Research team to study climate change effects in West Africa

Several people stand among livestock in on open field in Niger

People and animals at a well in Niger. Photo by: Leonardo Villalón

A team of University of Florida faculty members has been awarded a $1.6 million grant to study the impact of climate change in West Africa, the Minerva Research Initiative announced on Friday. The project, Social & institutional determinants of vulnerability & resilience to climate hazards in the Sahel, was one of 17 grants selected from 220 applications in this year’s competition.

The three-year research project will focus on the six countries of the Sahel region of West Africa: Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad. These are among the least-developed countries on earth, according to United Nations rankings, and highly susceptible to the effects of climate change. In the past decade, they have also been subject to intense pressures from many sources, including violent extremist movements. Yet, the region shows continued sources of resilience among its diverse populations, drawing on its historical models of adapting to uncertainty.

The research team aims to understand and explain the variations in responses to the effects of climate change in the region. It is comprised of an interdisciplinary group of scholars affiliated with the UF Sahel Research Group, including Leonardo A. Villalón, professor of African politics and dean of the International Center and associate provost; Sarah McKune, research associate professor in the Department of Environmental and Global Health and the Center for African Studies; and Renata Serra, senior lecturer in economics and development in the Center for African Studies. Gregory Kiker, professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, and Steven Radil, an assistant professor of geosciences of the United States Air Force Academy, will also contribute.

"Understanding the factors shaping how the countries of the Sahel will adapt to the effects of climate change is of critical importance for the livelihoods of the people of the region, and it also has major implications for the entire global community in our increasingly interconnected world," Villalón said.

The Minerva Research Initiative, launched by the United States Secretary of Defense in 2008, supports university-based social science research aimed at improving basic understanding of the social, cultural, behavioral and political forces that shape regions of the world of strategic importance to the United States.

UF News February 28, 2022