Thursday 21 July 2016

Judging Soils as a Climate Change Solution: Where is the evidence? My fieldwork experience under CIRCLE

Dr Shade Akinsete,  University of Ibadan,
Cohort 2 CIRCLE Visiting Fellow

Climate change! Climate change!! Climate change!!! Is soil carbon storage a solution? Soils play a key role in climate change, as they could act as sources of or sinks for carbon depending on land-use management. However, sufficient evidence must be provided for the African continent. On this note, I began my field trip in southwest Nigeria in search for some evidence. For different disciplines fieldwork connotes different things. Mine was a real field in beautifully arranged teak plantations, natural forests, and arable farm lands in Onigambari and Omo forest reserves in Oyo and Ogun States, respectively. Beautiful serene environments with clean flowing streams, jumping squirrels, skillfully carved nests, flocking birds, bustling insects and active worms. Thankfully, no snakes were on sight. All these scenes were soon masked in what was about to turn into a very busy soil sampling process. Actually, I was not out there to enjoy the view only but to collect nearly seven hundred soil samples for various laboratory analyses. Why and how did I bring this upon myself? To improve and develop my career capacity provided by rare opportunities such as the Climate Impact Research Capacity and Leadership Enhancement (CIRCLE) programme that not only targets early career researchers but also ensures a good representation of women from different aspects of learning. Also, of the good nature of my home institution, which continually seeks the growth of her faculty members.

Soil profile in arable land use (Cassava farm) Onigambari Forest Reserve, Oyo State, Nigeria

Fig.1. Some Soil profiles sampled for this study: a) Alfisol under natural forest - Onigambari Forest Reserve; b) Inceptisol under teak plantation - Onigambari Forest Reserve; c) Alfisol under arable land (cassava farm) - Omo Forest Reserve; d) Inceptisol under arable land (cassava farm) - Omo Forest Reserve
Storage of carbon (C) in soils, frequently termed ‘soil carbon sequestration’, is a mitigation strategy for reducing atmospheric greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, especially carbon dioxide (CO2), known to contribute to global warming. So how soils are treated is extremely critical for climate change studies. Under the CIRCLE award, I will be measuring how much carbon is stored in soils under different land-use management strategies in southwest Nigeria, due to insufficient information for the global soil C database and for guiding stakeholders on appropriate future land use planning and climate change mitigation strategies.

L – R: Mr. O. Owolabi (Forest Guide); Shade Akinsete; Dr. S. Jimoh (Forest Ecologist); Dr. J. Orimoloye (Pedologist) Mr. S. Ogundele (Forest Guide) in the Teak Plantation, Onigambari Forest Reserve, Oyo State, Nigeria

I could not have traversed the forest reserves on my own without the forest guides who provided direction and guidance in these terrains. Sampling soils without some past history of land-use engenders difficulty in data interpretation. Therefore, Dr. Saka Jimoh, a forest ecologist of the Department of Forest Resources and Management, University of Ibadan, Nigeria, provided some useful history as well as identifying some of the plant species. Apart from assisting in sampling, he facilitated the network with the ministry of forestry for permission to access these reserves. Without a pedologist, identification of soil types as well as soil characterisation can be frustrating, with various colours under our foot. So on this trip, I could not have left behind Dr. Julius Orimoloye, Department of Agronomy, University of Ibadan, Nigeria. Together with him and some field assistants (graduate students of our University), the soils were identified, characterised and sampled. With the unflinching support and resilience of my team the soil sampling was completed whether it was dusk or in the actual event of heavy rainfall. In the event of future fieldwork, I will enlist this same team, whose support was total to achieve the best despite the serious fuel crisis the country was experiencing at the time of the fieldwork. Although, this fieldwork was more rugged than previous ones I had engaged in, I have no regrets because it was mission accomplished. Now, onto lab work at “Mazingira Centre; ILRI’s state-of-art environmental lab” seeking to provide the evidence……

Mission accomplished- Some members of the team

Monday 18 July 2016

Adventure into climate finance flows and corruption study: A mid-term reflection on the CIRCLE fellowship

By Olushola Fadairo, University of Ibadan, Nigeria
Cohort 2 Visiting Fellow

Dr Fadairo spent his fellowship year at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. Halfway through his Fellowship, he reflects on his experiences.

