Successful teamwork: German and African researchers work out joint options for action on urgent climate and water issues in West Africa

August 27, 2008.  

More than 200 researchers, politicians and stakeholders from all over the world attended the opening of the international conference on ‘Global Change and Water Resources in West Africa’, taking place in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, from August 25-28 2008.


The conference offers a platform for researchers to meet with West African politicians and stakeholders to discuss the outcome and options for a follow-up of the research projects carried out in the region in the framework of the GLOWA (Global Change in the Hydrological Cycle) program of the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF).

People in West Africa are especially struck by the impact of global climate change. Climate projections for the region indicate increasing weather extremes: more dry periods with a simultaneous rise in extreme precipitation. This poses a serious challenge to the survival of a population increasing in numbers with a growing demand for food, energy and water.


To support regional decision makers with responding to these challenges in an effective way, the BMBF started its GLOWA umbrella program eight years ago. Two of the GLOWA projects work in and with West Africa: GLOWA Volta in Burkina Faso and Ghana and GLOWA IMPETUS in Morocco and Benin. The conference in Ouagadougou focuses on the research outcome of these two projects.


“The achievements of the GLOWA projects were only possible due to a very warm welcome by our local partners, who gave us all the support we needed. Our pioneering joint research efforts have given us a much better insight in how human activities perturb the water cycle and how societies in West Africa can mitigate negative outcomes or adapt to them” says Paul Vlek, leader of the GLOWA Volta project and director at ZEF.

“The GLOWA partnerships intended to work out practicable solutions for optimal water resources allocation and management considering possible scenarios of climate change that are socially and economically acceptable to the local partners and stakeholders”, adds Vlek.


“We especially welcome the efforts that the GLOWA projects invested in building human and institutional capacity in West Africa”, says Mr. Charles Biney, Ag. Executive Director of the Volta Basin Authority, based in Ouagadougou. “By now, we have a large number of educated young African people in the project countries who will take over responsibility for ensuring a long-term and sustainable impact of this huge research effort. But we also appreciate that the GLOWA scientists took a broader look at the problem setting and pushed regional political initiatives such as establishing the Volta Basin Authority” adds Biney. The Volta Basin Authority is a governance body founded by the six riparian countries of the Volta River, with the aim of improving trans-boundary management of the River’s water resources.


At the exhibition in the Conference Center “Ouaga2000” in Ouagadougou, scientists from the GLOWA projects and their partner projects show tools, products and results of their research. scientists in the GLOWA Volta project have, for example, identified ‘hot spots’ of land cover and land use change in the Volta basin By using satellite observations. With the support of a simulation model, developed jointly with local stakeholders, they can show options to act as well as which consequences these options have. Scientists of the GLOWA Volta team also developed a method to assess the onset of the rainy season, having positive implications for farmers and future food security in the region.


The conference in Ouagadougou is hosted by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) and organized by the Center for Development Research (ZEF) of Bonn University, Germany.


The GLOWA Program is an umbrella program of the BMBF. It started in 2000 and consists of five regional research projects in Europe, the Middle East and West Africa.


Photogallery of the conference: please click here


Prof. Dr. Eckart Ehlers