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Supporting EU-African Cooperation on Research Infrastructures for Food Security and Greenhouse Gas Observations

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SEACRIFOG (Supporting EU-African Cooperation on Research Infrastructures for Food Security and Greenhouse Gas Observations)

Reporting period: 2017-03-01 to 2018-08-31

Africa is the continent that contributes today least to the global carbon and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. On the downside Africa is one of the most vulnerable region in the world to the impacts of climate change. Particularly the agriculture and therefore connected the field of food security is threaten by shifts in rainfall patterns, draughts, extreme weathers and other effects of climate change.

Even though the GHG emissions released by the continent in total are comparatively low, the African contribution to GHG emissions due to land-use change is already significant and steadily growing. Moreover, dynamic population growth, vigorous industrial development and rapid urbanization leads to more and changed GHG emissions. Those prospective emissions (due to transport, energy, industry, megapoles…) must increasingly be taken into account. Researchers, Policy makers but also farmers have to deal with this new situation and take action. Such actions need to be based on scientific knowledge and advice, which require accurate data that is often lacking in African countries. Furthermore, the demands in terms of national reporting in the UNFCCC framework and the ambitious goals expressed in different strategic frameworks (Agenda 2063 of the African Union, Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations…) will unmissable lead to a greater need for evidence-based policies.

The goal of Supporting EU-African Cooperation on Research Infrastructures for Food security and Greenhouse Gas Observations (SEACRIFOG) is to extend the existing approach of environmental observation to an integrated concept that also includes observation of the carbon cycle, greenhouse gases and air quality measurements to support adaptation to and mitigation of climate change. Special emphasis is put on land-use, land-use change and climate-smart agriculture, but also other factors influencing emissions are considered: oceanic sources and sinks, uncertainties in fluxes and future trajectories. SEACRIFOG aims at supporting the dialogue on different levels (policy, science, society) and at developing an integrative network for long-term and sustainable cooperation among African and European environmental research infrastructures.
The first reporting period was used to lay the foundation for the integrated concept on environmental observation and the needed dialogue on different levels. Basic information were collected. The analysation of most has started or is about to finish soon.
Required feedback to identify the needs and gaps in terms of data, knowledge, capacities and research infrastructures in Africa in the field of food security and greenhouse gas observation, were gathered by conducting three regional stakeholder consultation workshops in Eastern, Southern and Western Africa. The most prominent issue raised was the accessibility, quantity and quality of data and metadata. Moreover the transfer of knowledge resulting from the data to different levels. It was confirmed that adaptation is more priority to mitigation in Africa and that the developed country approach for a research infrastructure network is not directly applicable in Africa.

Beside the identification of needs and gaps, the essential set of variables for GHG observation and food security in Africa and the adjacent oceans was determined in a participatory way. Notable in the African context especially anthropogenic influenced factors, such as land use change, economic development and (with the highest score) human population, were rated as very important variables for observation.

The current pattern of research infrastructures of environmental observation in Africa was assessed, using the same web-tool mentioned above. The results show that there are observation hotspots in Southern and Western Africa and that observational stations are distributed unequal underneath the different biomes. For a Case study on Cape Verde a dialogue format, in order to discuss societal needs and challenges against the background of a global climate change and how environmental research both at the international and the regional level can address these topics adequately, was searched. Finally a workshops with 25 participants mostly from Cape Verde and Western Africa, discussing the above mentioned topics was conducted in January 2018.
Beside the collection of information for the optimal design for an integrative observation system, stakeholders were identified and contacted to build a permanent stakeholder dialogue platform, in order to maximize the impact of the project achievements. Indeed, to ensure that the results of SEACRIFOG have the best chance to be translated into concrete policies and actions.

For the overall exchange underneath all partners monthly virtual meetings of all work package leaders and once a year (May 2017 and June2018) a face to face meeting of all project partners were organized. Moreover, scientific and public communication efforts were conducted, such as poster presentations during scientific conferences, the outreach of flyers, a webpage, twitter account etc.
The participation of SEACRIFOG at conferences, with related discussions and other communication and dissemination activities resulted in a higher sensitization of researchers and policy makers about GHG observation and the relation of GHG emissions to agriculture and land use change in Africa.

Moreover a wider network, of connected projects, interesting future partners and stakeholders was established.
The SEACRIFOG Team at the annual meeting