Responding to climate change in West Africa


  • 2012•02•29     Bonn

    The West African Science Service Center on Climate Change and Adapted Land Use (WASCAL) project is an initiative of the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF). Coordinated by the University of Bonn, the WASCAL project is being conducted by a variety of German, African and international project partners, including the UNU Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS).

    The intent of the initiative is to enhance scientific competences in West Africa —not only by building new capabilities, but also by tapping into the existing capacities — so as to encourage joint research on critical areas of climate change and adapted land use in the region. The WASCAL project encompasses both Francophone countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo) and Anglophone countries (Gambia, Ghana, and Nigeria).

    West Africa is suffering from land degradation processes as well as from the consequences of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has projected that climate change will affect sub-Saharan Africa and the Sahel region in various ways, thus making it vital to ensure that, in the long run, there will be increased local capacities and infrastructures to tackle the problems at the regional level.

    The role of UNU-EHS in the WASCAL project is linked to a “Risk Assessment and Analysis” work package. The expertise of UNU-EHS will be used to capture the vulnerabilities of communities or systems that are exposed to environmental threats, with a particular concentration on the vulnerability of “coupled social-ecological systems”, principally in rural areas. By looking at both social and the environmental issues, and their interconnections, researchers will forecast how West Africa will be affected by the consequences of climate change, be it heat waves or higher frequencies and magnitudes of droughts and floods, and offer scientifically based suggestions for adaptation.

    This research work will be done by UNU-EHS in partnership with UNU-INRA and numerous African colleagues. The planning phase is ongoing; the three-year research phase will begin in August 2012.

    For more information, see “The WASCAL project – a concerted response to climate change” on the UNU-EHS website.