Centres of Excellence for Climate Change and Adaptive Land Management in Africa

How can Africa cope with the consequences of climate change? Droughts and extreme weather events are putting greater stress on soils and forests. Two climate competence centres in western and southern Africa are researching and testing solutions for adapting land use to climate change together with German research institutions and are training young scientists. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) supports them in this.

In the Paris Agreement, the states set themselves the goal of increasing adaptive capacity to climate change worldwide. Developing countries in particular are to be supported in climate adaptation. Africa is already particularly affected by climate change, although it is the continent with the lowest emissions of pollutants. Many countries on the continent therefore need strong support in developing and implementing strategies and measures to adapt to climate change. Germany is taking responsibility for this, and in doing so is also contributing to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The land use sector plays a central role in adapting to climate change, because nature's ecosystem services, such as the provision of oxygen, food, nutrients, etc., secure the existential livelihoods of the population. Therefore, questions are becoming increasingly urgent as to how, for example, the countries of Africa can take consistent action against the current climate changes on the ground and what measures can be taken to improve the situation of the countries. In order to provide scientifically sound answers to these questions, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), together with eleven partner countries in western Africa and five in southern Africa, has established two regional centres of excellence for climate change and sustainable land management in Africa. The BMBF has already invested more than 150 million euros in the establishment of the two centres WASCAL (West African Science Service Centre on Climate Change and Adapted Land Use) and SASSCAL (Southern African Science Service Centre for Climate Change and Adaptive Land Management) from 2010 to 2020.

In their regions, SASSCAL and WASCAL stand for excellent academic training, innovative and practice-oriented research in international cooperation and the establishment and operation of research infrastructure. The overarching goal of this BMBF initiative is to support African countries affected by climate change in establishing scientific structures so that they can make their own valid decisions on the ground, for example for sustainable land use, water supply and food security. In this way, the BMBF is making a significant contribution to building an African knowledge society and strengthening the potential for adaptation to climate change in Africa.

The BMBF is determined to continue to provide financial and political support for the efforts of African partner countries to combat the effects of climate change. That is why the BMBF is providing a further 10 million euros per centre for the second research phase from 2021 to 2025. With this, the BMBF aims to establish regional and internationally recognised science-based Climate and Environmental Services Centres (CESCs) in the respective regions.

In addition to research, both centres run a graduate school programme in close cooperation with renowned universities and research institutions from the region and from Germany. For this purpose, another approx. 11 million euros will be invested from 2021 onwards for the fifth academic year for WASCAL alone and another 3 million euros for SASSCAL to establish a first graduate school on the topic of "Integrated Water Resources Management" in partnership with the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST) in Windhoek, Namibia, and the International Centre for Water Resources and Global Change (ICWRGC) in Koblenz. In addition, the SASSCAL/WASCAL alumni programme "climapAfrica" has already been established in 2019 with approximately 4.5 million euros in support.

SASSCAL and WASCAL also play an important role in the BMBF's international cooperation on green hydrogen technologies and for the establishment of strategic partnerships as door openers for the development of a global green hydrogen economy. This offers enormous opportunities, because positive development dynamics can be unleashed by building a sustainable energy system with new value chains. To this end, science, politics, companies and investors are involved from the outset. Specialised personnel will be trained locally and sustainable international knowledge networks will be established.


With the WASCAL initiative (West African Science Service Centre for Climate Change and Adaptive Land Management), a regional centre of excellence for climate change and sustainable land management was established in western Africa. To this end, Germany works together with the states of Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo and Cape Verde. The Climate Competence Centre was founded in 2012 through a cooperation agreement between the member countries and established as an international organisation under the responsibility of the African partner countries. The Centre has its administrative headquarters in Accra, Ghana, and a second headquarters at the WASCAL Research and Data Centre site in Ougadougou, Burkina Faso. The BMBF participates in the development of the institution primarily through programme-oriented funding for research and capacity development as well as through investments in research infrastructure. WASCAL maintains a close exchange with its sister organisation SASSCAL in southern Africa.

Building regional education and research capacities

One focus of the international institution WASCAL is the internationally renowned regional graduate school programme with a thematic focus on climate change mitigation and adaptation. Since 2012, a total of more than 300 Master's students and doctoral candidates have successfully completed their postgraduate studies and doctorates in four completed academic years already. WASCAL is currently recruiting its fifth cohort of students for two master's and ten doctoral programmes in eleven member countries from the ECOWAS region. The programmes are geared towards the long term and are offered on an ongoing basis in order to sustainably strengthen the necessary skills on site and create prospects for young academics in their home countries.

