UK universities and agencies launch SHEAR ‘catalyst projects’

UK universities and agencies launch SHEAR ‘catalyst projects’
16 November 2018

Thirteen British universities and other agencies met in London on Tuesday to launch a series of ‘catalyst research projects’ within the SHEAR programme, focused on the understanding of weather-related hazards, the events they trigger, and ways to improve resilience in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. 

“Scientific research that make a real difference in people’s lives and livelihoods, particularly the most vulnerable, is the priority of the Science for Humanitarian Emergencies and Resilience [SHEAR] programme,” said Ruth Kelman, Head of Research at the UK Natural Environment Research Council.

The London event also included the UK Department for International Development, the Met Office, the Walker Institute, Practical Action Consulting, the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, and the Climate Centre.

Climate thresholds

The catalyst projects encompass a wide range of research themes, from enhancing forecasting systems for landslides and glacial-lake outbursts in Nepal, urban design to limit the impact of heatwaves in Sri Lanka, flood-hazard mapping in Africa, storm impacts in the Sahel region, and flash floods in urban areas of Uganda.

IPACE-Malawi, for example, is a collaboration of the Malawi and Netherlands Red Cross, Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and the University of Leeds to investigate climate thresholds for agricultural systems and contribute to improving forecasting for farmers and humanitarians.

“The IPACE project is going to work on making sure that smallholder farmers can benefit more from sub-seasonal to seasonal forecasts combined with agricultural advice,” said Prisca Chisal, Director of Programmes and Development at the Malawi Red Cross Society.

“This expertise is already there but scattered over different organizations and now not reaching the farmers.”

‘Innovation capacity’

Predicting Impacts of Cyclones in South-East Africa is a project based in Mozambique, including the country’s National Meteorology Institute and National Society, the University of Reading, the Climate Centre and other agencies, which it’s hoped will make related humanitarian action more effective.

The NIMFRU project in Uganda, now led by the Office of the Prime Minister and other government agencies, will support early warning for floods and forecast-based financing.

“We are excited to lead on the NIMFRU project and work with the various stakeholders to improve on flood early-warning,” said Emmanuel Oketcho, OPM Disaster Preparedness Officer, after a meeting of NIMFRU stakeholders last week.

“The [Uganda] Red Cross is one of our strong partners,” he added, “and we are happy to work together on impact-based forecasting for floods.”

The expected outcome of the UK catalyst grants is “improved research and innovation capacity and new collaborative partnerships in the UK, sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia that will position the research community to respond to future needs in resilience research,” according to the SHEAR website.

People in Malawi’s Amos village, in Mwanza district, beside a small dam that feeds a Red Cross irrigation scheme that improved food security and reduced dependence on unreliable rains. A new SHEAR-supported project aims to improve forecasting for both farmers and humanitarians. (Photo: Juozas Cernius/Malawi Red Cross)