Public Release: 

Project aims to help vulnerable communities in Africa adapt to climate change

University of East Anglia

Researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) are embarking on a major new project to help communities in some of the most vulnerable areas of Africa adapt to the future impacts of climate change.

International Development UEA has been awarded a £1.1 million grant to undertake collaborative work on vulnerability and adaptation in some of the driest zones of East Africa, as part of a new Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions (ASSAR) research group.

Led by the University of Cape Town in South Africa, ASSAR's five-year project starts from the premise that, by the middle of this century, the impacts of climate change may require radical changes in how people utilize land and resources. It will look at how climatic, biophysical, social, political, and economic factors interact in semi-arid regions and produce scenarios and practical advice for communities and decision-makers, so that they can develop strategies to help them adapt to changes in the climate, such as more frequent and prolonged droughts which threaten livestock and agriculture.

The grant has been awarded by the UK's Department for International Development (DFID) and Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC) under the Collaborative Adaptation Research Initiative in Africa and Asia (CARIAA) program, a seven-year, $70 million research initiative aimed at understanding climate change and adaptation in vulnerable regions. It will produce new evidence to help communities and countries prepare for likely changes in areas where demographic trends and climatic extremes put large numbers of people and their livelihoods at risk.

The program will see four multi-partner initiatives conduct research in three types of 'hot spots' - semi-arid regions in Africa and South and Central Asia, deltas in Africa and South Asia, and Himalayan river basins.

The ASSAR initiative will focus on 10 countries across Africa and South Asia, with UEA primarily responsible for research in East Africa. Working with partners in Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda, one of the key areas of interest will be the interaction between water stress, or scarcity, and livestock raising and agriculture in the region. By mid-century, average summer temperatures across large areas of Africa could exceed the hottest on record, leading to water shortages and crop failures, while the length of the growing season may decline by up to 20 per cent, with poor farmers and pastoralists in semi-arid regions most at risk.

Led by Dr Roger Few, the UEA team includes researchers from the School of International Development with expertise in water management and governance, poverty and well-being, ecology and conservation, and gender analysis. Dr Few said: "The impacts of climate change are likely to bring dramatic changes for populations and livelihoods in these at-risk regions. The scale and ambition of this project provides us with a wonderful opportunity to bring together a range of disciplines and expertise to focus critical research on the needs, capacities, barriers and opportunities for adaptation for people living in semi-arid environments.

"One feature of the UEA team is that it includes some researchers who have not previously engaged strongly on climate change themes, and so can bring a fresh perspective to the key questions and complexities that surround issues of adaptive response by poor and/or marginalized population groups."

Also working with the University of Cape Town and UEA on ASSAR are Start International (United States), Oxfam Great Britain (United Kingdom) and the International Institute for Human Settlements (India).

CARIAA's research agenda addresses gaps and priorities highlighted in the forthcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, which projects that the world's dry regions will become even drier due to global warming, putting further stress on those who depend on natural resources for their livelihoods, such as in farming, fishing, or forestry.


Further information about the CARIAA program is available at

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