University students in Niamey learn links between food security and demography

For 29 students completing a Masters 2 in Nutrition and Food Security, the topic of demography was something that had not come up in their academic program at University Abdou Moumouni in Niger. Ask them the four primary factors contributing to food security and 100% of them can name the correct answers. But when it comes to how nutrition and food security are impacted by population growth, this was new territory for many.

To prepare the emerging generation of health and agriculture experts with an understanding of the critical links between demography and food security, the OASIS initiative held its third annual “Population, Resilience, and the Role of Women in Food Security in the Sahel” course in partnership with UAM this past July.

“We cannot talk about development without considering population,” says Dr.  Nouhou Abdoul Moumouni, demographer-statistician and OASIS Program Director for Niger. “And demography isn’t just ‘counting’ people. Demography looks at the trajectory of the individuals in every stage of their life: their vital needs like food, education, and employment; the events affecting them like migration, marriage, and death; and their life plans, like family planning.” This information is necessary in order to predict and respond to the specific needs of different cohorts of people in a population. If a country and a region’s development is going to be sustainable, then these factors must be taken into account.

Niamey's Center of Excellence to prioritize family planning & adolescent girls empowerment in the Sahel

With the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between University Abdou Moumouni, Niger and University of California, Berkeley comes the beginning of a new Center for Excellence in women’s health and empowerment in Niamey, Niger. The primary goals of this center are to strengthen and support local initiatives in the field of voluntary family planning and women's empowerment while putting national and international actors on alert to the need for integrating demographic and socio-economic development. The "Presentation and Purpose of the Agreement" outlined in the MOU describes why UAM and UCB have signed on to this mutually beneficial collaboration:

"Having met and found that they shared multiple pedagogical goals, particularly in the field of population and sustainable development, and that their interests and those of their students could converge, the partners decided to consider a number of means and avenues of cooperation.

After fruitful discussions, the parties agreed to develop the idea of a multidisciplinary Center of Excellence dedicated to the role of Women in Development based at UAM. UCB and UAM hereby commit to support activities and programs advancing scholarship and champion the creation of a Center of Excellence through collaborative partnership."

The signing of this MOU is a critical achievement as it provides a commitment on the part of both universities to support activities and advance scholarship related to population and sustainable development in the Sahel. The OASIS Initiative helped get this partnership off the ground with the support of multiple key partners who are supporting this effort, including ISSP (University of Ouagadougou), CRESA (University of Niamey) and CILSS. For more information or to help support the Center's activities, please contact OASIS' Program Director for Niger, Dr. Nouhou Abdoul Moumouni at niger.oasis@gmail.com.

 

OASIS Founder and Program Director speak on Population and Development in the Sahel at Woodrow Wilson Center

The UN is calling the quadruple threat of famine in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen, “the world’s largest crisis since 1945.” But parts of the African Sahel could be heading for an even bigger catastrophe in the years ahead. The window of opportunity for a much-needed push in foreign assistance to address population, security, and development trends is closing fast, say some experts.

OASIS Founders Malcolm Potts and Alisha Graves, OASIS Program Director Nouhou Abdoul Moumouni and colleagues from our French partner Fondation Ferdi, gave a series of presentations on demographic projections, the link between security and development, and how strategic international aid can help shape the future of the Sahel. Talks were hosted by the U.S. State Dept., the World Bank, the National Defense University and the Woodrow Wilson Center. Watch the webcast from the Woodrow Wilson Center here

 

OASIS receives two Gates Global Challenge awards

We are happy to announce that the OASIS Initiative was selected for two highly competitive 2016 Gates Global Grand Challenge for Putting Women and Girls at the Center of Development awards. This is a testament to the powerful impact our work has on empowering women and girls in the region as well as the innovative nature of our strategies to address complex development challenges. 

The "Room to Grow" award will leverage existing women-centered gardens in Niger — a movement that is growing — to deliver and test an intervention in the Zinder region aimed to improve gender equity, access to family planning, and nutrition. The OASIS Initiative will be managing research and evaluation of the program to assess proof of concept, while partner Population Services International will implement the activities. 

The second award will fund a Girls for Health (G4H) initiative in northern Nigeria. This program will support the transition of adolescent girls from secondary school to tertiary training in midwifery, medicine, nursing and other health careers. By addressing the acute shortage of female health workers in rural northern Nigeria, this program will help to lower the region's high rates of early marriage and maternal mortality, which are among the highest in the world. 

Read the full executive summaries of these two proposals here: 
Room to Grow
Girls for Health

 

OASIS' work highlighted in Sierra magazine's "The Pope's Climate-Change Blind Spot: Women's Rights"

OASIS' work highlighted in Sierra magazine's "The Pope's Climate-Change Blind Spot: Women's Rights"

The low status of women in this region has contributed to the rapid rate of population growth, says Alisha Graves, cofounder of an initiative on the Sahel at the University of California at Berkeley. Child marriage is common, and female genital mutilation is part of some cultures in the Sahel. Women who marry young often drop out of school, which limits their future economic opportunities and increases their risk of dying during or soon after childbirth. There is also a significant unmet need for family-planning services; somewhere around 25 percent of women in the region would like to have fewer children or space their children farther apart, but they have scarce access to the information, resources, and social support needed to do so. A leading cause of maternal mortality is unsafe abortion.

