Drought Resilience In East African dryland Regions (DRIER). Funded by The Royal Society, K. Michaelides (PI) (2019-22)

Dagmawi Asfaw is the DRIER Research Associate (postdoctoral researcher) based at Bristol (climate driver model development) and Andrés Quichimbo is the DRIER Research Associate (postdoctoral researcher) based at Cardiff (dryland water balance model development)

Climate change presents great challenges for dryland regions, especially in communities where socioeconomic livelihoods are tied to the consistency of seasonal rainfall. In the dryland regions of East Africa, drought is a major threat to rainfed agriculture and to drinking water supplies, and regional climate is projected to increase drought frequency and severity. Although there is often consensus about the growing regional threat posed by drought, there is a major disconnect between the climate science (meteorological drought) and assessments of usable water resources (hydrological drought) that support livelihoods. Affected communities do not engage with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and they have no capacity to digest or adapt to the consequences of its ensemble forecasts under different emissions scenarios. People in this region require more relevant, timely, and practical information about the propagation of projected droughts into usable water in the ground. They need straightforward answers to a different set of questions. How will regional climate change affect soil moisture required to grow crops or the water table in wells that provide precious drinking water in a parched landscape? How will the water stores change season by season and over coming decades? Furthermore, what adaptation strategies are available to address this challenge?

In the DRIER project, we are: 1) developing the scientific underpinning that links climate to water resources across East Africa within a parsimonious, novel, and flexible modelling framework; 2) translating short-term (seasonal) and long-term (decadal) climate forecasts, as well as various future scenarios of climate change for East Africa into simple gridded maps of shallow (soil moisture) and deep (groundwater recharge) water storage that include assessments of uncertainty; 3) generating socio-economic knowledge to support communication and future drought preparedness, which recognises the complex social realities and multiple livelihood stresses that populations experience.

Collaborators on this project:

University of Nairobi, Kenya

Oliver Wasonga, Department of Land Resource Management and Agricultural Technology, University of Nairobi.

Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia

Mohammed Assen, Institute of Development and Policy Research, Addis Ababa University.

University of Bristol

Dann Mitchell
Rafael Rosolem

Cardiff University

Michael Singer
Mark Cuthbert
Dan Hobley

University of East Anglia

Mark Tebboth
Roger Few