New EU project: CONFER

A scene from the Kibera neighbourhood in Nairobi, the largest urban slum in Africa. During intense rainfall periods, garbage flows into the area from surrounding areas, and much of this ends up in roadside ditches. Flood mitigation is one of the goals of CONFER. Photo by Erik Kolstad, taken in 2018.

In September, a new EU-funded Horizon 2020 project will start. CONFER will be led by Erik Kolstad at NORCE and is a multi-national collaboration to bolster resilience to climate impacts and reduce disaster risk in East Africa, potentially reaching 365 million people in 11 countries. The project has eight other partners from Kenya, South Africa, Norway, UK, and Germany.

The main objective of CONFER is to co-develop dedicated climate services for the water, energy and food security sectors with stakeholders and end-users, to enhance their ability to plan for and adapt to seasonal climate fluctuations.

The scientific work in CONFER is ambitious and aims to break new ground along three inter-related tracks. First, we will secure end-user engagement by using the Greater Horn of Africa Climate Outlook Fora, which are organized by CONFER partner ICPAC three times per year and attract about 200 stakeholders, as platforms for co-production of new and dedicated climate services for our focus sectors. By fostering a two-way dialogue between our scientists and a large group of stakeholders and end-users, we will create enthusiasm and raise awareness to ensure that the value of our new science and products is fully realized by those who need them the most.

Second, we will improve on the accuracy and local detail of numerical prediction model outputs for East Africa, with a particular focus on seasonal prediction.

Third, we will develop statistical and machine learning tools to obtain a new level of seasonal forecast skill based on numerical models and high- resolution satellite data.

We will also involve our scientific experts in a large training and capacity development programme designed to enhance climate information uptake in our focus sectors. Our research and outreach address important IPCC topics, the sustainable development goals, and the expected impacts in the call for proposals. We will aim to influence policymaking through frequent interaction with stakeholders at the climate outlook fora, by publishing policy briefs, and by organizing an open conference on climate services in Africa in 2023.