Eighth project funded by the Sue White Fund for Africa

Developing Carbon and Soil Health Indicators for West African Cocoa Plantations will be the Sue White Fund’s eighth PhD project. Gideon Asamoah has arrived at Cranfield to begin his studies under the supervision of Dr Nick Girkin and Dr Ruben Sakrabani. The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Ghana and Centre National de Recherche Agronomique in the Ivory Coast will support Gideon when he returns to start his research in Africa.

The aims of the project are to identify, develop and test low-cost measurement methods and metrics applicable to cocoa farming systems. These will be able to quantify changes in soil health through time and across a range of field and catchment management practices and intensities. It is intended that these metrics can be scaled up and applied at national levels.

Gideon is being sponsored by Cargill who own several cocoa plantations in Ghana and the Ivory Coast. The project is complementary to the work being undertaken in another of the Sue White Fund projects and the students will share some of their results. Farmer training programmes, workbooks and workshops are planned to communicate project outcomes and benefits.


Above: Gideon meeting with Pauline Avery at the Professor Sue White memorial in Cranfield.

Previous updates

Seventh project funded - March 2023

Another project based in Ghana is to become the seventh PhD funded by the Sue White Fund. Bright Laboan’s project is entitled Site Specific Nutrient Management for Sustainable Cocoa Intensification in Ghana.

Bright’s project is supported by the African Plant Nutrition Institute and his academic supervision will be from Dr Ruben Sakrabani at Cranfield university and by Dr Edward Yeboah at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in Ghana.

The project aims to develop site specific formulations of organo-mineral fertilisers based on detailed soil and agronomic studies in order to meet cocoa nutrient demand and improve soil health. Outcomes from the project should improve cocoa productivity in Ghana while mitigating catchment pollution.

Above: Bright pictured at a cocoa plantation in Ghana; Bright meeting with Dr Monica Rivas Casado at the Professor Sue White Memorial in Cranfield.

Sue White Fund conference - 12 August 2022

On 12 August 2022 the first Sue White Fund (SWF) conference, a virtual event hosted by the amazing Grenville Turner studio at Cranfield University, took place. The conference was introduced and compèred by Dr Monica Rivas Casado and Toby Thompson in the studio, with video links to all the speakers. It was a valuable and rewarding opportunity to assemble, albeit virtually, all six of the current PhD students and have them present their work to an audience of their peers, their supervisors, other researchers in Africa and across the world, and to family, friends and former colleagues of Sue White. Cranfield University supervisors were introduced by Monica and Toby and they, in turn, introduced the students.

The audience were able to hear the background to the projects and then learn about the research progress in each of them. The first presenter was Frank Mnthambala, who has recently been awarded his PhD – the first of the SWF cohort to complete his project.

Above: Monica and Toby in the studio with Frank, Kabura, Eric and Mavuto on video link.

The students, their locations and projects

John Kabura Foye – Tanzania
Charcoal Making and Understanding Links to Deforestation in Tanzania

Tshephang Tumoyagae – Botswana
Municipal Waste Water Reclamation to Increase Water Supply in Botswana

Frank Mnthambala – Malawi
Evaluation of Phosphorus Dynamics from Renewable Sources to Meet Crop Demand and Minimise Environmental Pollution in Malawi

Mavuto Banda – Malawi
Modelling the Impacts of Precision Irrigation on Sugarcane Yield, Water and Energy Uses in Sub-Saharan Africa

Eric Nartey – Ghana
Transformation of Solid and Liquid Wastes into Fertiliser to Minimise Urban Catchment Pollution

Samuel Nyarko – Ghana
Securing Drinking Water Supplies: The Role of Organic Matter on Water Treatability

Above: Tshepi making her presentation from Africa.

Above: Samuel presenting from Cranfield.

All of the students emphasised their appreciation for the opportunity they had been given to undertake their projects – an opportunity that would not have been possible without the Sue White Fund. All of the projects met the criteria of the Fund, being in the field of research into water and sanitation, catchment processes and water management, and they have all attracted the required level of industrial sponsorship. These were requirements of the scheme, together with the need for fieldwork in Africa, supported by an academic institution in the host country and a demonstration that the outputs would benefit local, national and wider communities in Africa. More details of the projects can be found on our listing page.

Some of the projects are complementary in nature and it is hoped that networking between the students, their host universities and industrial sponsors will lead to collaborations and further research in the future.

The presentations were followed by questions from other speakers and from participants in the audience via text chat, which were responded to by the students and their supervisors.

Dr Ruben Sakrabani, who joined the conference from a family holiday in Malaysia, made a number of appearances as he is supervisor to both Frank and Eric, and he also introduced one of two additional presentations later in the conference.

Above: Monica and Toby in the studio with Ruben on video link.

The final two presentations were from students in Ghana, Bright and Crystal, who will be joining the group in the forthcoming months. They each introduced themselves and outlined the projects that they will be undertaking.

Dr Rivas Casado, who co-ordinates the Sue White Fund on behalf of Cranfield University, concluded the event, commenting that the legacy left by Professor White has offered a huge benefit to the current students and those involved in these specific projects, but that we can also see there will be a chain of effects and impacts deriving from the engagement between these students and local communities. This engagement will introduce changes to and improvements in regulation and policy in their countries, which may in turn lead to further research and more benefits in the future.

Download a recording of the event

Memorial - June 2021

The Sue White Fund for Africa, marking the bequest of distinguished former Cranfield water specialist Professor Sue White, was launched in January 2016. At the launch, Sue’s family and colleagues were pictured with her memorial plaque and a tree was also planted in the grounds of Cranfield University in her memory. Sheila White, Professor White’s mother, said: “I am very proud and pleased that both Sue and the research she was so passionate about are being acknowledged, remembered and continued in this way by Cranfield University.”

The aim of the fund is to support students researching water and sanitation, catchment processes and water management projects in Africa. It is financed by a generous donation to the University made by Sue through her estate, and up to three awards are made each year.

Above: Sue's family with former Cranfield University Vice-Chancellor, Sir Peter Gregson; the memorial tree.

Since its inception, the fund has continually been co-ordinated and administered by Sue’s former colleague and good friend Dr Monica Rivas Casado with support from the University and put to great use. Support from the fund has enabled five PhD projects and one MSc to commence in Tanzania, Botswana, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Ghana.

The broad range of projects are investigating: harvesting rainwater; transforming solid and liquid wastes into fertiliser; renewable phosphorus dynamics; links between charcoal production and deforestation; and precision irrigation for sugarcane production – all with the aims of protecting water resources and water supply, improving crop production and minimising pollution.

Despite the recent global pandemic, two of the PhD projects are nearing completion.

Recently Sue’s memorial has been refurbished with the addition of a bench and the transplanting of the tree.

Above: Tshepi and Monica with the tree; the new memorial.