The WASCAL project - a concerted response to climate change
- You are currently involved in a project called WASCAL. What does it stand for?
WASCAL stands for West African Science Service
Center on Climate Change and Adapted Land Use. It is an initiative of the
German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF), which is investing
quite a considerable amount of money in Africa, both in Western Africa and
Southern Africa. The WASCAL Project is
for West Africa. It is coordinated by the University of Bonn by Prof. Vlek, and
we are a partner in this initiative.
- What is special about WASCAL?
The originality of this initiative is that it
is there to build up scientific competences in West Africa in particular. This
does not only mean building them but also tapping into the existing competences
so that there can be joint research on critical areas of climate change and
adapted land use in the region.
- Which West African countries are involved?
The countries covered by the project include
francophone countries such as Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Mali, Niger,
Senegal and Togo, as well as Anglophone countries such as Gambia, Ghana, and
- Why West Africa?
This region is suffering from land degradation
processes as well as from the consequences of climate change. The Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projects that climate change will affect most of
Africa and in particular sub-Saharan Africa and the Sahel region, and it will
do so in various ways. Therefore, it is important to put this competence center
in place in Western Africa so that in the longer run there can be increased
local capacities and infrastructures to tackle this problematic from the local
- This is where UNU-EHS comes in. What is your role in this big project?
Our role is linked to a work package that is
called “Risk Assessment and Analysis”. The expertise of UNU-EHS will be used to
capture the vulnerabilities of communities or systems that are exposed to
environmental threats. We are going to concentrate on the vulnerability of what
we call coupled social-ecological systems, principally in rural areas. Looking
both at the social and the environmental issues, we will see how they are going
to be affected by the consequences of climate change, be it heat waves or
higher frequencies and magnitudes of droughts and floods and offer
scientifically-based suggestions for adaptation.
- How are you going to do it and who are your partners?
It is going to be done as a research component
in partnership with many African colleagues and with UNU-INRA, our sister
institute based in Accra, Ghana. We hope to be able to do some good research
there, with post-doctoral positions and PhD positions.
Jessica Rosenfeld and Isabel Thompson
contributed to this interview.
Published: 1 February 2012
Dr. Fabrice Renaud
Dr. Renaud has been with UNU-EHS since September 2004 and
heads the Environmental Vulnerability and Ecosystem Services Section. He served
as Director ad interim of the Institute from August 2009 to May 2011. At
UNU-EHS, he is responsible for carrying out research on and developing concepts
and projects dealing with the environmental dimension of vulnerability, with
the resilience of social-ecological systems to external shocks, with water
pollution and human and ecosystem exposure to such pollution, and land
degradation processes particularly in the context of climate change.