Research meets Development: Drought resilience in Sub-Saharan Africa

Event Type
Event Series

Location / Date
Bonn, 06.04.2017 until 13.07.2017


Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE), United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), Universität Bonn, Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), Zentrum für Entwicklungsforschung (ZEF), Deutsche Welle (DW), Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW), Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung (BMZ)

Drought is one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. It often has large-scale and serious consequences particularly in poor countries. It has accompanied humankind ever since, but is projected to increase with climate change. Yet, in our present time drought no longer needs to be a disaster, its consequences can be managed, though it is not easy in contexts where poverty, conflict and migration exacerbate the challenges of drought. In addition, new challenges arise due to new sectors being affected by drought in modernizing societies.

The event series will shed light on four interconnected topics around drought:

  1. What role does drought particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa play for food security, for livelihoods in rural areas, for local and regional conflicts and for migration.
  2. How can drought resilience be strengthened, which sectors have to be addressed and contribute, what solutions exist in the various areas.  
  3. Given the multi-faceted nature and interconnectedness of drought related issues, how can integrated approaches and institutional coherence be found in order to identify solutions, minimize cross-sectoral trade-offs and harnessing synergies.
  4. The complexity of the issues also means that a particularly close dialogue is needed between scientists and development practitioners in order to challenge conventional wisdoms, to evaluate old and find new solutions.

The event series brings together a wide range of stakeholders, decision makers from administration and government, rural agricultural service providers, civil society, NGOs, development organizations, and scientific institutions. This exchange forms the basis for developing ideas, options, recommendations to improve the current policies on drought resilience and identifying options to bridge research needs with practical demands.

The structure of the series reflects this endeavour: The kick-off event will discuss the relevance of and the challenges for achieving drought resilience, the topical events will discuss new or controversial solutions at the sector level, the final event will bring these insights together and discuss how integrated approaches can be implemented and how science and development can better cooperate.

6 April 2017 18:00 – 20:00
Kick-off event
Drought resilience in Sub-Saharan Africa and its relevance for food security, conflict and migration
Location: Deutsche Welle (DW), Gremiensaal, Kurt-Schumacher-Straße 3, Bonn
Organised by: Christoph Strupat and Michael Brüntrup, German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE)

Droughts and other climate induced hazards have clear and large-scale negative impacts on food security, conflicts and migration. Influx of migrants witnessed in countries with already highly stressed water resources can elevate “migration” per-se as a security issue. Many regions in Sub-Saharan Africa, among them some of the poorest countries in the world and while sharing common borders, are particularly vulnerable to drought, and therefore need foreign assistance to cope with such calamities. Unfortunately, both countries and development partners alike continue to approach  droughts as a ‘crisis’ and manage them as such, meaning a reaction occurs only after the event has taken its toll, and in practice often with poorly coordinated emergency relief measures. A silo approach still is the norm. It is easy to predict that if it thus will not be possible to counterbalance the effects of the next large drought(s)in a region such as Sub-Saharan Africa, but consent exists as well that that the people, the countries, the neighbors, and Europe are likely to face huge, unprecedented challenges.

In two keynote speeches and a transdisciplinary panel we want to explore which threats can realistically be feared from future droughts, what we do already to stabilize rural areas and achieve drought resilience, what needs to be done in addition, and which challenges we are confronted with in achieving more drought resilience in SSA.


  • Stefan Schmitz (BMZ)
  • Robert McLeman (Wilfrid Laurier University)
  • Pradeep Monga (UNCCD)
  • Michael Brüntrup (DIE)
  • Matthias Mogge (Welthungerhilfe)

24 April 2017 18:00 – 20:00
Enhancing Drought Resilience through comprehensive Early Warning systems
Location: Geographisches Institut, Meckenheimer Allee 166, University Bonn
Organised by: Daniel Tsegai (UNCCD)

