Eye Health of Ghanaian Cocoa Farmers Focus of UKZN Graduate’s Research
Dr Samuel Boadi-Kusi had to travel long distances on poor roads and sleep in remote villages during the course of completing his PhD research on the vision-related health of cocoa farmers in Ghana.
An Optometry Lecturer at the University of Cape Coast Optometry in Ghana, Boadi-Kusi joined UKZN after receiving a PhD scholarship award which he used to examine vision-related conditions that affect farmers in Ghana under the specialty area of Environmental and Occupational Optometry.
According to Boadi-Kusi, Ghanaian cocoa farmers are known to face several ocular health hazards such as chemicals, ultraviolet radiation, farm equipment, plants, dust and allergens.
As a qualified optometrist he felt farmers were engaged in improper ocular health and safety practices on the farm, making insufficient use of appropriate protective eye devices and health services.
His study sought to examine and understand the factors that affect the ocular health of these farmers in order to improve their knowledge and awareness on ocular health and safety practices through a training intervention.
The study confirmed that eye disorders were highly prevalent among the cocoa farmers and demonstrated that, with an ocular health intervention, they could improve their knowledge and awareness levels on ocular health and safety practices which may be of benefit to the farmer, employers and the national economy.
‘It has always been my desire to research in an area that has a direct bearing on the lives of people, particularly among the working population where research is limited and data is scarce. This is why I chose to work in this area following from my masters, to enhance a complete understanding of the issues relating to the eye health of cocoa farmers,’ said Boadi-Kusi.
He said completing the study made him appreciate the life of others and how most of the farmers, although labeled as poor, enjoyed life.
‘It is exciting to graduate in 2015. As I waited for the examiners’ report and one of them had delayed, I kept wondering whether I was going to miss the opportunity to graduate. But it finally came in and we managed to work on it to meet the deadline. I am extremely happy.’
Boadi-Kusi said his supervisors, Dr Rekha Hansraj and Mr Percy Mashige, had been his greatest support during his studies and stay in South Africa. ‘They motivated me to finish my studies ahead of schedule and it paid off.’
He also acknowledged University of Cape Coast past and present vice-chancellors for granting him the opportunity to study, in addition to other staff members in UKZN’s College of Health Sciences, including the African Vision and Research Institute (AVRI), who sacrificed their time to ensure his PhD was a success.
Boadi-Kusi, who has returned to Ghana, said: ‘It is an honour to give back to my people some of what I have learned.’