Africa - January 2018

Call for SDG Labs Africa

elephant 3117217 640Do you have an idea for how to spark sustainable transformations in Africa and around the world? The organisers of the upcoming 'Seedbeds of Transformation: the role of science with society and the SDGs in Africa' conference in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, are looking for projects that seek to develop prototype solutions to complex challenges in Africa and beyond. These creative projects should bring together participants from diverse research disciplines and from across society.

Future Earth and its partners will fund up to 20 SDG labs led by innovators at African instutions. The deadline for applications is 16 February.

Interested? Find out more here. 

AfroMont Mountain Research and News Digest, January 2018

201801 afromontintroAfroMont, an online knowledge-sharing platform, was initiated in 2007 by the Mountain Research Initiative (MRI) in Switzerland to focus attention on the diverse issues and challenges facing the mountainous regions of Africa. The specific c aim of Afromont is to showcase experiences from research, field projects and best practice in sustainable mountain development and climate change adaptation in African countries, which may be useful or implemented in other countries in the continent.  

A new thrust for 2018 will be to engage with African media to support the investigative reporting of a wide range of climate change, social, ecological and sustainable development issues in Africa as they relate to mountains.

AfroMont now has a Facebook page, see

Photo credit: December in the Central Berg area of the Drakensberg, South Africa (SJ Taylor)


Editorial - Happy New Year for 2018. Looks like we will have to work a whole lot harder to have that ‘happiness’.

This year set to be the hottest on record

The United Nations has announced that 2017 is set to be the hottest non-El Nino year on record. The UN's World Meteorological Organisation also showed today that average temperatures between 2013 and 2017 are expected to be the highest in the history of accurate meteorological measurement. Climate change, it seems, has not slowed down in the slightest.

World Scientists' Warning to Humanity
Human well-being will be severely jeopardized by negative trends in some types of environmental harm, such as a changing climate, deforestation, loss of access to fresh water, species extinctions and human population growth, scientists warn in a recent issue of BioScience, an international journal. See

This viewpoint article - "World Scientists' Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice" - was signed by more than 15 000 scientists in 184 countries. In the last 25 years, trends in nine environmental issues suggest that humanity is continuing to risk its future. The article also tries to be a big optimistic by noting that progress has been made in addressing some trends during this time. Among the negative 25-year global trends mentioned in the article are:

• A 26 per cent reduction in the amount of fresh water available per capita
• A drop in the harvest of wild-caught fish, despite an increase in fishing effort
• A 75 per cent increase in the number of ocean dead zones
• A loss of nearly 300 million acres of forestland, much of it converted for agricultural uses
• Continuing significant increases in global carbon emissions and average temperatures
• A 35 per cent rise in human population
• A collective 29 per cent reduction in the numbers of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and fish

The authors have formed a new independent organization, the Alliance of World Scientists, to be a collective voice on environmental sustainability and human well-being. Scientists who were not able to sign the warning prior to publication can still endorse the published warning by visiting

Journal Reference: William J. Ripple et al. World Scientists' Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice. BioScience, 2017 (in press) DOI: 10.1093/biosci/bix125



Political and humanitarian crisis around the world continue to simmer.


What is most likely to be under-reported is the impact of these humanitarian crises on local biodiversity in those regions, as well as on mountains where they occur.



Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)

201801 IPBESFive Major New IPBES Assessment Reports will be launched in March 2018 during IPBES 6th Plenary in Medellin, Colombia.

In March, 2018, representatives of 127 Governments will receive, for approval, five landmark assessment reports describing the state of knowledge about biodiversity, ecosystems and nature’s contributions to people.

Prepared by more than 550 leading international experts from more than 100 countries, working with the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), the evaluations cover four world regions — the Americas, Asia and the Pacific, Africa, and Europe and Central Asia, i.e. the whole world except Antarctica and the open oceans. The reports are scheduled for public launch in Medellin, Colombia at the 6th annual session of the IPBES Plenary (#IPBES6) in March 2018.

A fifth IPBES assessment report, also due to be approved and launched at the same meeting, examines land degradation and restoration, both regionally and globally.

The findings of the five IPBES reports will also be key inputs to a new comprehensive IPBES global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services, due for release in 2019, the first such evaluation since the authoritative 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.

