Intensified support for climate change researchers

The African Academy of Sciences and the Association of Commonwealth Universities have selected 37 African researchers from different African universities for the third cohort of a programme supporting early career researchers in the field of climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Under the Climate Impacts Research Capacity and Leadership Enhancement, CIRCLE, fellowship programme, the visiting fellows will spend a year in another university in Africa under the supervision of a senior academic, conducting research. The research focus areas include agriculture, energy, health and livelihoods, water, and policy.

Climate change is increasingly being viewed as a priority area in African higher education. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, by 2020 between 75 million and 250 million people in Africa are projected to be exposed to increased water stress, and yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50% in some countries as a result of climate change.

“Most parts of Africa are already experiencing the impacts of climate change. It is important for the continent to research ways of reducing the impact if we are to effectively adapt. Developing the required skills base to generate the needed knowledge to inform decision-making and actions is highly critical,” said Benjamin Gyampoh, CIRCLE programme manager, in a statement.

Quality research

“CIRCLE is geared to training researchers to produce quality research to inform policy and contribute knowledge for countries and communities to mitigate and adapt to the impact of climate change.”

The participants are lecturers and researchers drawn from institutions in 10 African countries, including Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe. They are set to embark on projects that range from how climate change will impact different genders and the aged to the diet and food security of rural communities and how small-scale farmers perceive and are adapting to climate change, among others.

By spending a year away from their university institutions, CIRCLE will provide the fellows with an opportunity to focus on and publish their research – an opportunity they might not otherwise have because of heavy teaching loads at most African universities.

Mavis Akuffobea of the Science and Technology Policy Research Institute in Ghana who will be based at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, said she was “thrilled” to be selected as a CIRCLE visiting fellow.

“I am looking forward to maximising this opportunity to undertake research that will help the continent and its people to be better able to adapt to the global environmental changes and improve their livelihoods,” she said in the statement.

Career development

During the fellowship, researchers are also able to develop research ideas, network with their peers on the continent and experience research systems and cultures in other universities – all of which are important in developing careers as teachers and researchers.

The 37 CIRCLE visiting fellows gathered in Nairobi, Kenya at the African Academy of Sciences secretariat from 8-10 February for an induction workshop.

Launched in 2014, CIRCLE has successfully supported fellows to publish their research, ensuring there is a growing body of knowledge the continent can use to develop climate change strategies and interventions. The programme has also achieved a 50:50 gender balance in the recruitment of fellows, ensuring that female scientists have equal access to opportunities to grow their careers and contribute to developing the continent.