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FRIHUMSAM-Fri hum og sam

Simulation based tools for linking knowledge with action to improve and maintain food security in Africa

Awarded: NOK 7.2 mill.

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Project Period:

2012 - 2017


According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations, about 800 million people were undernourished in 2015. The percentage of undernourished people is highest in sub-Saharan Africa. At the same time, sub-Saharan Africa is particularly vulnerable to climate change. Maize is the staple crop for many people in the region and plays a major role for ensuring food security. However, research shows that climate change will lead to significant yield reductions in maize-dominated farming systems in Southern Africa and thus add to the challenges of achieving food security. Different adaptation options to climate change and other threats to food security have already been pointed out. Assessing their short- and long-term impacts is difficult because of the dynamic complexity of food systems. This is already the case for individual adaptation options and even more so when options are combined into comprehensive adaptation and food security strategies. The Food Security ACT project contributes to the acceleration of the adaptation process to climate change through the development and use of simulation models and associated learning tools. We apply these tools to the case of maize-dominated farming systems in Zambia and pursue two main objectives: - Identification of effective policy interventions to increase food provision over time and in light of climate change. - Development and assessment of knowledge integration and capacity building strategies that support the design and implementation of such interventions. The project thus combines the fields of climate change, agriculture, and food security with the field of system dynamics that uses computer simulation models for policy design and for learning in and about complex dynamic systems. This combination provides guidelines for learning about complex dynamic systems and for making information about climate change, agriculture and food security both accessible and relevant for action. The unique feature of the project is that it develops a range of ways in which system dynamics modeling tools and techniques can be applied with small scale farmers to effectively build adaptive capacity.

Climate change will have a major impact on food security in Africa and adaptation to climate change requires a major transformation process of smallholder agriculture. A considerable body of research explores adaptation strategies for agriculture. Decisio n makers who are directly affected by the challenge to react to changing conditions, however, neither have an overview of existing adaptation options and their impacts, nor do they have sufficient knowledge for prioritizing these options. The proposed pro ject contributes to the acceleration of the adaptation process by combining the fields of climate change, agriculture, and food security with the field of system dynamics that uses computer simulation models for policy design and learning. This combinatio n results in an innovative methodology for building capacity to effectively manage adaptation to climate change. For this purpose the project develops a simulation model for maize dominated farming systems in Africa. The model integrates existing knowledg e and data collected during field work. It results in a simplified but illustrative impact assessment tool that visualizes the short and long term impact of adaptation options on food security under different climate change scenarios. The project then des igns a set of instructional strategies hypothesized to improve understanding and decision making of actors interacting with the simulation model. It tests the effectiveness of these strategies with decision makers at national and local levels during field work in Africa. This results in guidelines about the design of simulation based learning tools for improving understanding and decision making in complex dynamic systems. With its focus on food security as an application field, the proposed project provi des first theories, methods, techniques and tools for the newly established research field of model based capacity building for managing socioeconomic transformation processes.

Publications from Cristin

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Funding scheme:

FRIHUMSAM-Fri hum og sam