Networking Africa’s young climate experts

To turn scientific knowledge into concrete action, the climapAfrica programme brings together young researchers from Africa in the field of climate change and climate research and supports them in making their research results visible at the political level.

Scientific exchange about the consequences of climate change

“Many scientists are too far removed from practice”, says Precious Mwikanda. The DAAD alumna and Chief Policy Analyst in the Namibian Ministry for Urban and Rural Development often experiences the gap between theory and application: “In Namibia the written guidelines are good – but as soon as implementation starts, the problems begin”. This is where the programme , in which Mwikanda participates, comes into play. Through scientific exchange, it helps to counter the consequences of climate change in Africa.

DAAD alumna Precious Mwikanda

The African continent is particularly affected by climatic changes. To mitigate their consequences as much as possible, the right decisions must be made quickly and put into practice. International research collaborations and support for young scientists can contribute to this. ClimapAfrica is therefore initiating new research projects and partnerships. The DAAD is in charge of implementing the programme financed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) in cooperation with the Southern African Science Service Centre for Climate Change and Adaptive Land Management (SASSCAL) and the West African Science Service Centre on Climate Change and Adapted Land Use (WASCAL).

At the centre of climapAfrica are seven working groups made up of postdocs and alumni of German funding initiatives. Young experts from more than 20 African countries are already exchanging knowledge via climapAfrica to enhance research and apply the results to current challenges. Mwikanda, who completed a master’s degree at the University of Applied Sciences (HTW) in Berlin on a DAAD scholarship, is part of the 25-person working group “Climate Change Agriculture and Rural Development”.

Veterinarian Michelle North

Another member is Dr. Michelle North, a veterinarian from South Africa. A postdoc, she receives, like 38 other scientists at present, a scholarship for her research project through climapAfrica. At the University of KwaZulu-Natal, North is working on how cattle farmers in Africa can optimize their methods in the face of climate change. In this she relies on reciprocal exchange: “I want to share my research results with the farmers – but I also want to learn from them what is feasible.”

“The programme creates links”

North sees the programme as a great opportunity to make scientific contacts all over Africa: “Many Africans leave the continent to study elsewhere. After their return they have no scientific network here. It was the same for me: when I returned from Canada after completing my doctorate, I found it difficult to get in touch with other scientists. The climapAfrica programme creates links.”

Along with network building and technical discussions, the activities of climapAfrica include joint publications and collaboration on research proposals. It also offers various training opportunities; North and Mwikanda have already participated in virtual seminars on various statistical programmes. In capacity training, the climapAfrica postdocs learn how they can convey their research results to political decision-makers. Moreover, a large virtual conference is scheduled for 2020, with the aim of strengthening the exchange between African scientists and between German and African universities and institutions, and creating new cooperative opportunities for the future.

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