The projects of the latest funding announcement will start in 2021. It serves to expand WASCAL's research fields by strengthening and consolidating the already existing partnerships of the West African and German scientific communities.

Click here for the WASCAL research networks

WASCAL - German-African research alliances

Between 2021 and 2024, six collaborations on the respective climate research topics will be funded.

GreenGaDe - Determination of greenhouse gases (GHG) in West Africa's agricultural landscapes
The GreenGaDe research project aims to provide baseline data on climate change mitigation and predict the evolution of greenhouse gas emissions and carbon stocks in agriculture in West Africa. A consortium of four West African and two German institutions with specialists in agriculture, forestry, modelling and greenhouse gas (GHG) monitoring will use a multidisciplinary approach to build a dataset at local and regional level. Stakeholders from research institutes and government institutions will work closely together to implement this project. The results of this project, such as climate maps, databases as well as capacity building, will support West African countries in developing and establishing Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, climate change scenarios based on dynamics of the agricultural sector will be developed and provided. In this way, direct and indirect effects of climate and land use change on carbon storage and greenhouse gas emissions in West Africa will be better understood.

Duration: 01.04.2021 - 31.03.2024

MiTra-WA - Migration and Translocality in West Africa
The MiTra-WA project aims to better understand rural-urban migration and international migration, urban growth and the links between these phenomena and environmental change in West Africa. The project uses a translocal approach to livelihood and mobility analysis. This allows us to capture and analyse the complex migratory movements and cross-spatial interactions of individuals, households and communities typical of West Africa in the context of their livelihoods. Circular migration - i.e. shuttle migration between the region of origin and destination - is an integral part of the reality of life in West Africa. Many people organise their livelihoods in social networks that span large distances and often national borders. These "translocal interdependencies" have a significant impact on life in rural and urban areas - with profound social, economic and ecological effects. This project therefore focuses on empirical translocality analyses that provide a deeper understanding of translocal linkages and mobility for local livelihoods.

Duration: 01.04.2021 - 31.03.2024

LANDSURF - Land Surface Processes as Determinants of Climate Change in Africa - Scenarios, High-Resolution Modelling and Development of a Data Portal for Stakeholders
The LANDSURF project makes a significant contribution to the WASCAL research programme by developing a West African Earth System Model (WESM) for high-resolution, longer-term climate change projections. The novel aspect of this regional climate modelling approach is the consideration of dynamic interactions between atmosphere and land surface processes, including human-induced land cover change and land degradation, and between atmosphere and ocean. In doing so, the LANDSURF project will pay special attention to the needs of end users and take them into account in the development of the regional climate modelling approach. Previous research has demonstrated the prominent role of land cover characteristics (for example, agricultural use of uncovered soils) and ocean influence on climate variability and predictions in sub-Saharan West Africa. The combination of an atmosphere-ocean model with an interactive vegetation model with the same high resolution is unprecedented. This will provide a new generation of more realistic climate change projections that will serve as a scientific basis for decision-making on better adaptation measures in West Africa, for example for national climate instruments such as the National Climate Contributions (NDC), the National Adaptation Plans (NAP) and other, local instruments.

Duration: 01.06.2021 - 31.05.2024

MIGRAWARE - Rural-urban and cross-border migration in West Africa - an integrated assessment framework for drivers, processes and sustainable solutions.
The MIGRAWARE project aims to provide a scientific and technical framework for assessing the processes, drivers and determinants of rural-urban and cross-border migration in West Africa. As a result of its research, the project will recommend management (governance) measures that are likely to reduce migration needs, improve local livelihoods and sustain human-environment interactions. The researchers in this project intend to study the typical migration pathways and histories that lead to migration from the poor hinterland to urban agglomerations and other places. This will enable governance instruments to be tailored to the local, national and intergovernmental (cross-border) levels.

