Recording available for COP26 side event “Building resilience in a low carbon world” organised by the University of Leeds and Kulima

On 10th November 2021, during the COP26, the University of Leeds and Kulima co-organised a side event in the science pavilion on “Building resilience in a low carbon world”. The side event, chaired by DEFRA chief scientist Gideon Henderson, focused on experiences from two applied climate research programmes – the UK Climate Resilience programme (CRP) and the Future Climate For Africa (FCFA) programme, in which Kulima was a participant.

The event opened with presentations on experiences of each programme by Kate Lonsdale from the University of Leeds, and a champion of the UK Resilience programme, and Geoffrey Sabiiti from IGAD’s Climate Prediction and Applications Centre, and the FCFA Hy-CRISTAL project. Each highlighted innovations that have been adopted to co-develop locally-appropriate responses to manage risk by bringing together researchers, users, funders, policy-makers and community members to enhance the usefulness and useability of climate risk information.

A panel discussion followed, with reflections from Tamara Janes (UK Met Office and researcher in the FCFA FRACTAL project), Andrew Carr (DEFRA and user in the UK CRP) and Julius Ng’oma (Malawi’s Civil Society Network on Climate Change and user in the FCFA UMFULA project). They agreed that building strong relationships and understanding decision contexts through working with users is essential to adapt to climate change.

“How granular climate information can help tea growers in Malawi and Kenya” New article in The Conversation with inputs from Kulima

Following recent publication of a paper, Neha Mittal, Andy Dougill and Katharine Vincent have just published an article in The Conversation on “How granular climate information can help tea growers in Malawi and Kenya“.

Tea producers in the two countries have already seen what damage climatic shifts can do, with droughts, frost and high temperatures threatening tea yields, national economies and the livelihoods of small scale farmers. However, they have typically not found generic climate projections useful because these projections focus on changes in average conditions, when tea crop production is at the greatest risk of temperature extremes.

The article outlines the novel research conducted as part of the Future Climate For Africa programme that generated tailored projections of extremely hot days for tea farmers. Nine locations in Malawi and Kenya will see more heatwave days, creating heat stress for the tea plants and affecting yield and quality.

Tailored projections allow farmers to make adaptation decisions – particularly important since tea plants have a long lifespan, meaning that decisions made now will be locked in to the future. This may include diversification into new varietals, planting in cooler areas, or afforestation to create shade for tea plants.

Tea farmers pick leaves in Mulanje, Malawi

“Advancing climate resilient development pathways since the IPCC’s fifth assessment report” New paper with inputs from Kulima

A new paper “Advancing climate resilient development pathways since the IPCC’s fifth assessment report” has just been published in the journal Environmental Science and Policy. The paper, led by Saskia Werners with an author team that includes Katharine Vincent, reviews conceptual and empirical advances on climate resilient development pathways since the IPCC’s fifth assessment report.

Through a literature review, this paper analyses goals and approaches for climate resilient development pathways, and discusses what conceptual advances have and could still be made. It finds little evidence of dedicated concept development. Rather, the years that have passed since the IPCC fifth assessment report have been characterised by conceptual ambiguity. Literature showed four non-exclusive clusters of approaches: (a) climate action oriented, (b) social-learning and co-creation oriented, (c) mainstreaming oriented and (d) transformation oriented. The paper recommends operationalising climate resilient development pathways as the process of consolidating climate action and development decisions towards long-term sustainable development, which requires explicit engagement with aspirations of actors, and connecting past developments with future aspirations and understandings of risk. A greater focus is needed on issues linked to justice and equity as climate resilient development pathways will inevitably involve trade-offs. Substantiating the concept of climate resilient development pathways has the potential to bridge climate and development perspectives, which may otherwise remain separated in development and climate policy, practice and science.

“Redefining ‘business as usual’ with a gender lens. New WISER brief on designing and implementing gender-sensitive climate services projects by Kulima

A new brief “Redefining ‘business as usual’ with a gender lens: Designing an implementing gender-sensitive climate services projects for funders and implementers” has just been published by the UKAID programme Weather and Climate Information Services for Africa. The brief was written by Katharine Vincent. The brief highlights what needs to be done at different stages of the project lifecycle by different actors to integrate gender, and the resources that need to be in place, with illustrations from WISER and a number of different initiatives.

The brief highlights that being gender-blind when designing climate services results in services that do not provide equitable benefits to women and men. To avoid this, gender sensitivity is required at all stages of the project cycle: from needs assessment to intervention design to implementation to monitoring, evaluation and learning. Funders need to acknowledge and action the importance of gender-sensitive design in calls for proposals which could be achieved through adopting Development Assistance Committee (DAC) gender markers. Implementers need to have high-level commitment and be prepared to dedicate adequate resources (time and expertise) to ensure project and programmes are delivered in a gender-sensitive way.

“Tailored climate projections to assess site-specific vulnerability of tea production” New paper with inputs from Kulima

A new paper “Tailored climate projections to assess site-specific vulnerability of tea production” has just been published in the journal Climate Risk Management. The paper, led by Neha Mittal with a team that included Katharine Vincent, draws on research conducted across a variety of contexts conducted under the Future Climate for Africa programme, explains the process of co-producing decision-relevant climate information to enable adaptation within the tea sector in Malawi and Kenya.