My nomination by my home institution to apply for the CIRCLE fellowship programme in July 2015 was greeted with mixed feelings. On the one hand, a feeling of excitement as it was going to be an additional opportunity for capacity development and further intellectual excursion beyond the shores of Nigeria barely two years after completion of a PhD programme. On the other hand, a feeling of awe arising from the challenge of having to develop a novel research proposal on climate change as the only focus and within a very short time in the face of a very busy schedule in my home institution. Fortunately, the dice was already cast and there was no going back, so I took up the challenge. In my retrospective reflection in search of a problem or gap around which I could build a research proposal, I quickly remembered some newspaper reports I had read in recent times which alleged corruption by some government officials in the management of climate funds. So, I thought it was important to investigate the extent to which effectiveness of climate change intervention projects is being affected by corruption. This led to my first working title on “Broaching Research on Corruption in Ecological Fund Management for Climate Change Mitigation” which I submitted to CIRCLE and was privileged to be offered the fellowship opportunity.

Rethinking the proposal

Shortly before the commencement of the fellowship in January 2016, I decided to undertake a brief reconnaissance on the subject of my CIRCLE research proposal. After much consideration, I realised the need to revise the proposal to be more specific and realistic. When I attended the CIRCLE induction workshop held in Kenya in February, 2016 I met John Morton who shared the same opinion. Following further review of relevant literature and consultation with my Supervisor (Richard Calland), Specialist advisor (Yacob Mulugetta) and home institution mentor (Janice Olawoye), I revised my research proposal and amended the title as “Exploring Research on Corruption in Climate Funds Management: The Case of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) Project in Nigeria”. The thrust of the study is premised on the experience in Africa with respect to climate finance flow which has so far not boded too well as the gap between funds approved and those disbursed in the region remains substantial, presumably because of challenges in meeting the required fiduciary and governance standards. So, a major research concern is that the fiduciary standards that have been set and will continue to be set will either be too high and unreasonably so, or else they cannot be met because countries are unable to show how they will combat corruption, which will have a detrimental effect on the flow of climate finance at a crucial time. In this vein, key questions that come to mind include: is the concern about corruption in climate change and, therefore, fiduciary standards, justified? The study therefore aims at providing answers to six objectives derived from this question using Cross River State (CRS), Nigeria where there is REDD+ presence as a test case.

What does forthcoming finding suggest?

While the field survey on households within forest dependent communities in the study area was still on-going as of the time of writing this article, the flip side data garnered from a key informant from the state forestry commission (Table 1) shows that only five out of eight governance measures that could help improve transparency in REDD+ processes were available locally; two of which were rated as just fairly functional while the functionality of the other two could not be ascertained. Does this trend say anything about the governance capacity of the implementing agency for REDD+ in the study area? It may be too hasty to draw conclusions on this now until all data are fully collected.

Table 1: Highlights of information from IDI with key informant from CRS forestry commission
Major engagements with research stakeholders so far

My first engagement with stakeholders apart from the CIRCLE induction workshop held in Kenya, was on March 2, 2016 when I did a self-introduction seminar at the African Climate and Development Initiative (ACDI), University of Cape Town (my host institution). My presentation focused on my profile, past research experience and current CIRCLE research work. This was followed by my participation at the United Nations University Education for Sustainable Development in Africa (ESDA) – Next Generation Researchers (NGR) – National Research Foundation of South Africa (NRF) workshop on “Developing an Exploratory Research Programme on the Role of Youth Entrepreneurship for Sustainable Development in Africa” from March 4-7, 2016, where I also did a presentation entitled “Blockades between entrepreneurship and development in Africa: My Perspectives”. Furthermore, on April 14, 2016, I presented my CIRCLE research work at the CIRCLE coordinators/Supervisors/UCT-Research Office/CVFs meeting held at the University of Cape Town Research Office. A more recent one was my participation at the International Conference on Climate Change held at the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Nigeria from 18-20 May, 2016 where I delivered a review paper co-authored with my supervisor on the title “Corruption and the imbalance in climate finance flows in Sub Saharan Africa: Lessons for Social Researchers”. The review paper is now being revised for submission for publication in a suitable open access journal.

Gains versus Pains: How did I fare?

It is just about six months into my CIRCLE fellowship year and I am happy to note that the experience so far has been awesome, though not without some moments of disappointment. An instance I would describe as a low point for me in my experience so far was when I narrowly missed an opportunity to attend the 2016 Potsdam (Germany) Summer School on Dealing with Climate Change Impacts. It was a two week programme with partial sponsorship. It was with great regret that I read the mail sent to me from Potsdam by Angela Borowski who informed me of the jury committee’s recommendation to put my offer on the waiting list should anyone withdraw. Alas! it never happened. However, it is pertinent to state that while I have had more high points than low points, both conditions have really been essential learning processes for me.


