Addis Ababa, 24 June 2021 – The inaugural cohort of some 21 African post-doctoral researchers under the aegis of Climate Research for Development (CR4D) presented their pioneering findings, last week in Nairobi, Kenya, signaling a bold path for the new decade and dawn.
The researchers who were selected from 11 countries namely Benin, Cameroon, Cote D’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Madagascar, Namibia, Uganda, Kenya, Senegal and Zimbabwe unveiled their 18-month long findings in a three-day workshop (21-23 June) jointly organized by the African Climate Policy Centre (ACPC), the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and Africa Academy of Science (AAS).
“By investing in research for development we are trying to find African solutions. Not only for the problems which are plaguing our continent but for those which are global.” Jean-Paul Adam, the director of the Economic Commission for Africa’s (ECA) technology, climate change and natural resources division says.
Improving weather and climate early warning systems, seasonal forecasts tools, models and datasets alongside drought indices for supporting mitigation and adaptation as well as the critical question of gender inequality in climate policies were among the core research areas that featured. “An overhaul of climate policy making is required to integrate gender equality that prioritizes access, participation and inclusion of women and girls in the climate change discourse as gender inequalities continue to exacerbate climate change vulnerabilities.” Keiso Matashane Marite of the ECA who moderated the climate change and gender session says. “The limited engagement of women in climate information services and related climate change dialogues poses serious challenges in sufficiently adapting to and mitigating against climate change impacts and there is need for aggressive policy interventions.”
Other areas of inquiry included resilience for African islands and coastal zones, disaster risk reduction, nutrition, settlement infrastructure ecosystem, health, water access, food security, marginalized communities, pollution and low-carbon economic pathways.
Veteran expert meteorologists gave thumbs up to the immersive nature of the research findings for breaking new ground in their studies that had kicked off in late 2019.
“The researchers have achieved excellent milestones in climate research in Africa; foundational research, research for application in key sectors of the economy and research touching on policy.” Dr. Joseph Mukabana the Senior Scientific Officer in charge of capacity development and research in Africa at the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) says.
According to Yosef Amha who coordinates the CR4D initiative, the public launch of the research cohort, marks a momentous occasion not just for Africa’s climate knowledge progress but also for the world in general.
The CR4D initiative was first mooted eight years ago to redress Africa’s critical climate knowledge gaps. “Climate research in Africa is fragmented and not demand-driven. As such, it is not responsive to the user requirements, and also needs to be firmly situated within the contexts of Agenda 2063, Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement.” Dr. Murombedzi adds.
The CR4D Journey
In 2013 under the banner of African Climate Conference (ACC-2013) more than 300 African meteorologists’, related climate scientists, weather service providers, policy makers and civil society actors among other climate stakeholders converged in Arusha, Tanzania to discuss the state of African climate science and identify existing continental knowledge gaps. Climate mitigation, adaptation, resilience building, as well as capitalizing on emerging opportunities formed the basis of ACC-2013 plenary discussions and solutions deliberations.
“The 2013 Africa Climate Change Conference recognized the significant under-representation of African perspectives in climate science. The global response to climate change was being structured on data and analyses from elsewhere, while African scientists were facing various constraints, including limited funding, limiting access to data, limited weather observation infrastructure, and so forth.” Dr. James Murombedzi who heads the ACPC explains as he recalls the colourful history making CR4D what it is today. “In response The ACC proposed CR4D as an African led initiative to not only increase African analyses of weather and climate data, but also to increase the contribution of African perspectives in the Inter-Governmental Panel of Climate Change process and the construction of the global climate governance regime.”
In 2015 CR4D was officially inaugurated at the Third Session of the African Ministerial Conference on Meteorology (AMCOMET), held in the Atlantic Ocean archipelago of Cape Verde.
The CR4D is structured as an African-led endeavour forged by the partnership between the ACPC of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), AMCOMET, WMO and the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS). “The CR4D was a milestone emanating from this partnership that harmonized research on the continent.” Dr. Mukabana says.
Subsequently the CR4D secretariat was established at the African Climate Policy Centre in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. In due, time the Oversight Board (OB), Scientific Advisory Council (SAC) and Institutional Collaboration Partnership (SAC) were installed as core governing structures to formalize CR4D operations. According to Amha in 2019 just as the research grants were unveiled, the CR4D launched its five year Strategic Plan 2019-2023 pursuing four structural goals, three knowledge frontiers and eleven research thematic areas.