The booming population and changing climate in the Sahel are a recipe for humanitarian crisis, says Malcolm Potts, also with the Berkeley initiative. The threats that climate change poses underscore the urgent need to invest in the well-being of girls and women, he says. Add infrastructure for agricultural adaptation, such as water storage, and you've got a start. Change can occur, but right now "we don't have the will, and we don't have the money," Potts laments.

OASIS' affiliated faculty, Michael Wehner on climate change and human health in Africa

See original article here.

By Andrea Thompson

Already home to some of the most environmentally vulnerable populations on the planet, Africa looks to increasingly feel the sting of climate change through more frequent, widespread and intense heat waves.

Extreme heat that would be considered unusual today could become a yearly occurrence there by mid-century, onenew study suggests, and the trend will emerge earlier there — and in the rest of the tropics — before it does in more temperate areas, another finds.

The studies, both detailed this month in the journal Environmental Research Letters, emphasize the undue burden that some of the poorest populations on the planet — often those that have contributed least to global warming — will face from climate change, the authors say.

“They don’t have the capacity to respond to such heat waves,” lacking the kind of warning systems and regular access to health care that help those in wealthier countries cope, said Jana Sillman, a co-author of the first study, and a climate researcher at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Norway.

An increase in extreme heat is one of the clearest implications of the overall warming that has resulted from decades of unabated emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases. Warming has been shown toincrease the odds of such extreme events already today, and heat waves are expected to become increasingly intense and frequent at all regions across the planet as temperatures continue to rise.

Because the tropics have less variation in their day-to-day and season-to-season temperatures, that means the trend of more extreme heat will emerge sooner and will reach higher heights than in more temperate locations.

Those areas also happen to generally correspond to the regions where the world’s poorest and richest populations live, respectively. The tropics are home to some 4 billion people, the U.N. estimates.

One of the new studies used climate models to link cumulative carbon dioxide emissions to extreme heat occurrence and showed that fewer emissions were needed to see an increase in the number of extremely hot days for the poorest fifth of the world’s population than for the wealthiest fifth. Among the most impacted regions were West Africa and the Horn of Africa.

“Our results show extreme hot days will become more frequent with continuing emissions, and for some tropical regions these increases will become more apparent much more quickly,” lead author Luke Harrington, a PhD candidate at the New Zealand Climate Change Research Institute, said in an email.

The other study used regional climate models to looks specifically at the trends in heat waves in Africa, looking both at events in terms of their severity and their duration.

Even though people living in tropical areas are more adapted to hot temperatures than those in more temperate climes, there is a limit to the human body’s tolerance of heat. The background warming of the planet means that heat waves now and in the future push closer to that limit than they once did, just as a rising tide lifts the height of the waves.

Sillman and her colleagues found that Africa is already seeing heat waves that are more intense, more frequent and that cover a larger area than ever during the last couple decades of the 20th century. And the models suggest that heat waves considered unusually extreme today could become a yearly occurrence by 2040 if greenhouse gas emissions are not curtailed.

By the end of this century, they could happen even more often, particularly in the tropics where there aren’t seasons like temperate areas.

“The heat wave is not limited to the summer,” Sillman said.

The impacts to human health from such heat waves could be exacerbated by humidity. Though neither study incorporated this factor, other studies have shown that heat stress (a measure of both temperature and humidity) will increase in much of the tropics, including in places likely to see some of the biggest increases in population.

Many of these areas lack the resources to help people cope with extreme heat — such as reliable access to safe drinking water and cooling centers — and don’t always have the systems in place to warn residents that a heat wave is coming.

Awareness around these issues is increasing, though: A series of deadly heat waves prompted the city of Ahmedabad, India, to work with NGOs toset up a Heat Health Action Plan that includes warnings and reminders of where residents can go to keep cool and hydrated.

Intense heat can also affect the productivity of economies, particularly for work based outdoors like construction and agriculture. A recent U.N. report estimates that 1 billion workers in vulnerable countries are already subject to impacts from extreme heat and that lost work hours could deal a major blow to developing economies.

Heat also affects the crops and livestock that people in many areas rely on for survival — drought and heat have led to severe food shortages in parts of Africa this year.

“The threat to Africa is multi-faceted. Threats to human health via heat waves is but one of them,” Michael Wehner, a climate researcher at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, said. “Disruptions to agriculture, combined with a rapidly growing population in some countries is also of great concern.” Wehner was not involved with either study but has conducted research on heat extremes.

How much Africa and other precarious regions are impacted depends on how the world as a whole decides to respond to the threat of climate change, including whether countries stick to their commitments to the Paris climate agreement. With a certain amount of warming guaranteed, though, adaptation to future conditions will also be necessary.

“Emissions reductions can ameliorate these increasing risks, but even in rather dramatic emission reduction scenarios, the change in heat waves is still very large,” Wehner said.