From the START Secretariat

Future Climate for Africa launches FRACTAL, a new program with START

Future Climate for Africa (FCFA), is an initiative to generate fundamentally new climate science focused on Africa, and to ensure that this science has an impact on human development across the continent. FRACTAL (Future Resilience for African Cities and Lands) was the first of the regional FCFA research consortia to host their kick-off, on 12-14 August, 2015.  START is supporting capacity building, managing the Small Opportunities Grants Fund, and contributing to coordination of the Decision-Making Cluster.  Scroll down to the "program highlight" story below or check out the FRACTAL press release to read more about this new program.  



Conference Presentations and Regional Meetings

START Program Specialist, Senay Habtezion (photo right), presented his recently published journal article at the Climate Change and Development in Africa (CCDA-V) conference in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe in October 2015. Senay's paper addressed the knowledge and capacity needs of Earth System Governance in Africa.  Senay also represented START at the American Geophyiscal Union's Fall Meeting conference on Earth Observation in San Francisco, California (USA) in December 2015.

START Executive Director, Hassan Virji, participated during November 2015 in Future Earth meetings in Tokyo and Kyoto. START is now a key partner of Future Earth, leading development and implementation of capacity building of regional systems in relation to Knowledge Action Networks of Future Earth, in collaboration with Future Earth global hubs in Colorado (USA), Tokyo (Japan), and Paris (France).

Hassan meets with colleagues from Manila Observatory in the Philippines

Hassan meets with SEA-START colleagues in Bangkok

During January 2016, Dr. Virji traveled to Manila to: (1) work with colleagues from our affiliate partner at the Manila Observatory on synthesis and communication of research results from the metro Manila component of our Coastal Cities at Risk project, (2) discuss possibilities for a training event on transdisciplinary research methodology at the Ateneo de Manila University with the university President, Father Jose Ramon T. Villarin, S.J., and with university faculty and students, (3) secure commitments from our Philippine partners in the Alliance for Pan-Asia Risk Reduction (PARR) fellowships program for the next round of fellowships to commence during April 2016, and (4) meet with Undersecretary Alexander P. Pama (Administrator, Office of Civil Defense and Executive Director of the Philippine National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council), and Brigadier General Rodolfo D. Santiago (Commandant of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Command and General Staff College) to discuss continued collaboration on our advanced institutes on disaster risk reduction and loss mitigation, and on a program to enhance resilience in urban communities in metro Manila.


GOFC-GOLD Regional Meetings Bring Together Earth Observation Specialists

START facilitated two regional meetings for our Global Observation of Forest Cover and Land Dynamics (GOFC-GOLD) program.  The South America (RedLaTIF) Network met in Brazil in November 2015 to discuss satellite-based fire products and their validation. Fire Mapping and Monitoring is aimed at at refining and articulating the international observation requirements and making the best possible use of fire products from the existing and future satellite observing systems, for fire management, policy decision-making and global change research.   The South Asia Regional Network met in Myanmar for training in January. 



Student Researchers Hit the Field for the "Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions" Program

Jon Padgham and Mary Thompson-Hall from START joined the rest of the Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions (ASSAR) West Africa team for a regional meeting in Accra, Ghana 17-18 December 2015. Along with getting up to speed on Regional Diagnostic Study outputs and communication products, the primary goal was to ensure that the ASSAR student researchers were ready to carry out their fieldwork for the first stages of the regional research plan. Intensive discussions were held about potentially useful methodologies and details of how each student planned to carry out their work.

Since these productive discussions, the Ghanaian students are currently out collecting their field data in the Lawra and Nandom Districts of Upper West Ghana, and the Mali team students are preparing for their exploratory field visits to the Koutiala District in southern Mali.



Secretariat Welcomes New Staff Member, Margaret Chapman

Ms. Margaret Chapman will be joining the START Secretariat in February as our new Director of Finance and Administration.  Margaret comes to us from a distinguished fiscal career at the George Washington University Cancer Institute and Pew Charitable Trusts, among others.  She also has experience with nonprofit organizations and just finished her term as the Board of Directors President of Street Sense, a Washington DC organization dedicated to poverty issues and homelessness.  We are thrilled to bring Margaret aboard the START team.



