Water scarcity, or a deficit in the amount of water available to humans, impacts many critical sectors of society including water supply, food security, land use, hydro-electric energy, and health. Prolonged periods of extreme water scarcity induced by drought are detrimental to regional economies through crop and livestock loss. This threatens food security in rural communities, and makes politically unstable regions more vulnerable to conflict, terrorism, and mass migration, with far-reaching impacts on society and the environment. The drylands of the Horn of Africa region depend on seasonal rainfall to sustain subsistence (primarily rainfed) agriculture, so they are extremely vulnerable to water scarcity and food insecurity, with associated economic losses during drought conditions when the rains are well below average. These rural communities of Horn of Africa Drylands (HAD), tend to have low socio-economic levels, and low adaptive capacity to climatic shocks, such that recent severe droughts have dramatically increased food insecurity. Despite the proliferation of improved climate information for the region, and resulting improvements in early warnings, major uncertainties remain about the links between key seasonal climate variables and water scarcity, and the consequential impacts to livelihoods and wellbeing.

A major challenge in HAD is to improve understanding of the spatiotemporal distribution of future risks to rural communities that arise from water scarcity and food insecurity under climate change, and to support these communities in co-developing climate services, strategies, and policies for climate adaptation and resilience. We are analyzing a wide range of historical information and future climate projections, creating new decision-support modeling tools to explore the impact of climate on water resources, and developing new solutions for communicating information to multiple audiences, all with strong end-user participation for improving rural livelihoods and engender more societal resilience in this region.

Projects on this research theme include:

Impacts of Climate Change on the Water Balance in East African Drylands. Funded by Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), K. Michaelides (PI), D. Mitchell, R. Rosolem, M. Singer, M. Cuthbert, FAO-SWALIM (Somalia), 2018-19

Drought Risk in East African Drylands (DREAD). Funded by Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), D. Mitchell (PI), K. Michaelides (CI), M. Singer, 2018

Drought Resilience In East African dryland Regions (DRIER). Funded by The Royal Society, K. Michaelides (PI), M. Assen, O. Wasonga, M. Singer, M. Cuthbert, D. Mitchell, R. Rosolem, M. Tebboth, R. Few 2019-2022

Mobile phone App Development for Drought Adaptation in Drylands (MAD DAD). Funded by the UK Research and Innovation Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Translational Award, K. Michaelides (PI), C. Preist, D. Schien, M. Singer, M. Cuthbert, D. Mitchell, R. Rosolem, T. Waema, A. Wausi 2019-2021

Down2Earth: Translation of climate information into multilevel decision support for social adaptation, policy development, and resilience to water scarcity in the Horn of Africa Drylands. Funded by EU Horizon 2020 Grant, Lead Institution: Cardiff University, K. Michaelides (Bristol PI), +17 other institutions from the UK, EU and East Africa (total: EUR 6.7M) 2020-2024