Emmanuela Akosua Opoku, a doctoral student in the University of North Texas' Department of Philosophy and Religion Studies, has been awarded a $5,000 P.E.O., or Philanthropic Educational Organization, International Peace Scholarship. Seven UNT students have received the scholarship since 2002.
Opoku, a native of Ghana, entered UNT in the 2014 fall semester to enroll in the doctoral program in environmental ethics and philosophy. She plans to research floods and droughts in Northeast Ghana and their impact on food security and livelihood issues for farmers, particularly women farmers. She notes that, in 2010, women farmers were responsible for 87 percent of food crop production in the region, after the number of women farming rose by more than 250 percent over 30 years.
"With this significant contribution to the national food basket and a huge dependence on the land and environmental resources, women should not be the most vulnerable when it comes to the impacts of climate change," said Opoku. She said she is encouraged by the fact that Northeast Ghanaian women are "resilient and hard working," but wants those women's plights to be known so the Ghanaian government may "facilitate a functional response, via enlightened and viable policy."
"The Ph.D. combines studies in the humanities with elements of social justice, which will give me a technical understanding of climate change and a sound background to enhance my knowledge base in social justice issues. That will advance my research into an application of environmental policy in Northeast Ghana," Opoku said.
George James, associate professor of philosophy and religion studies, said Opoku's research "will not only make a significant contribution to scholarship on contemporary environmental issues in Africa but will help raise public awareness especially of the challenges facing female farmers in Northeast Ghana."
"Such research can have a positive impact upon government policy toward livelihood issues for these communities. Emmanuela deserves our most hearty congratulations," he said.
James Duban, director of UNT's Office for Nationally Competitive Scholarships, said Opoku "has brought added distinction to herself and to UNT with this P.E.O. scholarship."
"It highlights the global dimension of our student body while celebrating the advanced research of these extraordinary graduate students," he said.
Opoku entered UNT after taking leave as a faculty member at the University for Development Studies in Navorongo, Ghana, where she has taught since May 2008. She received her undergraduate degree at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana, and a master's degree in environmental policy from the University of Cambridge before teaching at the University for Development Studies.
After receiving her doctoral degree, Opoku will return to Ghana to teach at the University for Development Studies. She also wants to collaborate with both governmental and non-governmental organizations on research in environmental and land management, rural development and poverty reduction