biggest challenges facing the global community. Most impacted are the rural communities of the world, where, in many places, open streams still serve as a one-stop shop for bathing, cooking, laundry and recreational activities.
The United Nations’ sustainable development efforts estimate that more than 1.5 billion people lack safe drinking water and over 2.5 billion lack access to adequate sanitation. This problem is not restricted to developing countries of the world; it is also a rural America problem as in Flint, Michigan, and as in many other rural communities in America that still depend on unregulated private wells and contaminated surface water for their water needs.
Through our upcoming EnergyWaterFoodNexus International Summit, Florida A&M University will be promoting a Global Safe Water Initiative. This initiative will seek to maximize our collective efforts in ensuring that rural communities around the world have access and secured safe drinking water. It calls for partnerships, new thinking, and strategies that are rooted within our local, rural, and urban communities, and designed to address the following safe water issues: access, health, education at all levels, risk communication, pollution control; politics and policies; and environmental justice and equity.
Some of the major outcomes of this initiative will be the creation of a database of rural communities that lack access to safe water, which when completed, will serve as a resource template for assessing safe water needs in rural communities; educational and research programs that train new generation of scholars that are capable of providing solutions in their local communities and beyond; and community engagement programs that empower local communities to take action.
The second EnergyWaterFoodNexus International Summit will be held in 2017 on FAMU’s campus. We invite the community to join us as we kick off our Global Safe Water Initiative.
‘New FAMU’ focuses on sustainability
Originally posted on Tallahassee Democrat | October 22, 2014 | Doug Blackburn
Anyone wondering what’s really new at Florida A&M University under Elmira Mangum need look no further than the Sustainability Institute.
Mangum, charged with transforming FAMU when she became the university’s 11th president April 1, hired Abena Sackey Ojetayo this summer to be the school’s first chief sustainability officer. Ojetayo is also executive director of the new interdisciplinary Sustainability Institute, an initiative that she and Mangum believe can elevate the university’s standing nationally and even internationally.
“The Sustainability Institute, which deals with the environment and the impact of the environment, is going to be a signature effort. I don’t think there are many institutions our size that are in the energy, water and food nexus,” Mangum said. “I think we have the right combination of programs to provide solutions to environmental problems.”
Mangum met Ojetayo at Cornell University, where Mangum was vice president for budget and planning and Ojetayo, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in environmental and civil engineering at the Ivy League school, was working with the university’s energy environmental facilities engineering operation.
Mangum has charged Ojetayo, a dynamic 29-year-old, with applying sustainability to every facet of FAMU, from research to recycling, and from energy savings to environmental solutions. The Sustainability Institute is not housed in a school or college at the university; instead, it is a standalone entity with the ability to facilitate collaborations across the university.
“FAMU is gearing up to emerge in the global market as a university that addresses issues that can benefit the world,” Ojetayo said.
“Sustainability is something that everybody has to grapple with. FAMU from its founding was dealing with sustainability issues, particularly as a land-grant institution.”
Ojetayo is employing student interns from all academic backgrounds as she lays the groundwork for the various ways the institute can make an impact on campus – and beyond. The team includes a faculty director, Odemari Mbuya, from the agriculture school, and an associate faculty director, Clayton Clark from the engineering school.
Mbuya, who was on the faculty at University of Florida before coming to FAMU in 1996, is also director of the Florida Climate Institute. He believes there are many ways to approach sustainability.
“To me, it is sometimes confused with environmental stewardship,” he said. “I regard sustainability as the long-term survival strategy of an individual, an institution or a country. We are dealing with limited resources, and we need to use them wisely. Sustainability deals with almost everything.”
FAMU is preparing to host a global summit in March focusing on sustainability and the energy, water food nexus. Ojetayo recently participated in a climate leadership conference in Boston, where she outlined FAMU’s goals for the new institute and how it can be part of solutions across the globe.
Brett Pasinella, the program manager at Second Nature, host of the conference, said he the way the Sustainability Institute is set up at FAMU, with its comprehensive focus and Ojetayo’s direct access to the university’s president, makes FAMU’s approach different from many institutions. Most higher education sustainability programs report to a director of facilities, he said.
“Florida A&M’s program has the opportunity to reshape the entire curriculum. I’m really excited to see Abena in that position and to be working with her,” Pasinella said. “I want her to be part of our leadership group at Second Nature.
“I think FAMU’s Sustainability Institute is a really unique program,” he added. “I don’t have a sense of how many programs are like it in the country, but I would guess it’s only a small handful that have that high level of administrative support behind them.”
The Sustainability Institute participated in a day-long symposium on Oct. 2 hosted by the inauguration committee that oversaw Mangum’s installation the following day. Environmental Protection Agency officials came to FAMU for the event, and the participants included representatives from the City of Tallahassee.
Mangum believes there are no limits to the way the initiative can play out at FAMU. She points to work being done at the viticulture center where FAMU researchers are developing medicinal uses from the muscadine grape.
“I think we have all of the right components for us to be a heavy player in this particular space. It can reduce our energy footprint and will save the university money and save the state money,” Mangum said. “We have to make sure the consciousness is raised by all our citizens. It’s not just about choosing the recycle bin. It affects everything that we do.”
Ojetayo acknowledges that the Sustainability Institute is a work in progress. It’s currently headquartered in an office in the School of Journalism & Graphic Communication, but Ojetayo spends more time on and around campus than in her office.
“The idea is to remain nimble and able to facilitate the integration of sustainability across the university,” she said. “We may not create a sustainability degree program, but we may work with colleges to develop courses to give exposure to sustainability. I think the president has made it very clear that this is an important component of the new FAMU.”