Building research capacity for sustainable water and food security in drylands of sub-Saharan Africa (BRECcIA)

October 2017 to September 2021

BRECcIA is an ambitious programme that aims to develop research capacity in institutions in three sub-Saharan countries.

Millions of Kenyans depend on the Ewaso Ngiro river and its tributaries, but over-abstraction and changing weather patterns are reducing river flows (Photo: Denis Onyodi/Kenya Red Cross Society, Creative Commons via Flickr)

Climate variability is a key feature of dryland ecosystems across sub-Saharan Africa, where rain-fed agriculture and pastoralism characterises local subsistence and is the mainstay of national economies. Demand for water and food from growing populations and urbanisation is rising faster than the ability of countries to meet it, with some countries dependent on imported food.  

The situation is exacerbated by climate change, which introduces increasingly frequent climate shocks such as droughts and flooding events. As a result, water and food security are top priorities in many sub-Saharan African countries, but policies and programmes are not yet in place that ensure all countries and their citizens have adequate access to them.   

To address these challenges and improve communities' responses to natural as well as market shocks, we need to understand the complex interactions between smallholder food production, dryland variability, the larger-scale influences of policy on food production and access, and resilience. This will require fine-scale, locally relevant research and solutions that are best developed and tested by local researchers and practitioners. 

What IIED is doing

The Building research capacity for sustainable water and food security in drylands of sub-Saharan Africa (BRECcIA) project will strengthen the capabilities of researchers at institutions in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi to carry out impactful and targeted research that leads to positive policy or practice change for water and food security. At the same time, it will build partnerships between African and UK universities and institutions and develop researchers' capacity in collaborative activities at all levels. 

Malawi, Kenya and Ghana have different geographical, climate, socioeconomic, cultural and institutional settings and challenges that will allow for comparative research and exchange of ideas, helping develop a richer collaborative network. 

Working with stakeholders at community, national and regional level, the research will focus on the needs of the arid and semi-arid land livelihoods and ecosystem services of the most vulnerable people living under the poverty line. It will also assess the governance and institutional support needed to understand and integrate complex relationships into adaptation, planning and policy development. 

We will ensure that capabilities are sustained and propagated beyond the project through networking opportunities, online courses and training materials, developing a virtual centre for water and food security and exploring the potential to develop a funded centre to include a wider set of academics.