Climate Action, Environment, Resource Efficiency & Raw Materials - DOWN2EARTH


DOWN2EARTH: Translation of climate information into multilevel decision support for social adaptation, policy development, and resilience to water scarcity in the Horn of Africa Drylands

DOWN2EARTH joins together 14 institutions from 8 countries into 1 interdisciplinary team led by Cardiff University (UK). The 4-year project that will address the multi-faceted challenges of water scarcity and food insecurity under climate change in the Horn of Africa Drylands (HAD), by facilitating community-centered adaptation and resilience to climate change impacts. It will use a multidisciplinary, inclusive approach, bringing together local communities, academic experts, novel decision-support tools, multi-level governance structures, regional climate centers, and NGOs. It will deliver state-of-the-art and community-relevant climate services that focus on water scarcity and its consequences at or near the Earth’s surface (hence DOWN2EARTH) to increasingly vulnerable rural populations in HAD. The project is designed to bolster existing climate services frameworks, improve decision support to people, governments, and NGOs serving affected rural communities in the most vulnerable HAD countries (Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia), and to improve community-centric adaptation and resilience to climate change.

Project description

Water scarcity, or a deficit in the amount of water available to humans, impacts many critical sectors of society including water supply, food security, land use, hydro-electric energy, and health. Prolonged periods of extreme water scarcity induced by drought are detrimental to regional economies through crop and livestock loss threatening food security. The drylands of the Horn of Africa region depend on seasonal rainfall to sustain subsistence (primarily rainfed) agriculture, so they are extremely vulnerable to water scarcity and food insecurity, with associated economic losses during drought conditions when the rains are well below average. These rural communities in HAD tend to have low socio-economic levels, and low adaptive capacity to climatic shocks, such that recent severe droughts have dramatically increased food insecurity. Despite the proliferation of improved climate information for the region, and resulting improvements in early warnings, major uncertainties remain about the links between key seasonal climate variables and water scarcity, and the consequential impacts to livelihoods and wellbeing.


These are the objectives of DOWN2EARTH:

  • Assess the socio-economic dimensions and human dynamics of climate change in HAD including feedbacks between climatic shocks, human behavior, and policy implementation.
  • Characterize and quantify historical trends and (future) projections of and interactions between water scarcity, food insecurity, population, land use, and the policy environment in HAD.
  • Develop and enhance multi-level decision-support tools that emphasize the translation of climate information into critical land and water information required for near-term and long-term adaptation and resilience by communities, state/regional governments, NGOs, and humanitarian and development organizations
  • Strengthen regional climate adaptation and resilience through capacity building, citizen science, information dissemination to improve multi-level decision making, expansion of data networks, and policy implementation.

Role of Ghent University

Ghent University will be in charge of the study of land use and land cover change in the Horn of Africa over the past decades, and the investigation of how those changes affected rainfall patterns, and ultimately water availability.



Diego G. Miralles
Hydro-Climate Extremes Lab (H-CEL)
Department of Environment
Faculty of Bioscience Engineering
Coupure Links 653, geb. A, 9000 Ghent