Germany's Federal Ministry for the Environment is funding ZEF initiative on building biodiversity capacities in West Africa with 2.5 million euros

March 28, 2017.  

ZEF will receive funds of around 2.5 million euros for the upcoming five years from the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety. The project aims at enabling experts in West Africa to strengthen the region’s input to the program of the International Council for Biodiversity (IPBES).

“The interests of West Africa’s more than 350 million inhabitants are often not adequately taken into account in international policy processes”, tells Dr. Jan Henning Sommer, senior researcher at ZEF and coordinator of the project consortium, consisting of six universities and research institutes in West Africa and Europe. A growing population and the impact of climate change in West Africa have led to  scarce natural resources. Therefore, knowledge of biodiversity and functioning ecosystems are a prerequisite for the use of ecosystem services. “This is key to sustainable development and has to be integrated into national and international decision making processes”, adds Dr. Sommer.

Overall objective is capacity building among West African experts by the means of further training and networking through workshops and an online platform. Science and political institutions are to be involved, so West Africa can play a more prominent role in IPBES (Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) in the future. IPBES is an intergovernmental platform under the umbrella of the United Nations. It has 126 member states and its global secretariat is located in Bonn. IPBES’ main aim is to integrate expert knowledge of biodiversity and ecosystem services into policy making processes.

New master’s program with local partners in West Africa

In addition to this, a new master’s program will be established in West Africa in cooperation with local partners. Here, methodological and practical knowledge about the IPBES program will be shared at the interface between science and policy making. The aim is to attract as many students as possible from the 15 West African countries involved.

“ZEF is excellently prepared and positioned for this international and cross-disciplinary task”, says ZEF-Director Professor Christian Borgemeister. “ZEF provides all the required expertise to achieving the goals of this project”, he adds, “due to our long-term experience in international projects in the realms of research and capacity building in addition to the successful establishment of graduate schools with our regional project partner WASCAL we have been able to set up a strong network in West Africa”.

WASCAL’s Board consists of its member states’ Ministers of Environment and Education and is therewith directly embedded in national policy making processes. The master’s program will be affiliated with a recently established excellence program of a partner university in Cote d’Ivoire, supported by another university. Other partner institutes, which have all been involved in the IPBES founding process, are the Helmholtz-Zentrum für Umweltforschung (UKZ) in Leipzig, Germany, and the UN World Conservation Monitoring Center in Cambridge (WCMC).

For more information (in German) see

Press release in German (published by University of Bonn):



Jan Henning Sommer

Dr. Jan Henning Sommer