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Earth Sciences

General objective of the Nairobi Field Office of Earth Sciences is the promotion of resource development, environmental protection and land-use planning, including waste disposal and natural disaster reduction. The International Geological Correlation Programme (IGCP) is the major instrument of UNESCO`s contribution to comparative studies in earth sciences, including the history and evolution of the earth and its geological heritage.

Activities implemented in co-operation with the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) and other international geoscientific programmes have resulted in the production of thematic geological maps, postgraduate training in the earth sciences, and applications in remote sensing and geodata handling, climate change and industrial pollution. Unfortunately, currently only four of altogether about 50 IGCP projects are directly concerned with geoscientific demands and problems of subsaharan Africa. It is aimed to increase the number of IGCP projects with an African component to ensure that the knowledge achieved through these projects can be transferred to various user groups.

Geoscience in Africa
Although there is an urgent need for geoscientific work to be done in Africa, there is also a general lack of infrastructure in most African countries to accommodate geologists. Engineering geology, environmental geology, hydrogeology, medical geology (geomedicine), geological hazards, energy and mineral resources are some of the areas that are seen by the UNESCO Nairobi Office to be significant for the development of the region and which require consideration for the achievement of sustainable results. On the other hand there is a need for comprehensive evaluation of the physical environment and of the economic implications before undertaking any development. It is generally emphasized to continue with existing projects that have proved to contribute to sustainability, for instance PANGIS (Pan African Geological Information System), in which more than 20 African countries participate, by using UNESCO software and personal computers to reorganize their bibliographical and factual geodata handling, in order to preserve data in better conditions and make it more easily accessible for scientists and engineers of other disciplines as well as for managers and policy makers.

Women in Geoscience
Despite the fact that women today are working in all spheres of society, there is no doubt that sex-stereotyping and discrimination still exists in the geoscientific community, especially in developing countries. In May 2000 during a workshop on "Gender and Environmental Concerns for Female Geoscientists in Africa", being held in Dar es Salaam and sponsored by the UNESCO Nairobi Office, the "Association of African Women Geoscientists (AAWG)" was founded, with the aim in leading the fight to rid the geosciences community of discrimination. It is quite clear which vital role the geosciences have to play in underpinning the social, economic and industrial infrastructure of nations, especially if we are to have the mineral and energy resources to sustain a global population of 10 billion or more; if we are to manage the fragile environment we cohabit, mitigate against the effects of severe natural hazards, and come to terms with global warming; if we are to maintain fertile soils for crops and adequate supplies for clean drinking water for all. However, though much of the edifice of sustainable development stands on the backs of women, they comprise the most vulnerable segment of the human society. The achievement of sustainable development is inextricably bound up with the establishment of women's equality.

UNESCO`s role continues to include coordination and implementation of cosponsored geoscientific projects in Africa, as well as to act as a forum for discussions and exchange of ideas in this field. To improve the public assessment of the geoscientific work to be done in Africa, more emphasis shall be put on the identification and promotion of applied research themes of interest to the international scientific community in view of fostering regional collaboration. However, projects devoted to pure science cannot be totally neglected, as for instance often demonstrated by the results achieved through the IGCP projects.

The UNESCO Nairobi Office of Earth Sciences has acted as the centre for the execution of programmes to develop capacity building among African geoscientists. Additionally to these goals it is a major aim of this office in future to increase the efforts that lead to local and international geoconservation schemes in subsaharan Africa, including the nomination of the most significant geoscientific monuments in this region, to preserve their natural and cultural heritage.


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Last Updated on 12th March 2006
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