Behavioural Adaptation to Inclusive Water Security

Climate risks to water security

Water insecurity is a major pathway through which climate change impacts humanity. One in three Africans experience water scarcity, with women, children and other marginalised groups being disproportionately affected. Adaptation to water scarcity is fundamentally about behaviour change. While behavioural and psychological sciences have made important contributions in understanding behaviour change, current insights have limited application in Africa as they primarily draw from Western societies. This is a gap that the BASIN project seeks to bridge.


Overview of the project

BASIN aims to synthesise, assess and test the application potential of multi-level behavioural and psychological science perspectives for adaptation in Africa to enhance water security for the most vulnerable.

It is a transdisciplinary partnership that brings together four universities, three NGOs and a knowledge broker.

Recognising that barriers and opportunities exist at multiple scales, we are examining adaptation behaviours and practices from the individual level to the more systemic, organisational and political levels.

Our work includes testing insights into targeting weather and climate information to enable adaptation action. We are doing this through case studies where our NGO partners are addressing cases of critical climate–water challenges in Burkina Faso, Malawi and Tanzania, providing the basis for upscaling insights in the Sahel, Ethiopia and Zambia.

Through intensive engagement with stakeholders and policymakers, and tailored and targeted policy-oriented actions, BASIN is aiming to achieve:

  • Improved decision-making to enable more effective and equitable adaptation in policy and practice, including by our NGO partners
  • More inclusive water security in the face of climate change in our case countries and globally.


Case studies

BASIN will examine how institutional practices (re)produce inequality, and how more inclusive water security and equitable adaptation can be supported.

Burkina Faso, Malawi and Tanzania have been chosen as case study countries because they have experienced damaging major flood and drought events since the mid-2000s. While there remains high uncertainty about changes in mean rainfall, variability is projected to increase, with higher frequency and intensity of extremes.

Our project case studies will consider behavioural factors across individual and organisational levels in: strengthening resilience to climate extremes, including local flood adaptation and behaviour in marginalised communities; climate risk assessment of medium-scale water supply and treatment systems; scaling up climate-resilient water sanitation and health (WASH) services; climate-resilient groundwater and farmer-led irrigation in drought-affected and water-scarce areas; and assessing multi-level governance to enhance climate resilience in river basin and national-level organisations.

Through these case studies we will determine and communicate insights on who needs to act and what needs to happen to enable inclusive and adaptive water security. We will also establish a Community of Practice and open-access online training courses to strengthen capacity to promote behavioural and psychological approaches in water security and adaptation.


Project partners