North African climate scientists to bid for international investment to help support farmers

The call for One Planet Fellowship applications from climate researchers in Morocco and Algeria opens ahead of the upcoming COP25 climate talks.

North African climate scientists stand to win investment and career development support from an international fellowship established to support farmers affected by climate change. Launched at the 2017 One Planet Summit in Paris, hosted by President Emmanuel Macron, the One Planet Fellowship is a US$19.2 million initiative to boost climate research in Africa.

The Fellowship aims to support the careers of 630 climate scientists throughout Africa and Europe over the next four years, by building leadership, strengthening research skills and establishing networks across different continents, disciplines and generations. The first cohort of 45 One Planet Laureate Candidates from 12 African countries convened in Casablanca from November 25- December 1, 2019, for a week-long training program on integrating gender issues into their research so that they can effectively respond to the challenges, needs, and priorities of diverse populations.

Dubbed the One Planet Fellowship Science week, this week’s meeting also established research partnerships and networks for evidence-based advocacy for environmentally-friendly policies and sustainable management practices.

“Scientific research holds tremendous potential for providing the solutions that can help Africa’s smallholder farmers adapt to a changing climate,” said Dr. Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg, Director, AWARD.

“It is critical that we invest in the next generation of African agricultural researchers and that we maintain that sustainable pipeline of Africa’s future science leaders. For their innovations to be relevant and adopted widely, the next generation of scientists will also need to learn how to place gender and social inclusion at the heart of their research. Through the One Planet Fellowship we at AWARD are proud to play a part in securing Africa’s future.”

In addition, the Laureate Candidates took part in a roundtable discussion, which highlighted efforts to help smallholder farmers in Africa cope with climate change. Bringing together partners and African scientists working on climate adaptation, the event showcased the progress of the Fellowship so far and its plans for expansion.

“We have been delighted to support the first 45 One Planet Laureate Candidates in Africa to help smallholder farmers better cope with the impact of climate change,” said Jean-Jacques Goron, Managing Director of BNP Paribas Foundation, speaking at the roundtable discussion.

“It is vital that climate action meets the needs of those on the ground and is developed by those who know the circumstances best. We are excited to open the second round of applications for scientists in North Africa, another region carrying the heavy burden of climate change.”

Africa is widely accepted to be disproportionately affected by climate change. The continent contributes less than three per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions but stands on the frontline of the economic and social consequences of climate change while receiving just five per cent of climate funding.

Smallholder farmers are among the most affected, with rising temperatures, changes in rainfall and extreme weather impacting food production. In North Africa, yields from farming are expected to fall as a result of reduced rainfall and declining water availability for irrigated agricultural production, in particular along the Nile River.

The new call for applications for the One Planet Fellowship will support North African climate scientists by nurturing local talent, developing home-grown solutions and supporting smallholders to cope with the intensifying effects of climate change.

“The mentoring and support I have received through the Fellowship so far have been invaluable for my work,” said Dr. Austin Phiri, a One Planet Laureate Candidate and chief agricultural scientist at the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water in Malawi.

“Carrying out research that will directly help farmers to deal with the impacts of climate change in my own country is truly rewarding, and I would definitely encourage other scientists to apply.”

The three-year Fellowship pairs early-career scientists with senior African research mentors, who support them in progressing their careers. In the second year, Laureate Candidates then can participate in research placements at leading European institutions, where they receive expert supervision on a mutually agreed climate research project. In the final year of the Fellowship, the Laureate Candidates select emerging African and European scientists to mentor, creating an inter-generational mentorship chain.

“We in Africa are on the frontline of the changing climate, so creating tailored solutions for the smallholder communities being impacted is crucial,” said Mevoyon Pamela Karrel Afokpe, a Laureate Candidate and plant researcher from Benin.

“The support from the One Planet Fellowship is enabling me to develop both my leadership and research skills, but more importantly, it has had a direct impact on improving the lives and resilience of farmers.”

The initiative aims to build a vibrant, highly connected, and inter-generational network of African and European scientist leaders, and equip them to lead research into helping Africa’s smallholder farmers adapt to climate change.

The call for applications is open for scientists who are aged 40 or under, who have a master’s degree or higher and who reside in one of the eligible countries. The eligible countries include Algeria Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania, Togo and Zambia. The deadline for applications is March 31, 2020.