The Earth is warming and East Africa’s climate is changing. As the region’s populations and economies grow, the impacts of future climate change must be integrated into long-term planning to develop a sustainable and resilient future.
The Intergrating Hydro-Climate Science into Policy Decisions for Climate-Resilient Infrastructure and Livelihoods in East Africa project (HyCRISTAL) is working both to improve climate change predictions for East Africa and to use that information to inform long-term decision-making in the region.
HyCRISTAL’s annual meeting was attended by delegates from across Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, the UK and USA. During the meeting decision makers worked with the HyCRISTAL team to develop approaches to use climate change information.
Rt Hon. Cecilia Atim Ogwal, Deputy Speaker in the Uganda Parliament, opened the meeting, emphasising the need to plan now for a changed climate in years to come, especially to reduce vulnerability of the region’s poorest people.
“I want to urge the participants to help Uganda and Africa to tap the appropriate research data and knowledge, to help build climate resilient infrastructure,” she said. “We as parliamentarians can help you to develop policies that can direct your information to the right place.”
Dr John Marsham (water@leeds, University of Leeds and National Centre for Atmospheric Science, UK), the HyCRISTAL project leader, emphasised this was not some far-off future, but a present and growing challenge.
He said: “Droughts and floods already threaten lives and livelihoods across East Africa and increases in weather extremes from climate change will make existing problems worse. Integrating our knowledge of climate change into decisions being made today will save both money and lives in coming decades.”
Within HyCRISTAL, the British Geological Survey team, led by David Macdonald, are working with the Ugandan Ministry of Water and Environment (MWE) to support the development of Catchment Management Plans.
Dr Callist Tindimugaya, Commissioner for Water Resources Planning and Regulation at MWE gave the second keynote, highlighting that “
HyCRISTAL’s work will enhance what we are doing and ensure climate issues are addressed and our plans are well grounded in climate science.”
“The work of HyCRISTAL will be very important for the country to take informed decisions.”
HyCRISTAL addresses use of climate change information for rural adaptation, urban water and sanitation, and water management, with linked projects supporting the IDAPS Integrated Data Platform, tea production and Lake Victoria transport systems.
Professor Ros Cornforth, Director of the Walker Institute at the University of Reading and the HyCRISTAL Rural Lead emphasised the need for closer collaboration between researchers and policymakers to enable robust decision-making.
She said: “We are working together with Evidence for Development, the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology and the National Emergency Coordination and Operations Centre in the Office of the Prime Minister to integrate climate change information with livelihoods data. This will help policy makers examine the synthesised evidence and develop more appropriate national responses for the most vulnerable populations in rural parts of Uganda.”
Professor Barbara Evans, HyCRISTAL Urban Lead (water@leeds and University of Leeds) said, “We are working with Kampala and Kisumu city authorities to develop water and sanitation solutions that are more resilient to the increased flooding we expect in the years to come.”
Dr David Rowell (Met Office, UK) noted: “Events like the recent high-impact floods in Kenya are likely to become more frequent in the future. HyCRISTAL is studying the impacts of such events and what decisions can be taken today to reduce those future impacts.”Further information
HyCRISTAL is part of the Future Climate for Africa programme, a five-year research programme (2014 – 2019) funded by the UK Department for International Development and the Natural Environment Research Council.
More information on HyCRISTAL is available from www.www.multidimensions.co.za/fcfa/project/hycristal/ and more information on Future Climate for Africa is available from www.www.multidimensions.co.za/fcfa.