Science, Technology and Innovation Cooperation
Between Sub-Saharan Africa and Europe

Towards an EU-Africa Platform for Climate Change Research Cooperation

Towards an EU-Africa Platform for Climate Change Research Cooperation

Towards an EU-Africa Platform for Climate Change Research Cooperation

CAAST-Net Plus is currently engaging a wide range of actors in Africa and Europe with an interest in climate change adaptation and mitigation. Our aim? To build a platform that supports bi-regional research and innovation on the climate change priorities that Africa and Europe have in common. [Image credit: CAAST-Net Plus]

Published on

As a step in that direction, CAAST-Net Plus hosted a multi-stakeholder workshop in Malawi in December 2013 to collect perspectives from the SADC region.

In co-organising this CAAST-Net Plus workshop with Malawi’s National Commission for Science and Technology we had four ambitions: first, to take stock of research-in-progress on climate change adaptation in Malawi and elsewhere in the southern African region; second, to identify research gaps in the evidence-base on agricultural climate change adaptation; third, to assess the constraints to the uptake of existing technologies; and, fourth, to look for ways to overcome those constraints. This article summarises what our gathering achieved.

Taking Stock

Participants at the workshop indicated that there had been research progress in a number of areas, from modelling the impact of climate change in crop production to the science-policy-investment interface (see below. Progress had also been made, according to participants, in areas such as drought risk management and weather insurance on targeted crops.

Climate change research areas for the SADC region in which progress has been made

  • Modelling the impact of climate change in crop production  
  • Climate resilience in the long-term  
  • Climate-smart agricultural policies
  • Adaptation to climate change on access and use of water and forestry resources
  • Adaptive research associated with livestock and arable agriculture
  • Improvement of early warning systems to reduce impacts of climate change
  • Capacity building to integrate climate change into development plans
  • The science-policy-investment interface
  • Climate change and agriculture correlation and modelling studies
  • Climate change and indigenous knowledge
  • Interface of climate change and agricultural policies
  • Climate change adaptation strategies

The workshop’s participants also revealed the existence of a series of strategic policy and research initiatives in climate change adaptation in agriculture within the Southern African Development Community. The SADC Secretariat, for example, has developed a protocol on environmental management for sustainable development. Though it is yet to be ratified by the SADC member countries, the protocol has a specific article on climate change. Article 11 addresses the negative impact of climate change on food security, water resources, health, and gender equality. It advocates measures to develop early-warning systems and disaster management strategies at the country level. SADC members should participate in sub-regional and international climate change programmes in order to access the benefits related to technology transfer, financing and capacity building, the article also says.


Although considerable progress was noted in a number of areas, many shortcomings and research gaps were identified by the participants.

Research gaps in the evidence-base on agricultural climate change adaptation for the SADC region

  • Water quality time series data under both wet and dry climate regimes
  • How livestock and problem animals, such as elephants, complicate existing climate change impacts on crop production  
  • Interactions between climate change and other environmental variables, like soil fertility loss, crop pests and diseases
  • Development and validation of traditional early warning systems to climate change adaptation
  • Development of appropriate climate change mitigation and adaptation technologies with a focus on climatesmart agriculture strategies
  • Assessment of land use (forestry, agriculture, pastures) and current practices, and their impacts on climate change including greenhouse gas fluxes, and carbon measurement and monitoring  
  • Climate change impacts, modelling and vulnerability of ecosystem services and livelihoods  
  • Development of appropriate technologies in the livestock, energy, fisheries and aquaculture sectors for climate change adaptation and mitigation  
  • Policy and legal framework analysis of climate change adaptation and mitigation with emphasis on economic efficiency, ecological effectiveness, gender balance implications, and legitimacy
  • Improving indigenous technologies for climate change adaptation and mitigation  
  • Assessing the impacts of climate change on health, including HIV and AIDS, and designing appropriate technologies or interventions to enhance resilience
  • Crops, vegetation and livestock species responses to increased temperature
  • Quantifying nitrous oxide losses and nitrogen use efficiency in grain cropping systems on different type of soil types with contrasting soil carbon status and land management
  • Potential soil carbon sequestration in crop production and the impact on soil productivity and greenhouse gas emissions
  • Experimental studies that manipulate climate change variables (CO2 , temperature and rainfall) in order to fully understand the impact of climate change on the agricultural sector
  • Research into understanding the low uptake of small grains by communities living in areas with low or erratic rainfall
  • Studies on downscaling climate data from global datasets, and generation of locally relevant data

Issues and Challenges

Addressing the shortcomings and filling the identified research gaps is not a straightforward matter. A number of challenges are routinely encountered, above all capacity constraints in terms of research staff and infrastructure, but also managerial constraints (see below).

Filling the identified research gaps

  • Inadequate climate change data, information collection framework, and database management systems
  • Communication and knowledge management for climate change adaptation
  • Disaggregation of climate change adaptation knowledge so as to effectively deliver the required information to specific target groups at the grassroot level, and consequently enhance the uptake of research findings
  • Building of infrastructure to enhance regional and national capacities in climate change adaptation
  • Developing national frameworks for climate change management and adaptation that would enhance coordinated research  
  • Nurturing gender equality in climate change adaptation  
  • Indigenous knowledge systems in climate change that researchers and policy makers should take advantage of

Steps Forward

The gaps identified provide scope for Africa-EU bi-regional research and innovation cooperation. However, the challenges highlighted also need to be overcome, which in some cases will take considerable time. There are no quick fixes to capacity constraints, be they infrastructural or of a human resources nature. Patience and perseverance is required.

Despite these formidable barriers, opportunities do exist within existing cooperation instruments. For example, Horizon 2020 (page 12-18) offers wide opportunities for bi-regional research and innovation based on mutual interest and benefit. In this regard, CAAST-Net Plus is engaged in activities — such as brokerage events and information days — to bring together research communities in Europe and sub-Saharan Africa with a view to forging new partnerships that may lead the way forward.

Perspectives from East Africa

CAAST-Net Plus organised a third consultative meeting on climate change in Kigali, Rwanda, between 28-30 May 2014. Co-hosted in collaboration with the Republic of Rwanda’s Ministry of Education, the results of this meeting will inform CAAST-Net Plus planning toward establishing a platform for EU-Africa climate change research cooperation.

For more information about this work-in-progress, write to

*This article, written by Arne Tostensen and Mike Kachedwa, first appeared in the CAAST-Net Plus Magazine of June 2014.

Go to event announcement

This content was produced by *Research Africa for CAAST-Net Plus. To report an error, write to To learn more about us, go to ​

Disclaimer: CAAST-Net Plus is funded by the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement n0 311806. This document reflects only the authors’ views and the European Union cannot be held liable for any use that may be made of the information contained herein.

CAAST-Net Plus is funded by the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme under grant agreement 311806
Image alt tag Image alt tag