University of Bristol part of €6.7 million EU Horizon project aiming to end hunger and thirst in the Horn of Africa


EU Horizon 2020 has invested €6.7 million to sponsor DOWN2EARTH, a project tackling food and water shortage in the Horn of Africa Drylands (HAD). Coordinated by the University of Cardiff, the project sees the University of Bristol involved as the second largest contributor, and is set to start in September 2020.

In Africa, one in five people do not have access to adequate food, in order to meet their caloric requirements. HAD is home to such critically vulnerable countries, including Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. 25 million people across these countries are facing a serious food and water crisis, mainly due to severe droughts and the lack of knowledge on crop management during seasonal climactic changes. Further exacerbating the situation, these countries have also been hit by severe locust plagues, as well as the recent COVID-19 pandemic.

DOWN2EARTH aims to tackle food and water shortage in the Horn of Africa Drylands (HAD) | AMISOM

These ‘triple punches’ greatly surpass the resilience threshold of these countries, such that they are now listed under the need of external assistance for food by FAO.

To combat these socio-economic threats, the University of Bristol have teamed up with Cardiff University, along with their 13 co-partners across 7 countries, into launching a project that hopes to offer security to millions of lives from severe food and water shortages in the HAD.

DOWN2EARTH aims to translate and notify multi-level stakeholders on the climate information collected from state-of-art-seasonal forecasts and decadal projections of climate change. Furthermore, this system will also report its potential damage on farming, food production and water reserves with greater precision.

In the light of success, from local farmers to government ministries, society as a whole can use the information to adapt, prepare and gain greater resilience to the damage caused by extreme weather events. Thus, DOWN2EARTH does not only warn, but also serves as an educational tool to broaden the knowledge of the individual user on climate change, supporting their agricultural investment decisions.

HAD is home to such critically vulnerable countries, including Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia | United Nations Maps

DOWN2EARTH will also encompass other facets of core issues surrounding food and water scarcity and evaluate the impact of climate on socio-economic factors, as well as the country’s population dynamics. This includes feedbacks between climatic shocks, human behaviour and policy implementation.

‘The broader goal here,’ explains Dr Michael Singer, from the Cardiff University’s School of Earth and Ocean Science and Water Research Institute, ‘is to support the co-creation of new climate adaptation policies that acknowledge the needs of rural villagers and also remain faithful to the best available science on future climate change’.

The University of Bristol is proud to be the second largest contributor to this project. Bristol’s team is primarily leading the climate trend analysis, as well as the mobile phone app development, which will be the main communication system between the users and the climate forecasts. The Bristol team is also playing a significant role in modelling food and water security.

The multidisciplinary concept of DOWN2EARTH holds great optimism to make an impactful change to the millions of lives affected by chronic undernourishment. One of the UN Sustainable Development Goals – ‘Zero Hunger’ by 2030 – may be one step closer to a reality.

Featured image: AMISOM / United Nations Maps

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