Physicist, researcher and professor at the University of Dakar (Senegal), Coumba Niang obtained the first scholarship awarded by Harambee within the “Guadalupe” project, in memory of the recently beatified Spanish scientist Guadalupe Ortiz de Landázuri.“In West Africa, dry and boreal winter seasons alternate with monsoon summer seasons during which most of the year’s rainfall is concentrated: in August in the north and between September and October in the south“. Niang is carrying out his research in Spain, at the Institute of Mathematical Sciences (ICMAT) of the Superior Council of Scientific Research. “My study aims to gain a greater understanding of the physical process that can explain the seasonal variability of the monsoon system, with great impact on the population that is highly dependent on rainfall“.
Climate variability affects people’s lives: a different rainy season is crucial in an area where survival is conditioned by agricultural, pastoral and forestry productivity. “Improving the understanding of the physical mechanisms underlying the African monsoon is important to reduce the Sahelian region’s vulnerability to food crises”.
The research work of the Senegalese doctor responds precisely to the objective of the Harambee fellowship program: to strengthen the skills of African scientists so that their work can be useful for improving living conditions in the communities of origin. “ICMAT is an established research institute, with high computer skills, easy access to large databases, international scientific journals, technical equipment and above all it offers the possibility of working alongside great luminaries“.
Coumba Niang is the only woman in her research laboratory in Senegal and has had to work harder to acquire the right authority; moreover, in Senegal, despite the progress, it is still difficult to access the technical and financial resources, as well as the scientific data needed to keep up with the pace: “My stay in Spain will bring great benefits in my country, not only because of the experience I have acquired, but also because we will be able to count on the use of mathematical tools that I have developed to improve our understanding of the monsoon system“.
In addition, “The experience has allowed me to deepen my knowledge of Guadalupe: its life in the service of others, particularly by investing in improving the educational and living conditions of women, is for me a source of inspiration, a model to follow in my career as a scientist and researcher; it shows that you can be a high level scientist and have a transcendental sense of life and live according to these principles“.