From START Regions

ACCFP Fellows Attend Advanced Institute

START Program Specialists, Niki West and Senay Habtezion, just returned from Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania where they helped lead an Advanced Institute for the newest round of African Climate Change Fellowship Program (ACCFP) fellows. At the training event, fellows participated in hands-on learning activities to create greater awareness about climate change and climate change adaptation issues in African decision making processes.

The Advanced Policy Institute covered four modules: 1) gender, 2) water, 3) economics of climate adaptation, and 4) green growth. Facilitators from all over Africa were on hand to give lectures, lead group discussions, and help fellows analyze case studies and problem sets. On Thursday the participants were treated to a field trip to a sisal biogas plant (photo below), where they were able to see how sisal is processed into material for export, and the waste converted into fertilizer and biogas for electricity production.  It was an example of zero waste production and green growth on the ground.

The Advanced Policy Institute wrapped up on Friday, with fellows learning how to communicate science to policymakers and receiving feedback from the facilitators on their own presentations to policymakers. It was an intense week of learning and dialogue for everybody, but exciting and rewarding nonetheless!



TEA-START CAPaBLE Project Wraps Up

START's Temperate East Asia Regional Center (TEA-START) in Beijing, China recently completed a training program funded by the Asia Pacific Network (APN). Experts from China, Australia, and USA gave state-­of-­the-art lectures to address various issues related to interactive changes of ecosystems and climate. The training project was very successful, and is expected to lead major enhancement of participants’ knowledge and skills in analyzing climate change and its impacts on ecosystems over their region and sub-­‐regions, especially with the use of regional models, to get better understanding of critical climate related issues through dialogue, and to expand and sustain the network of young scholars in regional ecosystem and climate change.  Read more about this TEA-START training here.


SEA-START Protects Biodiversity and Livelihoods in the Greater Mekong Region

The Southeast Asia START Regional Center in Bangkok, Thailand (SEA-START) is currently working on a project funded by the Asian Development Bank that is strengthening strategic planning processes, supporting enhanced biodiversity and livelihoods in key conservation landscapes, and improving national monitoring systems in the Greater Mekong Region. The project has progressed to the point where they've developed and tested a participatory framework and methodology to assess climate vulnerability in rural communities. The latter part of the project is to develop capacity of institutions and practitioners to conduct participatory assessment of climate vulnerability and mainstream adaptation options for community. The capacity building program will be offers to participants from Cambodia, Lao PDR and Vietnam. Building on that, SEA-START also developed Internet based knowledge platform to disseminate the principle of climate change adaptation, framework, assessment guideline, e-learning modules, climate change data and on-line climate change analysis that offers information of future climate for the assessment in the Southeast Asia. Read more about the ADB's Climate Change Adaptation Initiative here.


SEA-START Teams with APAN at Regional Workshop

Our colleague, Mr. Suppakorn Chinvanno from the Southeast Asia START Regional Center (SEA-START) will be chairing a session in the Workshop for Capacity Building on Climate Change Impact Assessments and Adaptation Planning in the Asia-Pacific Region: Technical Review of Background Assessment for Climate Change Adaptation. The workshop is one of the series of events related to adaptation planning and climate change impact assessment organized by the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) and supported by the Ministry of the Environment of Japan (MOEJ). Experts from various organizations are coming together on 28-28 January in Manila, Philippines to identify key requirements of the climate change adaptation (CCA) background assessments at the subnational and/or national levels on the key sectoral and/or cross-sectoral bases (e.g., agriculture, water resources, health, etc.).

The expected outputs from this workshop include a better understanding and identification of effective and feasible tools of CCA background assessments and the best practices. Approximately 60 participants will be invited to the workshop, including those who are engaged in the field of climate change adaptation (e.g., national government officials, policy makers, practitioners, and researchers) in the Asia‐Pacific region.   Read more about the APAN workshop here.