Living conditions in Africa - the world’s fastest growing continent- have greatly improved over the past decade with the prospect for a much better Africa in the next years. However, the continent’s development is also being hampered by extreme weather events and recurrent droughts, among others. The unusually strong El Niño, one of the worst in decades, coupled with record-high temperatures caused catastrophic impact on rainfall across southern and eastern Africa.  It has crippled countries from Ethiopia to Zimbabwe and affected as many as 36 million in the region. Namibia is experiencing its worst crop performance in 80 years and the food shortages in Malawi and droughts in Zimbabwe have prompted a declaration of disaster. Yet, solutions are at hand: a concerted global effort is essential for reducing the risks and mitigating the effects of droughts and associated risks. We have to prepare better for and manage the risks of drought. The time is ripe for countries for a paradigm shift from a reactive, crisis management approach to proactive, risk-based approach to create greater resilience to future episodes of drought. We need to emphasize on the path of “protection” rather than “recovery” and to move away from piecemeal/uncoordinated approach to a more comprehensive/coordinated approach. We need to strengthen early warning systems in a way that will urge, facilitate and lead to early action by stakeholders. Against this backdrop, the proposed panel event will discuss, among other things, the key challenges with regard to drought monitoring and early warning systems; the underlying reasons for vulnerability to drought; the important drought risk mitigation measures that can be carried out by African countries; the potential of south-south cooperation in communicating early warning and the prospect for a private sector to play a role and the challenges thereof.


  • Daniel Tsegai (UNCCD)
  • Joachim Post (UNOOSA, UN-SPIDER)
  • Olena Dubovyk (ZFL, University Bonn)
  • Joanna Post (UNFCCC)
  • Yvonne Walz (UNU-EHS)
  • Joerg Szarzynski (UNU-EHS)
  • Lars Wirkus (BICC)

11 May 2017 18:00 – 20:00
Drought resilience crops: unapt techno-mix or key indeed to drought resilience?
Location: Centre of Development Research (ZEF), Conference room, Walter-Flex-Straße 3, Bonn
Organised by: John Lamers (ZEF) and Marlis Lindecke (GIZ)
Registration: A pre-registration would be appreciated before May 7, 2017 through Amir Housseinpour:

We would like to inform you that this event will be recorded and pictures taken.

Predicted global warming for West Africa (plus 1.5 to 6.5 C) is likely to trigger shorter rainy seasons, generally more arid and semi-arid conditions, longer dry spells and more extreme events such as droughts. Unless actions are taken by policymakers and researchers to boost production for the agricultural based-economies in West Africa, food and water security and poverty alleviation is unlikely. An analysis by the International Institute of Tropical Agricultures (IITA) underlined that farmers in, for instance Northern Ghana, consider drought and floods as most important challenges to secure income and gain food security. Maize, as one of the principle food crops in West Africa next to millet, sorghum, and others, has in particular been subject to many research efforts including the development of drought–resilient varieties. Recently released varieties include e.g. open pollinated (OPV) and hybrid varieties, which were distributed through national seeds systems, also in Ghana. Research efforts to reach high yielding varieties that are drought resilient and tolerant against major pests and diseases included the development of GMOs also, but this is not without critics. National policies have to be considered and the mechanisms for the registration and release of new varieties have to be observed. Using the endeavours of the “Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa”- project as a kick-off example, best practises, lessons learned and existing controversies will be addressed and discussed to help creating advices for research and praxis.

Special efforts are planned to extend the discussion among the panel members by including the audience as well.


  • Tahirou Abdoulaye (IITA)
  • David Millar (Farmer, teacher at University of Tamale, Ghana)
  • Ernst Mill (GIZ)

31 May 2017 17:30 – 20:00

Social Protection – A main Pillar in Drought Resilience? Practical experiences and evidence from Sub-Sahara Africa
Location: German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE), Lecture Hall, Tulpenfeld 6, Bonn
Organised by: Christoph Strupat, German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE), Annette Roth (GIZ) and Elke Kasmann (GIZ)

In the past five decades, drought has become a major problem of Africa. It has caused depletion of assets, environmental degradation, impoverishment, unemployment and forced migrations, thus threatening to undermine the development gains made. Especially in the drylands drought represents one of the most important factors contributing to malnutrition and famine that affects the poorest and most vulnerable communities. Climate shocks force poor households to liquidate productive assets such as livestock or land in exchange for food, default on loans, withdraw children from school, and/or engage in exploitive environmental management practices to survive. Furthermore, the lingering risk of drought weakens the ex post adaptation options as it prevents farmers from adopting profitable technologies and practices that are perceived as risky, hence creating a nexus that increases the cycle of vulnerability and depletes the capability to overcome hunger and poverty. This inability to accept and manage risk and accumulate and retain wealth locks vulnerable populations in poverty and food and nutrition insecurity. During the last decade social protection instruments have gained popularity among policy responses to drought. An increasing number of governments in Sub-Saharan Africa have integrated cash transfer and public works schemes into their strategies for food and nutrition security and disaster risk management. These programmes shall prevent disinvestment and depletion of assets and enhance post-drought recovery, adaptation and resilience of livelihoods for the poorest parts of the population in affected areas. Most prominent examples are Ethiopia with its Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP), the largest safety net in Africa, outside South Africa, or the Kenya´s Hunger Safety Net Programme (HSNP). But can social protection programmes factually deliver the promises made?  Researchers and practitioners will discuss some fundamental questions around their experiences and the evidence available.


