Uncertainty reduction in models for understanding development (UMFULA)

Economic growth in Central and Southern Africa is occurring against a backdrop of high exposure and vulnerability to climate change, but with relatively low capacity for adaptation. Major infrastructural investments with 5-40 year lifetimes are being planned and implemented in the region – many in the absence of climate information. Ensuring they are viable in a changing climate is essential, yet decision-makers face significant challenges in assessing how climate change affects investment decisions. UMFULA’s overarching aims are to address critical knowledge gaps in the understanding of the region’s climate and communicate effectively climate information to decision-makers; both are crucial to enable climate resilient development in Central and Southern Africa.

UMFULA (‘river’ in Zulu) is an international research project led by the Grantham Research Institute that aims to address critical knowledge gaps in the understanding of the region’s climate and communicate effectively climate information to decision-makers; both are crucial to enable climate resilient development in Central and Southern Africa.

Case studies

The project team works in collaboration with stakeholders in Tanzania and Malawi, both at national level and local level in the Rufiji River Basin and the Shire River Basin, to apply the research findings in local decision-making contexts and inform the design of a transferable approach to integration of climate services for decision-making.

The Rufiji produces half of Tanzania’s river flow, supplies water for 4.5 million people and generates 80% of the country’s hydropower. Multiple stakeholders within the river basin are currently planning major medium to long-term investments, such as the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania and the Rufiji Hydropower Project at Stiegler’s Gorge, to meet the government’s development plan. These developments, together with increasing demands on water resources within the context of a changing climate, will affect key water-using sectors, involving important trade-offs among water uses.

The Lake Malawi Shire River Basin covers most of Malawi, and Lake Malawi outflows into the Shire River are critical to support major elements of Malawi’s economy and biodiversity – hydropower, irrigation and environmental flows. As for Tanzania, important trade-offs will have to be made across sectoral water requirements of agriculture, energy and the environment.

A synthesis brief distils the main findings of the research across climate science, climate impacts and decision-making processes for adaptation in central and southern Africa.

Main lessons from the brief

  • Understanding the likely future characteristics of climate risk is a key component of adaptation and climate resilient planning, but given future uncertainty it is important to design approaches that are strongly informed by local considerations and are robust to uncertainty, i.e. options that work reasonably well across a range of uncertain future climate (and other) conditions.
  • Choosing the right tools and approach for climate risk assessment and adaptation to suit the scale of the decision allows a suitable trade-off between robustness and resources required for analysis.
  • In the medium term, policy decisions require careful cross-sectoral planning, particularly in cases involving large investments, long life-times and irreversibility, where there is a strong argument for assessing resilience to future climate change (for example around water, energy and food in Malawi and Tanzania).
  • The process of co-production of knowledge by researchers and wider stakeholders contributes to building societal and institutional capacity to factor climate risks into long-term planning. It also builds the capacity of researchers to better understand real world decision contexts in which climate change is one of many important factors.

 

You can view all UMFULA publications by the Grantham Research Institute here and all publications by the consortium here.

Project members partners

Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Kulima Integrated Development Solutions, Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Malawi University of Science and Technology, Sokoine University of Agriculture, University of Cape Town, University of Dar Es Salaam, University of KwaZulu-Natal, the University of Yaounde, University of Leeds, University of Manchester, University of Oxford, University of Sussex.

Funders

UMFULA is one of the five research consortia which form the Future Climate for Africa (FCFA) Programme, jointly funded by the UK Department for International Development and the UK Natural Environment Research Council.