I appreciate my fellow CVFs, Faridah and Portia for their companionship. Special thanks to my supervisor (Richard Calland), specialist advisor (Yacob Mulugetta) and mentor (Janice Olawoye) for their guidance. I gratefully acknowledge the African Climate and Development Initiative (ACDI), African Academy of Sciences (AAS), UK Department for International Development and Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) for this memorable opportunity.

Tuesday 12 July 2016

Impacts of Climate Change on Aquaculture Sector of Ghana: A Field Experience

By: Berchie Asiedu, University of Energy and Natural Resources (UENR), Ghana
Cohort 2 CIRCLE Visiting Fellow

Climate change is one of the most serious threats to sustainable aquaculture development in Ghana. The impacts of climate change in the aquaculture (small-scale) sector of Ghana are real. Droughts are being prolonged, rainfall patterns changing, floods increasing and strong winds are becoming a common phenomenon. Fish ponds are breaking in, aquatic plants are taking over ponds, fish mortalities are increasing, water quantity and quality are getting poorer, fish farmers are getting lower revenue and poverty is increasing.

In February 2016, I arrived at the University of Ibadan (UI) to officially commence my one-year Climate Impact Research Capacity and Leadership Enhancement (CIRCLE) Visiting Fellowship programme. Prior to my arrival, I had several email exchanges with my Host Supervisor on my research proposal, work plan and other logistics. I also had a meeting with my Home Mentor and CIRCLE Coordinator before departing to UI.

Being at my Host Institution has been interesting. UI is Nigeria’s premier university with a lot of faculties, students and commercial activities. I was introduced to officers in the Research Management Unit (RMO), which is the unit responsible for coordinating the CIRCLE Programme. I met my Host Supervisor who warmly welcomed me and introduced me to other members in the department (Dept. of Aquaculture and Fisheries Management). I also interacted with students in the department and took interest in their research activities. I visited the department’s fish farm to familiarize myself with their work. I took keen interest to understudy the academic and administrative structures of my Host institution, especially, the Dept. of Aquaculture and Fisheries Management (UI), which is unique and I hope to adopt in my Home institution (UENR).
In March 2016, I had the opportunity to attend a workshop on Research and Grants Writing for Doctoral Students which was organized by the RMO and Postgraduate School. The workshop had sharpened my skills in research grant management, budget and budgeting in research grants, reference management, effective communication in research grant proposal writing, and ethical consideration in research.

I also had the opportunity to meet other CIRCLE Fellows and Ghanaian students at UI to exchange ideas and build working relationships.

After a meeting with some Ghanaian students in UI

As part of my CIRCLE research, I have spent three months studying the impacts of climate change on aquaculture through field data collection in two important aquaculture regions in Ghana (Ashanti and Brong Ahafo), sometimes travelling for about three days across districts, municipals, metropolitans, in rain, sunshine, traffic, day and night and in the remote parts of Ghana.
Working with stakeholders (i.e. fish farmers, fisheries officers, meteorological officers, opinion leaders, local climate experts, national best fish farmers, students, government institutions and religious bodies), the impacts of climate change are being analysed.

A visit to a fish farm in Sunyani, Ghana. The pond is dried-up completely due to prolonged drought and high temperatures. The water source is dried and the farmer forced to stop operations

Taking pond water turbidity with secchi disc at a fish farm in Kumasi, Ghana. The quality of water is key for fish growth but is getting poorer due to drought
It is worth noting that stakeholders (both individuals and institutions) are using various strategies to combat climate change (examples; constructing concrete walls to combat incidence of flood during extreme rainfall, raising pond dykes to check flooding, fencing ponds with nets to retain fish during floods, using sand bags to prevent pond erosion due to high rainfall, planting of trees to serve as wind breaks and to provide shade to reduce evaporation, abandoning ponds to contain water during heavy rains and construction of filtration systems to ensure safe water usage for production, pumping water to top up ponds during drought periods).
A farmer at Asufua has constructed a concrete wall to combat incidences of flooding during extreme rainfall. Farm operational costs have increased
A fish farmer at Odumasi has fenced ponds with nets to retain fish during floods. Ponds here are flooded during torrential rains

The opportunities and experience from the CIRCLE programme have been very helpful. I am hoping to use my knowledge and skills to have impact in the aquaculture sector, academic circles, public sector and the international communities.

This study has been possible by kind assistance of the CIRCLE programme, DfID, the ACU and AAS.
Berchie Asiedu.