Why should Africa care about climate change and how can we stem the effects? These are the questions that we ask Marie Sophie Tsinampoizina, an Ocean and Climate Dynamics scientist from Madagascar.
What motivated you to study science? Before attending University, I didn’t know what I really want to do. In Madagascar, parents have a strong influence on the choice of their children. I was good at Mathematics and Physics in secondary school. I was accepted at the Faculty of Sciences at the University to study Mathematics and Physics. After getting my License degree, I wanted to change my field of study, to focus on the practical aspects of Mathematics. Fortunately, I had the chance to study Ocean and Climate Dynamics which could benefit from my Mathematics background in this field. I was happy to become a scientist in this domain as its applications are very useful in my country.
What about oceanography and climate change interests you so much? Oceanography and climatology are applied sciences that make use of my mathematics skills. These fields are relevant for Madagascar, a big island which experiences extreme weather conditions such as cyclones and drought.
What are you working on right now? Research or industrial-based work? Right now I am in Madagascar, doing my own research in many subjects like agriculture, education, and politics. I am trying to understand and analyze the real needs of the majority of people in Madagascar.
How can people get involved in tackling climate change? Only few people read research papers in Africa. People ignore what climate agreements are. Actually, climate change has become an important issue around the world while big industries are still exploiting natural resources in Africa with the support of corrupt governments. Stopping these exploitative projects such as land grabbing, and mining would contribute to the action against climate change. Planting trees is another good example on work against climate change.
What stands out to you about climate change and its effects in Africa? In your opinion, what can we do to change our situation? “Climate change and its effects” sounds dramatic. There are many other climate-related problems that many African countries cannot solve. Each region has and always had their specific problems (drought, heat, landfalls, cyclones). The reality is that risk and disaster management always fail in Africa. Even a climate variation from one year to another can affect a lot of people. Most aid to the African population comes in form of donations or construction. Instead, we should get more information and technical knowledge to deal with these problems by ourselves, for example: rainwater storage techniques, construction techniques, food conservation, telecommunication, weather prediction, local risk management organization, etc… As a climatologist, I think we should try to better understand climate variability phenomenons such as El Niño (a global ocean-atmosphere phenomenon). Predicting seasonal and inter-annual climate variability and communicating the results to the people in the ground would help them on their work in agriculture.
Are women doing enough to get more girls into science and engineering? No, women are not doing enough to get more girls into science and engineering. It also depends on how science and engineering could satisfy their needs. In Africa, science and engineering is not as advanced as in developed countries. Even the basics of science and engineering are not used and taught in everyday life for convenience; for example: the water pulling system, the stove and the ash evacuation system, etc. I think, as a woman doing science and engineering, we should make good use of these knowledge to facilitate and to enjoy our everyday life.
What is your favorite quote? At high school, one Malagasy writer, Clarisse Ratsifandriamanana, inspired me with this passage from her book:
“Life is a battle and it is for those who have the will to win”.
Any hobbies? I love cooking. I even have the plan to open my own restaurant somewhere in the coast of Madagascar, where I would also think of doing my work on ocean and climate dynamics. I love talking to people, laughing and sharing experiences of life with the others.
Parting shot (encouraging words for girls, or women in science)? Science may seem difficult, but it could be good for you, so let your brain think and understand some of the logic and patterns!