Asal and Columbia University Win Harvard's GEM Incubation Fund 2023

May 28, 2024

Asal is excited to announce its partnership with Dr. Harry Verhoeven from Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy for a groundbreaking research project focusing on the effects of climate change in Somalia. Supported by the Harvard Center for International Development’s GEM Incubation Fund, this initiative aims to understand and strengthen Somali resilience to climate change through innovative research and community engagement.

Understanding Vulnerability in Somalia

Somalia ranks among the nations most vulnerable to climate change, grappling with severe weather patterns that have drastically affected its populace and environment. The recent years of persistent drought, culminating in 2023's catastrophic flash floods, have exacerbated a food crisis jeopardising over six million Somalis. With average annual temperatures rising by 1°C since the 1960s and ongoing regional conflicts, the urgency for effective climate adaptation strategies cannot be overstated.

The Research Focus

Our research project explores how Somalis, including both ordinary citizens and government officials, perceive and respond to climate change. We aim to tap into the environmental knowledge embedded within communities, highlighting its potential as a crucial asset for developing resilient and adaptive strategies. This entails examining the diverse ways in which climate data is understood and utilised by different societal groups, ranging from nomadic tribes to governmental bodies.

At the core of our research lies the concept of participatory action research, where affected communities actively contribute to shaping research priorities and policy recommendations. This ensures that the voices of those most impacted by climate change are not only heard but also valued in the formulation of adaptive strategies. By engaging community researchers, including women and displaced individuals, our aim is to cultivate new forms of climate knowledge that can lead to more effective and inclusive responses.

Future Directions

As we expand our project, we envision broadening its geographic scope across Somalia and amplifying the contributions of diverse community members. Our objective is to establish institutional mechanisms that promote constructive dialogue between the government and society, addressing historical inequities and nurturing trust. This initiative endeavors to pave the way for sustainable climate adaptation strategies rooted in the rich environmental knowledge of Somali communities.

Lead Researchers

About Dr. Harry Verhoeven

Dr. Harry Verhoeven is a Senior Research Scholar at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, specialising in the political economy of climate change, international relations, and the interconnectedness of water, energy, and food security, with a regional focus on Africa, the Middle East, and the Western Indian Ocean.

About Dr. Maimuna Mohamud

Dr. Maimuna Mohamud is the Head of Practice, Research, Learning, and GESI (Gender Equality and Social Inclusion) at Asal. Her research focuses on gender, diaspora, peacebuilding, migration, and human security. She recently earned her doctorate from the University of Cambridge, where she was honored as a Cambridge Trust-Africa Scholar Established in 2016.

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