June 5, 2006

Canadian research agency to play prominent role in new climate change adaptation program for Africa

Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC) has launched, in co-operation with the UK's Department of International Development (DFID), a multi-million dollar research program to help Africa's poorest communities cope with the increasing impact of climate change. A $15-million (Cdn) investment by the IDRC, coupled with a contribution of 24 million pounds sterling from the DFID, will support the Climate Change Adaptation in Africa (CCAA) program, a five-year multi-national partnership.

Many villages and regions in Africa already face the effects of climate extremes and are vulnerable to flooding, soil erosion, drought, and crop failure. If these extreme conditions continue to occur more frequently as predicted, the burden will fall heavily on those least able to cope. The CCAA program aims to strengthen research into ways that African countries and communities can best deal with the expected effects of climate change.

The IDRC will manage the program, providing administration, financial control, and logistical and technical support. A program management unit, based at the IDRC, will be supported by a network of technical experts. In addition to providing financial support, the DFID will be represented on the program's advisory board.

The goal of the CCAA is to significantly improve the capacity of African countries to adapt to climate change in ways that benefit the most vulnerable communities and regions. To achieve this goal, the program participants will work to: strengthen the capacity of African scientists, organizations, decision-makers and others to contribute to climate change adaptation; support rural and urban people, particularly the most vulnerable, to adapt through action research; generate a better shared understanding of the findings of scientists and research institutes on climate change; and increase the store of good-quality science-based knowledge on which appropriate policies can be developed.

In practical terms, the initiative is expected to strengthen adaptation in a range of ways. Research that helps strengthen urban and health planning, for example, will help towns and cities better prepare themselves to deal with flooding and disease outbreaks. Research could also help communities plan and implement water conservation measures to make them less vulnerable to drought, while improving on agricultural production and food distribution practices could result in more secure food supplies to withstand climate extremes.

Changing climatic conditions in various parts of Africa are already being cited as a contributing factor in serious economic, political and social instability, including violent clashes between previously peaceful neighbouring tribes or groups, loss of productive agricultural land to desertification, and growing reliance on international funding to support economies devastated by both floods and drought.

More information on the program is available on-line at www.idrc.ca/ccaa.

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