Tailored climate change information is essential to understand future climate risks and identify relevant adaptation strategies. However, distilling and effectively communicating decision-relevant information from climate science remains challenging. The paper presents the development and application of an iterative stakeholder engagement approach and a Site Specific Synthesis of Projected Range (SPR), to co-produce future climate information for Africa’s largest tea producing nations – Kenya and Malawi – for the mid-and late-21st century. SPR demonstrates site-specificity, showing risks of large changes in tea crop sensitive metrics, notably substantial increases in heatwave days and large decreases in cold nights by 2050s compared to the current climate. Having this information enables stakeholders in the tea sector to identify location-specific adaptation strategies and investment priorities, potentially safeguarding supply- chains and millions of livelihoods.

“Toward a climate mobilities research agenda: Intersectionality, immobility and policy responses” New paper with inputs from Kulima

A new paper “Toward a climate mobilities research agenda: Intersectionality, immobility and policy responses” has just been published in the journal Global Environmental Change. The paper, led by Georgina Cundill with a team that included Katharine Vincent, draws on research conducted across a variety of contexts conducted under the Collaborative Adaptation Research Initiative in Africa and Asia, highlighting the prevalence of in-country and short distance migration over international migration.

Mobility is a key livelihood and risk management strategy, including in the context of climate change. The
COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced long standing concerns that migrant populations remain largely overlooked in economic development, adaptation to climate change, and spatial planning. The paper calls for a more focused climate mobilities research agenda that includes understanding of multiple drivers of mobility and multi-directional movement; intersecting social factors that determine mobility for some and immobility for others; and the implications for mobility and immobility under climate change and the Covid-19 recovery.

“A framework for examining justice in food system transformations research” New paper with inputs from Kulima

A new paper “A framework for examining justice in food system transformations research” has just been published in the journal Nature Food. The paper, led by Stephen Whitfield with a team that included Katharine Vincent, calls for critical analysis of the justice implications of food system transformation. It does this by presenting a framework of three justice lenses — historical, representational and distributional — that can be adopted when thinking across the temporal dimensions of food system transformation.

The paper highlights that food system transformation and justice are subjects of research, recognising that drivers of transformation are both internal and external to the food system and that they evolve dynamically over time. It also points to the fact that research in a transformative space requires researchers to play a key role in supporting inclusive dialogues and showing awareness of their own role in framing discussions.

New project launch “Supporting Pastoralism and Agriculture in Recurrent and Protracted Crises” (SPARC)

This week the Supporting Pastoralism and Agriculture in Recurrent and Protracted Crises (SPARC) research programme has been launched. Led by Cowater, ODI, the International Livestock Research Institute and Mercy Corps and funded by FCDO, the six-year programme will develop and share knowledge to help the international development community better assist pastoralists, agro-pastoralists and farmers living with climate change, protracted crises and ongoing conflicts.

Partnering with local researchers and organisations, as well as drawing on the expertise of its core partners, SPARC is generating knowledge to build the resilience of millions of people living in agricultural, pastoral and transitional communities in the drylands stretching from east to west Africa. Kulima director, Dr Katharine Vincent, is part of the programme management team as the Gender Equality and Social Inclusion Advisor.

Biemruok Cattle Camp Bentiu South Sudan – image by UNMISS – CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

“Exploring the adaptive capacity of sugarcane contract farming schemes in the face of extreme events” New paper with inputs from Kulima

A new paper “Exploring the adaptive capacity of sugarcane contract farming schemes in the face of extreme events” has just been published in the journal Frontiers in Climate. The paper, led by Rebecka Henriksson with Katharine Vincent and Kivana Naidoo from the UMFULA project team, developed a framework to determine adaptive capacity and then assess how this changed over time to mediate the impacts when different contract farming schemes were exposed to climate hazards, as shown through different production levels.

The Phata and Kasinthula sugar outgrower (contract farming) schemes are both in Chikwawa district in southern Malawi. As a result, they are similarly exposed to extreme events, but have shown different impacts in terms of sugarcane production. Looking over the last 10 years, the total level and components of adaptive capacity differ in several aspects. Phata had much better prerequisites to mitigate the impacts of the extreme events (i.e. maintain production), particularly related to the components of the adaptive capacity framework, i.e. the Asset base, Knowledge and information, Innovation, and Forward-looking decision-making. Kasinthula had limited capacity to recover from the severe 2015 floods, the adaptive capacity was thus drawn upon and had not been replenished by the time the next event occurred (drought). This novel, comparative approach to assessing adaptive capacity, linking to past events, is useful in determining the components of adaptive capacity that are missing and need to be built in order to reduce risk from extreme events and climate change.

“Climate variability affects water-energy-food infrastructure performance in East Africa” New paper with inputs from Kulima

A new paper “Climate variability affects water-energy-food infrastructure performance in East Africa” has just been published in the journal One Earth. The paper, led by Christian Siderius with other members of the UMFULA project team, including Katharine Vincent, highlights how climate variability is poorly understood in East Africa’s climate transition zone, where variability in rainfall is projected to increase. The implications of these projected changes in climate on infrastructure performance are poorly understood, with implications for the water, energy and food sectors.

graphical abstract

Infrastructure design should take into consideration the potential for changes in climate variability and recognise the limitations of planning on the basis of short time series of observations or projections. In the Rufiji basin in Tanzania and Shire basin in Malawi, a repeat of an early-20th century multi-year drought would challenge the viability of proposed infrastructure (dams). A long view, which emphasizes past and future changes in variability, set within a broader context of climate information interpretation and decision-making, is crucial for screening the risk to infrastructure and informing contingency planning to manage climate risk.