||Paige-Green in his office
|Crossing the equator during a field trip on the
| Delivering a presentation in Accra, Ghana
| A lesser honey guide |
Photo taken by Phil Paige-Green in his garden
On 25 May 1963 the leaders of the then independent Africa gave significant impetus to the continent's collective but then incomplete struggle for independence by establishing the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). Nearly four decades followed, in which African states stood united in the framework of the OAU, while making efforts to give depth and meaning to their political independence and striving for the socio-economic development of Africa’s people. Those efforts yielded positive results, culminating in the establishment of the African Union (AU). The date 25 May is therefore celebrated and commemorated every year as Africa Day.
One of the objectives of the AU is to advance the development of the continent by promoting research in science, engineering and technology (SET). As such, the CSIR plays a significant role in fulfilling these objectives via its wide-reaching research projects. A man who has been at the forefront of the CSIR’s support of the advancement of SET on the continent is Dr Phil Paige-Green, a Fellow at CSIR Built Environment. Paige-Green is an engineering geologist who investigates roads and transport technology – an area that has and continues to be a focal area for Africa’s development.
Roads in Africa
Born in Zimbabwe, Paige-Green says, “I have led various projects in 14 countries in Africa such as Uganda, Ghana, Botswana, Ethiopia and Malawi. We have helped some of these countries upgrade their road design manuals, assisted with training guidelines and conducted road improvement investigations and technical audits. We recently concluded an 18-month project with Ghana in which the CSIR compiled a very comprehensive document stipulating the requirements that contractors must comply with during the construction of roads. We are contracted regularly to do various studies in Botswana, which in my opinion now has one of the best road networks in Africa. Second to them is Namibia”.
In 2005, the CSIR was appointed by the Ugandan Road Agency Formation Unit to conduct a study on the quality and use of locally-produced limes in road stabilisation projects. It included a geological appraisal of potential raw material sources for lime production, a study of the properties and quality of the limes produced, and a comparison with international standards.
“Despite numerous lime producers being active in Uganda, it is evident that its annual production of lime is low while the natural limestones available for burning to produce lime are extensive. There is no doubt that lime production could be increased substantially in Uganda. The assessment of various lime production facilities and discussions with operators led to a number of recommendations on possible means of improving the lime industry in Uganda,” Paige-Green says, referring to the findings of the study.
A loyal CSIR employee
Paige-Green has worked for the CSIR for over 32 years and says, “I have never woken up and said ‘Oh no, not work again!’ I enjoy what I do, the environment, the people and the opportunities that the CSIR offers; including exposure, travel and international collaboration”. He says, “I was offered a position in the Sultanate of Oman in the Middle East in 1994 and thought it might be an interesting challenge. The CSIR made allowances that I could return to my position after the two-year contract. That is just what I did and I have no regrets”.
Paige-Green is working on a research project worth in excess of R5 million to develop a cost-effective way of using renewable sources, specifically waste materials in road binding materials. He explains, “Given oil shortages, environmental effects of fossil fuel usage and global climate change, various alternative binders needed to be investigated and developed by the CSIR. Consequently, a prototype binder based primarily on materials currently considered waste products has been developed. This material is being evaluated and improved to develop the necessary properties for use as a road binder”.
He is also working with the Asphalt Academy on a comprehensive roads engineering course and says, “No doubt exists that there is a shortage of engineers in Africa. However, those whom I have interacted with in, for example, Ghana, have proven to be highly knowledgeable in the specialised field of road engineering,” he says. The Asphalt Academy handles the coordination and development of knowledge transfer programmes and skills development in bituminous product technology in pavements.
Paige-Green has published more than 90 papers, and contributed two chapters to Engineering Geology of South Africa, Vol 3, the authoritative work on the engineering properties of South African natural materials. He has also authored and co-authored more than 300 contract, research and unpublished internal reports.
The esteemed man has won a number of awards for best papers at conferences, as well as internal CSIR awards. He is currently serving a four-year term (2007-2010) as the Vice-President (Africa) of the International Association of Engineering Geology.
After joining the CSIR in 1976, he conducted research on tillites (a type of rock), which saw him becoming a world authority on the topic. His later research centred on materials for the construction of unsealed roads, culminating in the development of innovative specifications, deterioration models and construction requirements. These have been implemented internationally. His work on unsealed roads evolved into the upgrading of such roads to low-cost sealed ones, again for which he received international recognition.
Paige-Green is also a co-leader in another CSIR project valued at R9,5 million to develop improved response models for unbound materials in road pavements.
An eye for detail
The father of two is a nature lover and ardent bird-watcher, having identified over 470 bird species in South Africa. “I spend at least five hours on most weekends observing the vast number of birds that our country is home to. To me looking at birds is not just a hobby; it’s become a way of life”. He is also a keen photographer and has done considerable competitive work through the years. At one stage during the late 1980s, he was rated the most successful South African pictorial photographer in international salons. A rare moment that he captured recently will shortly be published in Africa – Birds and birding.
The DST celebrates Africa Day
The Department of Science and Technology (DST), in partnership with the City of Johannesburg, will join the rest of the African continent in celebrating Africa Day during a seminar and an exhibition in Braamfontein on 25 May 2008. The event will showcase South Africa's participation and contribution to Africa's Consolidated Science and Technology Plan of Action.