Climate, Land, Agriculture, and Biodiversity (CLAB-Africa)

Africa has the most severe hotspots for climate-change vulnerability, hence increasing its food and water deficits. African food systems are particularly vulnerable to climate extremes and shifts in weather patterns, as food production largely depends on rainfed agriculture and pastoralism. At 2°C of global warming, heat extremes would reach critical tolerance thresholds for agriculture and health. These extreme weather patterns will result in climate-related changes in food availability and diet quality. Non-communicable diseases and diet-related diseases as well as the number of undernourished people are likely to increase. 

Existing global and regional assessments of climate change, food systems, biodiversity, and land dynamics aimed at generating policy-relevant knowledge have failed to deliver context-specific information to support African national and local environmental policies. Many of these assessments are either too general or too technical to readily translate into policies addressing Africa’s complex cross-sectional challenges. Furthermore, the limited number of African scientists involved in global assessments results in limited representation of the continent’s perspectives. To raise African voices, there is a need to adopt a bottom-up approach for reviewing, packaging, and delivering African perspectives to inform policies in Africa.

The Climate, Land, Agriculture, and Biodiversity (CLAB-Africa) project is a Future Africa (University of Pretoria) initiative hosted under the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Food Systems (ARUA-SFS). CLAB-Africa aims to provide a platform for Africa’s scientific community to contribute to the developmental work of African governments and development institutions in the form of science-based, actionable recommendations within four identified clusters: 

  1. climate impact on food systems,
  2. land restoration and biodiversity,
  3. people-animal-ecosystems health and wellbeing,
  4. land-water-energy resources use.

The climate impact on food systems theme aims to develop recommendations for applying climate-change science to improve food systems and aid food security and poverty reduction. Furthermore, the theme delves into how renewable energy can serve as a climate-sensitive food solution and how Africa’s plant diversity can improve crop yield and nutrition. 

The land restoration and biodiversity theme focuses on land restoration recommendations to improve biodiversity in farming landscapes, thereby achieving agricultural resilience and neutrality for land degradation. Land degradation is one of the most pressing ecological challenges, impacting most of the land worldwide. It affects an estimated 3.2 billion people who are dependent on degraded land for food, water, and other essential ecosystem services.

The land, water, and energy resources uses theme is aimed at developing recommendations for optimal resource use to improve food production, reduce the emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs), and preserve the environment's ecological balance. 

The people, animal, and ecosystem health and wellbeing theme aims to develop recommendations for improving human health through interventions in ecosystems and animal health. The theme tackles the challenges that impact the health and wellbeing of people, animals, and the environment and strives to develop sustainable solutions to improve quality of life.

Africa’s scientists need to play a key role in collating locally relevant evidence, performing assessments, leading the African discourse in global reporting and analysis processes, and providing evidence and information for governments to enable policy-level decision making. CLAB-Africa uses a bottom-up approach, focusing on policy-ready information and tested innovations that can be translated and delivered to support African decision makers and the private sector to develop sound policies, strategies, and initiatives to increase the impact of science on sustainability issues. The initiative is based on the efforts of selected African scientists from various fields and regions to create domestic knowledge on the four thematic clusters.