News from the START Secretariat

START Board Gets a New Chair

START's Board of Directors has a new member, Dr. Renée van Kessel-Hagesteijn, and new chair for 2015, Dr. Khotso Mokhele (photo left).  Khotso has been a START board member since 2009 and we look forward to his governance expertise and guidance as Chair this year. We thank our outgoing board Chair, Prof. Gordon McBean, for his years of faithful and deft leadership. We wish Gordon much success as the new President of ICSU!  In other ICSU-START news, we are delighted to congratulate START board member, Dr. Heide Hackmann, on her new position as Executive Director of ICSU.

Role of Earth Observations Workshop is First of its Kind

Building on its work in bridging the science-policy gap, START convened a two-day scoping workshop in December 2014 on the role of earth observations in the support of environmental policy and governance in Africa. This workshop was preceded by research involving six case studies led by thought leaders from five countries in Africa on current use, and the potential for future use, of Earth observations in policy formulation and implementation in Africa. Among the recommendations of the workshop was that research and technical and institutional capacity in Earth observations as well as investments in geospatial infrastructure across countries in Africa need to be scaled up and better coordinated. Read more about the earth observation workshop here.




ASSAR Survey Link

Before 8 February, please spare a few minutes to respond to a practitioner survey on knowledge gaps and needs for climate change adaptation (CCA) in semi-arid regions. Input will be embedded in the innovative research to be carried out by the Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions (ASSAR) project.

News from START Regions


New Vulnerability and Adapatation Project at SEA-START

START's Regional Center for Southeast Asia (SEA-START) in Bangkok, Thailand  has been awarded a project from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to overlook regional capacity building in climate vulnerability and adaptation assessment in the Greater Mekong Sub region. The project will kick off in early 2015 and is a part of the Core Environment Program and Biodiversity Conservation Corridors Initiative.  It aims to enhance capacity of local planners and practitioners in climate adaptation assessment through the use of simple approach and process in climate change adaptation planning at the community level.

An online technical support platform will be built to offer local planners and practitioners opportunities for learning and reviewing climate change adaptation framework, method, and guideline, and access to future climate projection data, which would be analyzed and interpreted into climate change information. A group of local practitioners and planners from three countries (Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Vietnam) shall be recruited to participate in three workshops over the project course of two years; during which they will be trained on the basics of relevant topics, including fundamental knowledge on climate change, climate change adaptation framework, risk and vulnerability assessment, and climate information analysis.

At the end of the project, all the participants will be able to apply the knowledge they have gained from the workshops into their planning work and pass it on to other stakeholders in their respective areas to enhance resilience under threat from climate change as well as robustness of community development plant to future changes. 

For more information about this project, please contact Suppakorn Chinvanno of SEA-START.



Pan-Asia Risk Reduction (PARR) program improves disaster response in the Philippines

The Inaugural Round of the Pan-Asia Risk Reduction Fellowship (PARR) Program is in full swing. As the PARR Fellows return to their Home Institutions, PARR Fellows, Home, and Host Institutions are reflecting on the new connections and lessons learned from the exchanges.

In November 2014, two Fellows from Manila Observatory, Philippines, Gemma Narisma and Jessica Bercilla-Dator, visited the National Science and Technology Center for Disaster Reduction (NCDR), Taiwan, where they participated in the daily activities and projects of the institution. Here are some reflections from Jessica (Fellow), Wei-Sen Li (Host Institution Supervisor) and Antonia Loyzaga (Home Institution Supervisor) on the impact of this exchange:

Taiwan and the Philippines share economic prosperity in the Asia Pacific region and also suffer from typhoons. Through the PARR fellows of the Manila Observatory (MO) visiting to the National Science and Technology Center for Disaster Reduction (NCDR), the mutual exchange provided a channel to enhance capacity building on scientific processes for decision making of typhoon emergency response. PARR fellows actively joined NCDR’s daily morning briefings on the updates of weather conditions and learned about how to set up the decision support system. The meaningful talks and discussion between colleagues of two institutions do pave a concert step toward trans-boundary disaster risk management. – Wei-Sen Li, NCDR

The experience was extremely valuable to the Manila Observatory's work on disaster risk and risk communication, and these lessons were immediately applied during the last disaster by Gemma and the Hagupit Team. Their updates were shared and used nationwide through partners in the civil society organization community, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Mayors in our partners local government units and the private sector. Through this PARR Grant, we look forward to deepening the important collaboration between MO and NCDR and to sharing the gains with our community of partners. Moreover, we hope that MO may, in some way, also contribute value to NCDR's very important work. – Antonia Loyzaga, Manila Observatory