  • Martina Ulrichs (ODI)
  • Christoph Strupat (DIE)
  • Ralf Radermacher (GIZ)
  • Guush Berhane (IFPRI)
  • Bettina Tewinkel (KfW), tbc

27 June 2017 17:30 – 20:00

Improving drought resilience of Sub-Saharan agriculture: opportunities and challenges in irrigation and water governance
Location:  German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE), Lecture Hall, Tulpenfeld 6, Bonn
Organised by: Waltina Scheumann and Ines Dombrowsky, German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE), Annette von Lossau (GIZ)

The agricultural sector of many sub-Saharan (SSA) countries is already now strongly affected by climate change and increasing climate variability and drought conditions. Irrigation is one way to adapt and to reduce reliance of agricultural production on erratic rainfall and droughts. However, in SSA experiences with public investments in irrigation have been mixed, at best. This raises the question what models exist for sustainable irrigation investments and management in SSA, and what are the implications of land-use change on more traditional livelihoods of smallholders, fishermen and herders which heavily rely on traditional common pool resource governance regimes. In a context where countries opt for the expansion of irrigated areas and where at the same time water demand is increasing from outside the agricultural sector, effective, flexible water allocation regimes and effective implementing institutions are key in order to react to changing hydrological circumstances, and competing water demands. This, however, can be a challenge if existing water regimes are characterized by historical rights, preferences and usage patterns, and vested interests. Zambia is a case where both trends and challenges can be studied: (i) The Zambian government has set up an ambitious program aiming at commercializing its agricultural sector by means of opening up new areas for irrigated agriculture, and developed an inclusive approach to integrate smallholders. (ii) Since the enactment of the new Water Resources Management Act in 2011, Zambia is in the process of setting up a new water governance regime including new management institutions and a new allocation regime, a process supported by the German government.


06 July 2017 18:00 – 20:00
Interventions in rural dynamics  - research and development work in the context of pastoral societies in Afar/Ethiopia
Location: Geographisches Institut, Meckenheimer Allee 166, University Bonn
Organised by: Detlef Müller-Mahn (University of Bonn)

In the cultural history of mankind, nomadic pastoralism has developed as a specialized type of livelihood and land use which is best adapted to the harsh conditions of arid and semiarid environments. In response to the temporal and spatial variability of resource availability, pastoralist land use systems rely on the mobility of grazing patterns, and a specific segmentary social structure. Today, however, the world of the pastoralists has come under pressure from many sides. In large parts of Subsaharan Africa the herders are becoming increasingly vulnerable to drought, deteriorating pastures, economic pressures and conflict. The panel session will take the Afar in Ethiopia as an example to explore the causes and consequences of the deterioration of pastoralism, and new approaches for secure livelihoods. The speakers of the evening will shed light on the current situation in Afar from different perspectives. Dr. Elisabeth van den Akker, a project coordinator for GIZ in Addis Ababa, will present some of the ongoing development activities in Afar. Dr. Simone Rettberg, a social geographer with extensive research experience in the area, will talk about the current transformation of pastoralism. Mohamed Detona, himself an Afar, will talk about the way how his people experience change. The panel discussion aims at highlighting different perspectives, experiences, opinions and connections between development work, scientific research and stakeholder involvement. Contributions will address questions at the interface between science and practice, such as: How can we appropriately understand the dynamics of change in drylands and pastoralism? What do the local populations and stakeholders themselves want to achieve? How can they be assisted in their endeavours and aspirations? What is the role of land rights, population growth, and restocking strategies? What can science and practice learn from each other?


  • Detlef Müller-Mahn (University Bonn)
  • Elisabeth van den Akker (GIZ)
  • Simone Rettberg (SLE Berlin)
  • Mohamed Detona (University Bayreuth)

13 July 2017 18:00 – 20:00
Closing Event
Drought resilience in Sub-Saharan Africa - Lessons learned for cooperative action
Location: German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE), Lecture Hall, Tulpenfeld 6, Bonn
Organized by: Christoph Strupat and Michael Brüntrup, German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE)


  • Hans-Joachim Preuß (GIZ)
  • Karl-Otto Zentel (CARE Deutschland)
  • Marc Engelhardt (KfW)
  • Michael Brüntrup (DIE) (DIE)
  • Sabine Tröger (University Bonn)


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