Duration: 01.06.2021 - 31.05.2024

FLURIFLOOD - Current and Future Risks of Urban and Rural Flooding in West Africa - Integral Analysis and Ecosystem-based Solutions
The FURIFLOOD project establishes a knowledge base on climatic drivers of current and future extreme flooding events in West Africa and combines it with case studies to gain a better understanding of future risks and consequences of such events. On this basis, the FURIFLOOD project derives environmental strategies to reduce current and future risks through a participatory process. The case studies of the FURIFLOOD project take place in the tropical regions of West Africa. They thus build on and complement the results of the first WASCAL research programme in the Sudanese savannah. This approach makes it possible to build up regional expertise on extreme flooding in West Africa and to maintain it in the WASCAL centre of excellence. KIT IMK-TRO will coordinate the project on the German side and work on the statistics and understanding of current and future extreme precipitation and its dynamics. The topics of the doctoral theses to be supervised here will cover other climate extremes such as heat waves, dust storms and droughts.

Duration: 01.08.2021 - 31.07.2024

CONCERT - Greenhouse gas emissions and their mitigation options in climate and land use change in West Africa.
West Africa has a very rapid population growth, which is accompanied by a strong intensification of agriculture. This leads, for example, to environmental damage, increased greenhouse gas emissions (TGE), soil erosion and loss of biodiversity. This situation is further exacerbated by climate change. Sustainable, resilient agriculture and food production is therefore crucial for improving local livelihoods. Sustainable agriculture must be resilient to climate change, reduce TGE and increase carbon sequestration in already degraded soils. The CONCERT project aims to identify emission reduction options for the main greenhouse gases carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide in West African agriculture while improving food security. This will be achieved by (a) expanding WASCAL's river monitoring network, (b) estimating and forecasting the TGE budget using a fully coupled regional climate-hydrology-vegetation model tuned to the region, and (c) identifying land use options suitable for mitigating TGE, increasing soil carbon stocks and improving food security in the region.

Duration: 01.05.2021 - 30.04.2024


With the SASSCAL initiative (Southern African Science Service Centre for Climate Change and Adaptive Land Management), a regional centre of excellence for climate change and sustainable land management was established in southern Africa. Participating countries are Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, Zambia and Angola, as well as Germany. The Climate Competence Centre was established in 2012 through a cooperation agreement between the member countries. The centre has its administrative headquarters in Windhoek, Namibia. Since the transformation of the institution SASSCAL into an international organisation at the end of 2019, SASSCAL has - as planned - been handed over to the responsibility of the African partner countries. However, the BMBF continues to participate in the development of the institution, primarily through programme-oriented funding for research and capacity development as well as through investments in research infrastructure. SASSCAL is in close exchange with its sister organisation WASCAL in western Africa.

Free access to current weather and climate data

The SASSCAL WeatherNet and ObservationNet are at the heart of the Environmental Services Centre and are operated by the Open Access Data Centre (OADC). It consists of 154 automated weather stations, numerous biodiversity observatories and the associated IT infrastructure for data exchange and free access to all weather and climate data from the region already collected according to international standards. This opens up new possibilities for climate research and allows, among other things, the development of better management strategies for sustainable land and water management, risk analyses and forecasts for droughts and floods as well as assessments of other climate change impacts. All data already collected by the African-German research consortia is available free of charge in the Data Centre of the Climate Service Centre for further use by interested institutions, international researchers or also for policy advice on site.

New graduate school to strengthen regional education and research capacities

Another pillar of SASSCAL is the strengthening of regional, human and institutional capacities in the region through the establishment of the Graduate Studies Programme (SGSP), the Alumni Network and non-academic training. These activities are already showing first successes: at the end of 2020, a regional graduate school on Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) has been established together with and at the Namibian University of Science and Technology (NUST) and the German partner "International Centre for Water Resources and Global Change" (ICWRGC).
In addition to the planned second research phase, the BMBF has funded a new research area "Hydrogen" to create a potential atlas for the region, which has already been presented by the Federal Minister of Research. The topic of "Renewable Energies" has been declared a priority topic for this by the WASCAL Governing Board.

Joint alumni programme of SASSCAL and WASCAL

The alumni programme "climapAfrica - Climate Research for Alumni and Postdocs in Africa" has been running since June 2019. This programme to promote future leaders in climate research and climate protection is funded by the BMBF and implemented scientifically and operationally by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). It includes both an excellence postdoctoral fellowship programme and a diverse range of opportunities for alumni to pursue further research. The DAAD cooperates closely with WASCAL and SASSCAL in its implementation. The BMBF is funding "climapAfrica" with a total of 4.5 million euros in the period from 2019 to 2023.

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