The PARR fellowship has provided intensive learning opportunities via the National Science and Technology Center on Disaster Reduction (NCDR). Though a non-government institution, the NCDR is able to effectively inform risk reduction decision making in Taiwan through the integrated risk analysis it makes available to decision-makers via the Institution's leadership and representatives. The Fellowship has allowed us to study and witness how the operational machinery that produces the integrated risk analysis works particularly in pre, during and post disaster context. While we learned, we were treated as having the potential to share knowledge and experience and also enrich the work of NCDR and the other fellows. – Jessica Dator-Bercilla, Manila Observatory

The PARR program is supporting four follow-on project grants to support Fellows in advancing the lessons learned during their fellowship residence. The PARR Culmination Conference for the inaugural round of the program will be held in March 2015.


Program Highlight: African Climate Change Fellowship Program (ACCFP)

ACCFP fellows write journal articles (above) and lead field research (below).

ACCFP is embarking on its fourth round of fellowships for Africans working in various climate change roles: doctoral and post-doctoral research, teaching courses, and/or working in the policy realm. Since the program’s inception in 2008, nearly 100 ACCFP Fellows have been matched with universities, research centers, and other host institutions across Africa where they collaborate with mentors to implement individually designed projects that, for example, assess and prioritize climate risks, investigate current practices for designing and implementing adaptation actions, and consider approaches for integrating adaptation with planning and practice.

ACCFP promotes innovative adaptation research in Africa. Alumni of the program represent a cadre of climate change specialists who are promoting and facilitating adaptation research, education, and decision making across Africa. Read more about ACCFP here.

Alumni Spotlight: Dr. Chioma Daisy Onyige

My name is Dr Chioma Daisy Onyige, and I am a Senior Lecturer of Sociology and Criminology at the University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria. I attended a 3 week Advanced Institute for Global Climate Change and Vulnerability of Water Resources in 2007 in The Netherlands. The training workshop was sponsored by START, carried out at the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education, and attended by 20 young scholars selected from Africa. 

At the time of the training, I was just a fresh PhD holder, and I had just started lecturing at the Department of Sociology, University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, so the opportunity of being selected to attend the intensive training at Delft was an exciting prospect. One of the aims of the Advanced Institute was to develop a crop of researchers in Africa who could undertake interdisciplinary and integrative research on climate change. As a Sociologist and Social Scientist at that time, I was at a disadvantage because very little research on climate change was being done from a sociological point of view. The natural sciences, geography, environmental studies and the likes were in the forefront of climate change study. This did not deter me as a sociologist. The emphasis of my research was always on the impact of climate change on women and the most vulnerable groups in Nigeria. I come from the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, and this region is a coastal region that is very prone to the problem of flooding due to the proximity of the region to the Gulf of Guinea. 

Since my training at UNESCO-IHE in 2007, I have been interested and engaged in research on climate change as it affects the African continent. My recent research looks at how the indigenous people in Africa use their local knowledge in dealing with climate change. 

My research interest was peaked during 2012 when parts of Nigeria were affected by unpredicted and unprecedented floods. Many lives and properties were lost to the floods. There weren’t any disaster preparedness mechanisms in place, and so relief materials for affected communities was slow or nonexistent. Despite these challenges, the people have ways of coping with such disasters.

Daisy teaching at University of Port Harcourt (above) and doing research field work surveying flooded areas in the Niger Delta region (below).
After the flooding I did some data collection from the Niger Delta region, and presented my findings at a colloquium while I was on a Fellowship at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, LMU, Munich in 2014. I was also invited to the meeting of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) expert group on scoping deliverable 2B, UNESCO in August 2014. I was particularly interested in acknowledging of the importance of indigenous knowledge in biodiversity and ecosystems services around the world. 

As an African researcher, it is my aim to investigate and show the world how Africans use their indigenous knowledge in tackling the problems associated with climate change. To achieve this aim, with the generous support of the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, I am currently an editor of an e-publication site entitled “Indigenous Knowledge response to Climate Change in Africa”, The aim of the website is to solicit articles from scholars who have done research on Africa and climate change that highlight the use of the indigenous knowledge across Africa in tackling climate change. It is my hope that in the near future, there will be a synergy between indigenous knowledge and advanced technology in mitigating the impact and effects of climate change, especially on the vulnerable people of the world.




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