Through the Weather and Climate Information Services (WISER) program, which was fortified and supported by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) now under the Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO), the ACPC collaborated with the African Academy of Sciences (AAS) to bolster CR4D’s rollout for the maiden group of 21 post-doctorate grantees.
“We are grateful for the exemplary results displayed by the researchers in moving Africa forward.” Prof. Catherine Ngila the Executive Director of AAS says. The research process was managed by the AAS, which is an African institution with long established and diverse experience in continental scientific research management at the highest academic echelons.
The cohort encompassing a gender, regional balance and Pan-African representation covered foundational climate science, climate change impacts and policy alongside advocacy knowledge frontlines, which were in dire need of intensive in-depth inquiries.
Prof. Amadou Gaye of Senegal’s higher education, research and innovation ministry acknowledged the 21 scholars for coming up with fresh locally driven indigenous knowledge to help in guiding future development policies. “The Scientific Advisory Committee has remained steadfast in offering sound advice and guidance to facilitate rigorous research and ensure sound findings to serve the continents development.” Gaye who is also a member of the CR4D Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) says. “By directing for research information that is useful and can be articulated in development of national policies, regional economic communities and the continent as a whole.”
African climate narrative
The début of the groundbreaking cohort of 21 research outcomes marks a watershed moment for the African climate and development narrative.
“The strategic decision for investing in climate research for development is in recognition that in the past climate too often has been a separate narrative from that of development. The recent events around COVID-19 have underlined more than ever that we cannot separate the way in which we tackle climate change from the way in which we look at development on the continent.” Adam says. “We cannot tackle poverty; we cannot tackle access to energy or even access to education and universal health, unless we are tackling climate change, because climate change is arguably the greatest threat that faces our continent.”
The creation of the CR4D initiative represents a definitive shift to address climate knowledge and information gaps and position related research outcomes right at the centre of Africa’s development planning narrative.
Mithika Mwenda the Executive Secretary of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) echoes Adam’s sentiments.
“In the entire discourse of climate change you find that the research products which we have been relying on are either dumped or facilitated from the North and the narrative is entirely Northern-driven. Even our negotiators rely on evidence provided from the northern perspectives.” Mwenda who serves as chair of the CR4D’s Institutional Collaborative Platform (ICP) says. “As the civil societies and non-state actors, we have been very concerned about this injustice. We have been fighting to have African-driven, African-owned and African-informed studies. This research cohort has produced the first African climate story. And we should build on it.”
While the research aspect has ended, it has opened up new frontiers of implementation possibilities including translating academics into action.
“We need to sieve the messages from these research reports to immediately pass them to user- institutions in government ministries and policy together with decision makers of target countries, and in particular to sectors that include agriculture, food security, health, water, disaster management, energy and transport among others.” Mukabana who also serves in the CR4D Oversight Board says. “The messages need also to reach the users at the ‘last mile’, notably the peasant farmers, pastoralists, fishermen and small-scale traders, among others.”
Ken De Souza the research manager at the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO) acknowledged the enthusiasm displayed by the pioneering cohort in finding homegrown solutions and called for the strengthening of human resources aspect and communication channels to ensure feedback among all stakeholders. According to De Souza, the research findings are a new chapter that boosts the understanding and appreciation of climate change and development in Africa and needs to reach key decision makers for continuity and replication. “Demonstrate socio-economic benefits and present in compelling way to decision makers.” De Souza says. “Secure political buy-in which is helpful as ‘champions’ to embed in national and local policy, plans and budgets.”
The intensity and frequency of disruptions in natural and socioeconomic systems caused by climate change have placed a heavy toll on African nations forcing governments and stakeholders to plan necessary interventions to forestall risks. It is with this realization that CR4D has become an indispensable pillar of this decade’s African climate and development narrative.
“Our expectation is that this first cohort of CR4D researchers constitutes the beginnings of an African epistemological community contributing critical analyses and perspectives to our understanding of the climate change and development nexus in Africa and globally.” Murombedzi says.
Rectifying critical climate knowledge gaps and subsequent interpretation, dissemination and easier communication to support development planning in Africa remains as core objectives of the CR4D initiative.
“In terms of climate research for development, it also is critical for us to ensure inclusion across our continent. Climate change has an impact on all of us but in particular we can see the impact on women and also the reduced opportunities for income generation for our young people.” Adam says. “So addressing these cross cutting issues in a focused manner by focusing our research on ways in which we can precisely build this resilience and also ensure equity, equality and inclusion in all economic activities across our continent.”