Workshop on the African Climate and Environment Center – Future African Savannas (AFAS)

The African Climate & Environment Centre - Future African Savannas (AFAS) held a two day workshop in Nairobi on ‘Co-designing science-policy- practice interfaces (SPPIs) to support nature-based solutions (Nbs) in Africa's Savanna regions’.

AFAS, which commenced in May 2021, is one of the eight DAAD Global Centers for Climate and Environment and strives for interdisciplinary and international exchange beyond academia by working on the Science-Policy-Practice-Interface (SPPI) for climate change adaptation and protection of the environment. The thematic focus of the center is Nature-based Solutions (NbS) for climate change adaptation and biodiversity loss in African Savannas.

The vice Chancellor Prof. Kiama was represented by Prof. Karuti Kanyingi  who noted  ‘AFAS is a very relevant initiative given that African savannas cover 43% of the continent and are home to an estimated 325 million people accounting for about 40% of the continent’s population. This population is rapidly expanding in an already naturally fragile environment. Hence there is an urgent need to develop sound and robust evidence-based and science-backed strategies to preserve and protect the fragile environments of the West and East African savannas against the combined threats of extensive and diverse land use and rapid climate change. Said Prof. Kanyingi

Prof. Olago, Chairman Dept. of Earth Climate Sciences talked momentarily on African savannas noting they are the “breadbasket” of the continent providing 70% of Africa's cropland, 66% of cereal production and 80% of livestock farming. Biodiversity and ecosystem services are crucial for land use including agriculture, forestry but also tourism. He further noted Africa’s future sustainable development is challenged by climate change and the biodiversity crisis.Savannas are particularly affected by climate change impacts, but the impact differs across regions.African savannas harbour an exceptional high biodiversity and several biodiversity hotspots.

Prof N'golo Kone talked on the achievements accomplished by AFAS since its beginning which inlude: Training of trainers’ workshop in 2021 with over twenty participants;  Stakeholder workshop on “Managing Science-Policy-Practice Interfaces in the context of Land, Life, and Climate Change Legacy: Examples from Africa” held in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire during the UNCCD, COP15 in May 2022; Summer School held at the Universities of Bonn and Cologne, August-September 2022 whereby seventeen MSc students and three PhD students from a variety of West and East African countries visited Germany and participated in a comprehensive activity program;  and participation at DAAD Conference for the Global Centres and the Humboldt Research Hubs held on 6-7 September 2022 in Berlin. This was a great opportunity for the students to get in touch with international researchers of the other DAAD Global Centers.

AFAS is described by: Embracing SPPIs as key to inform demand-driven academic work for addressing climate change and environmental protection and foster networking between sciences, policy and practice through interdisciplinary and participation; and Nature-based Solutions as a concept to transform the challenges of climate change and environmental protection into economic opportunities.

Some of the outcomes of the AFAS are: The Centre provides study and research opportunities in relevant disciplines; The Centre’s graduates are qualified for the local and international employment market in the areas of climate protection and environmental conservation; Comprehensive research capacity on climate change and environmental protection is established; and the climate and environmental footprint of education, research and international cooperation has been improved.

Ms. Beate Schindler-Kovats, Director of DAAD Africa passionately spoke about DAAD Funding in Africa. She noted DAAD is the world’s largest funding organisation for international exchange and isdevoted to internationalising the academic system.  It is an intermediary between higher education systems with a worldwide network and contributes as National Agency for EU Higher Education Cooperation to shaping the European Higher Education and Research Area.

Ms. Beate encouraged students and scholars to apply for their international programs which has been supporting students, researchers and artists from Germany and abroad from 1950 till 2021) - 1,090,000 funding recipients from abroad. DAAD has 70 branch offices worldwide and around 150,000 DAAD scholarship holders per year. She also noted that as in previous years, in 2020 more than half of DAAD’s funding receipients were women

 The DAAD In-Country/In-Region Scholarship Programme in Sub-Saharan Africa was stablished in 1960s to promote creation of high-quality and permanently self-sufficient higher education structures in developing countries and to contribute to academic collaboration within the region

The two day conference also included discussions on nature based solutions (Nbs) for African Savannas and Science-Policy-Practice Interfaces (SPPIs).   Nbs are actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural or modified ecosystems that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human wellbeing and biodiversity benefits. SPPIs on the other hand are the diverse ways in which scientists, policy makers and practitioners’ linkup to communicate, exchange ideas, and jointly develop knowledge to enrich policy and decision-making processes and/or research.

The workshop concluded with a hybrid poster session where MSc and PhD students from the department of earth climate sciences had an opportunity to present their projects in line with the theme for the workshop ‘improved livelihoods through nature based solutions linking science, policy and practice.

The well attended workshop was held at the Movenpick Hotel, Nairobi on 22-23rd November. It was planned and organized by the Institute for Climate Change (ICCA) and Adaptation, University of Nairobi and its partners from Centre for Development Research (ZEF)-University of Bonn, Global South Study Centre (GSSC)- University of Cologne and Université Félix Houphouët-Boigny- Cote d’Ivoire.