A team of University of Florida (UF) faculty members has been awarded a grant of $1.6 million to study the impact of climate change in West Africa, the Minerva Research Initiative announced on Friday 24 February 2022.  The project, Social & institutional determinants of vulnerability & resilience to climate hazards in the Sahel, was one of seventeen grants selected from 220 applications in this year’s competition.

The research team aims to understand and explain the variations in responses to the effects of climate change in the region. It is comprised of an interdisciplinary group of scholars affiliated with the UF Sahel Research Group, including project P.I. Leonardo A. Villalón, Professor of African Politics and currently Dean of the International Center and Associate Provost, and co-P.Is Sarah McKune (Global & Environmental Health and African Studies) and Renata Serra (African Studies), with contributions by Gregory Kiker (Agricultural and Biologial Engineering) and Steven Radil of the US Air Force Academy.

The three-year research project will focus on the six countries of the Sahel region of West Africa: Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad.  These are among the least developed countries on earth according to United Nations rankings, and highly susceptible to the effects of climate change.  In the past decade they have also been subject to intense pressures from many sources, including violent extremist movements. Yet the region also shows continued sources of resilience among its diverse populations, drawing on its historical models of adapting to uncertainty.

“Understanding the factors shaping how the countries of the Sahel will adapt to the effects of climate change is of critical importance for the livelihoods of the people of the region,” Villalón notes, “and it also has major implications for the entire global community in our increasingly interconnected world.”

The Minerva Research Initiative, launched by the US Secretary of Defense in 2008, supports university-based social science research aimed at improving basic understanding of the social, cultural, behavioral, and political forces that shape regions of the world of strategic importance to the U.S.