Equipping young crop modelers to fight climate change in West Africa
A summer school was organized in Thiès, Senegal to equip West Africa’s next-generation agricultural researchers and policymakers to use modeling tools to accelerate decision-making to abate a looming food crisis being predicted by experts. One of the goals is to create a network of African crop modelers.
The short-term training, funded by the Volkswagen Foundation, brought together 12 scientists and more than 30 international students from across the globe.
The participants from varying backgrounds shared their knowledge and expertise in modeling through lectures, discussions, tutorials, field visits, and group work.
The participants worked in small groups to define, develop and defend a proposal to address topics around climate risk, food security and sustainability.
Four topics were identified for the proposals to be built upon:
- Crop breeding for climate resilience
- Co-designing climate-resilient and sustainable cropping systems with farmers and stakeholders
- Affordable insurance products
- Policy support for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) climate negotiation processes
Group 1 (Crop breeding for climate resilience) developed a proposal to develop varietal maps that indicate the adaptation area of each of the crop ideotypes within the Sahel. This work can guide breeders in the development of new varieties that are adapted to their production conditions and are more productive and resilient.
Group 2 (Co-designing climate resilient and sustainable cropping systems) presented a proposal that aimed at co-developing tools and technologies, using crop simulation models, with farmers and stakeholders to improve productivity and resilience to climate change. This helps farmers to have a more sustainable cropping system.
Group 3 (Affordable insurance products) presented a proposal that uses modeling approaches to study the imbalance between the supply and demand of crop insurance. This proposed study can help in reducing the high risk faced by farmers due to climate variability and change.
Group 4 (Policy support for IPCC climate negotiation process), proposed a project that uses crop models to provide scientific evidence justifying the occurrence/impacts/effects of climate change in Sub-Saharan Africa for advocacy for instance during the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP). This proposed work contributes to mitigation and adaptation options and to the development of policy briefs for negotiators.
Participants in their feedback said that more similar training workshops should be frequently organized in the region to strengthen capacity and increase the number of crop modeling experts to accelerate the decision-making process in the context of changing climate.
“Summer school is very important as it equip young researchers with the capacity to translate solid knowledge based on very specialized research into informations that can be used by decision-makers to address the challenges of food security and issues such as pandemic and war”, said Dr Abdourakhmane Wane, Regional Representative of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) for West Africa.
“West Africa is experiencing a high demographic rate while agricultural land is declining sharply. Therefore, the use of crop/system models will help to overcome these challenges. Also, studying in depth agricultural evolution is an important step that researchers and other actors in the agricultural sector should take” stated Dr Aliou Faye, Director of the Regional Study Center for the Improvement of Adaptation to Drought (CERAAS).
The Summer School (CMRA-2022) program was organized by ICRISAT and facilitated by Dr. Madina Diancoumba (Postdoctoral Scientist at ICRISAT-Bamako, Mali) and Dr. Akinseye Folorunso, Scientist at ICRISAT and based in Thies, Senegal, led by the Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF) represented by Prof. Dr. Heidi Webber with the support of the project- Accelerating Impact of CGIAR Climate Research for Africa (AICCRA), facilitated by Dr. Nadine Worou, Coordinator of the project in Senegal, funded by World Bank.
The training was hosted by the Centre d'Etude Régional pour l'Amélioration de l'Adaptation à la Sécheresse (CERAAS) of the Senegalese Institute of Agricultural Research (ISRA) from September 11-17, 2022.