Program Highlight: Future Resilience for African Cities and Lands (FRACTAL)

Photo Credit: Future Climate for Africa.

Future climate change is expected to create an even more challenging environment for development in the sub-Saharan Africa. Future Climate for Africa (FCFA) is a 5-year programme funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). It aims to support world-leading research to enhance scientific understanding and prediction of extreme weather and climate in sub-Saharan Africa, and, working with African stakeholders, bring this science into use in informing adaptation to climate change.

FRACTAL (Future Resilience for African Cities and Lands) was the first of the regional FCFA research consortia to host their kick-off in August 2015.  Over the next four years, FRACTAL’s work will be focused around three aims:

  1. To advance scientific knowledge on climate processes driving the southern African climate system’s natural variability and response to global change in historic and climate models;
  2. To improve the distillation of defensible climate information, that are informed by and tailored to urban decision making and risk management contexts; and
  3. To test the use of innovative “co-exploration” methodologies as a means to engage urban partners to integrate climate messages within real-world decisions.

Central to FRACTAL’s collaborative approach is the piloting of Learning Labs in Windhoek, Lusaka and Maputo, to open up a discussion forum through which city officials can explore the implications of climate variability and change for their urban contexts. Alongside the Learning Labs, a full-time embedded researcher will be deployed to each of the local city governments and work alongside researchers from local university partners to offer advisory services to city governments whilst simultaneously developing their understanding of the development contexts of the cities and the interaction between climatic and non-climatic stressors in these contexts. 

START is one of the lead partners in the FRACTAL consortium.  Our main roles are supporting capacity building, managing the Small Opportunities Grants Fund, and contributing to coordination of the Decision-Making Cluster. The Small Opportunities Grants Fund will be used to support multi-disciplinary research, cross-city learning, and innovative communications outputs. START is also bringing NSF funds under its GEC Grants in Africa Program to FRACTAL, to fund research questions that emerge as FRACTAL progresses.

Check out START's FRACTAL program page, the FCFA website or download the brochure for more information about FCFA and FRACTAL.

Alumni Spotlight: Seyi Fabiyi

Prof. Oluseyi O. Fabiyi, Seyi for short, is a climate change researcher and professor at Regional Centre for Training in Aerospace Surveys, Obafemi Awolowo University Campus Ife, in Nigeria. Back in 2011, he became the PI for a START Global Environmental Change in Africa research grant. He and a team of researchers embarked on a study that was similar to other work Seyi had done on flood mapping in coastal Nigeria, but quite different in its emphasis on community engagement. He says, “This was my first time engaging local populations with community training to monitor weather changes, tidal flood regime and their reactions.”

Researchers on Seyi’s team assembled focus groups of local residents and undertook surveys to learn about the nature of local flooding, indigenous knowledge of the causes and timing of flooding, and the ways in which the communities respond to the flooding. Seyi and his team also installed flood gauges and weather forecasting equipment in ten of the communities. Seyi remains in contact with many of these communities even today as he visits to collect data from local volunteers.

START’s GEC research projects culminated in a Learning Forum in Ghana that brought together all of the researchers to share their results and receive additional training. Seyi says that through his hands-on experience and the learning forum, “I learned a new way of doing research and communicating the research results and products with the population.” As a result, his approach to research has changed and he continues to engage with local communities to improve their resilience to flooding.

Since the end of his START project, Seyi has seen two members of his team complete their Master’s Degrees, using this research in their thesis work and one is writing Phd thesis on a related topic. He has also received a Ford Foundation grant to continue his work on climate resilience in flood regions. Looking toward the future, Seyi hopes to share his experience with other colleagues in the region, garner grants for the next level of his research, and offer grant writing and research guidance to young researchers.

We wish Seyi well in this next phase of his career and applaud his efforts to build capacity within communities and researchers in Nigeria.

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