Access All the IPBES Assessment Report Message Primers Online at:
General Primer:
Land Degradation and Restoration:
Europe and Central Asia:
The Americas:



A first atlas on rural migration in sub-Saharan Africa

201801 ruralafricaA first atlas to deepen understanding on complex rural migration patterns in sub-Saharan Africa

Development of rural areas can shape the future of migration

The atlas Rural Africa in motion. Dynamics and drivers of migration south of the Saharaalso highlights the important role rural areas will continue to play in shaping the continent’s migration for decades to come.

“Population growth translates into a massive expansion of the labour force. Some 380 million new working age people are expected to enter the job market by 2030. Of those about 220 million are likely to be in rural areas. The challenge is to generate enough employment to absorb this booming labour force. This is why agriculture and rural development must be an integral part of any response to large migratory movements to harness the potential of migration for development,” said Kostas Stamoulis, FAO Assistant Director-General, Economic and Social Development Department.

The atlas notes that the vast majority of Africans (75 per cent) are migrating within Africa, whilst the overwhelming majority of North Africans (about 90 per cent) migrate to Europe. Hence, sub-Saharan Africa "is in motion", but mainly within the limits of the continent. Western and Eastern Africa are the most dynamic regions with about 5.7 and 3.6 million intra-regional migrants in 2015.

201801 minewateratlas

The South African Mine Water Atlas is a comprehensive reference on the vulnerability of water resources to mining activity in South Africa. It shows the critical interplay between mining and water resources and is the most extensive set of documents of its kind.  

The multi-layered set of maps spans all mineral provinces in South Africa with a greater level of detail in areas where mining frequently takes place. The maps chart ground and surface water resources in the provinces. This in turn is overlaid with maps of mining and mineral-refining activities, in order to understand the interactions between potential mining activities, surface and groundwater interact.  The Atlas is intended to help mining companies, investors, government departments, civil society, and students get a better understanding of the general impact of mining on water resources in different parts of the country. See



Editor’s Choice - important publications

Are we any closer to sustainable development? Listening to active stakeholder discourses of tourism development in the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve, South Africa.
Andrew Lyon, Philippa Hunter-Jones, Gary Warnaby (2017). Tourism Management 61 (2017).

Private and civil society governors of mercury pollution from artisanal and small-scale gold mining: A network analytic approach. The Extractive Industries and Society, Volume 2, Issue 2, April 2015, Pages 198-208. Kristin Sippl.

Remote sensing of vegetation cover dynamics and resilience across southern Africa. International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation, Volume 28, May 2014, Pages 131-139. A. Harris, A.S. Carr, J. Dash.

The drawbacks of privatization: Artisanal gold mining in Burkina Faso 1986–2016. Resources Policy, Volume 52, June 2017, Pages 418-426. Katja Werthmann.

Drivers of collaboration to mitigate climate change: An illustration of Swiss climate policy over 15 years. Global Environmental Change, Volume 24, January 2014, Pages 88-98. Karin Ingold, Manuel Fischer.

Characterization of the spatial distribution of farming systems in the Kenyan Highlands. Applied Geography, Volume 30, Issue 2, April 2010, Pages 239-253.  J.A. van de Steeg, P.H. Verburg, I. Baltenweck, S.J. Staal.

Entangled Territories in Small-Scale Gold Mining Frontiers: Labor Practices, Property, and Secrets in Indonesian Gold Country. World Development, Volume 101, January 2018, Pages 400-416. Nancy Lee Peluso.

Recognition and management of ecological refugees: A case study of the Cape mountain zebra. Biological Conservation, Volume 203, November 2016, Pages 207-215Jessica MD Lea, Graham IH Kerley, Halszka Hrabar, Tom J Barry, Susanne Shultz.

Monitoring basin-scale land cover changes in Kagera Basin of Lake Victoria using ancillary data and remote sensing. International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation, Volume 21, April 2013, Pages 32-42John E. Wasige, Thomas A. Groen, Eric Smaling, Victor Jetten.

A novel approach to mapping land conversion using Google Earth with an application to East Africa. Environmental Modelling & Software, Volume 72, October 2015, Pages 1-9.  Andrew Jacobson, Jasjeet Dhanota, Jessie Godfrey, Hannah Jacobson, Zoe Rossman, Andrew Stanish, Hannah Walker, Jason Riggio.

Multitemporal settlement and population mapping from Landsat using Google Earth Engine. International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation, Volume 35, Part B, March 2015, Pages 199-208. Nirav N. Patel, Emanuele Angiuli, Paolo Gamba, Andrea Gaughan, Gianni Lisini, Forrest R. Stevens, Andrew J. Tatem, Giovanna Triann.

Limits to detectability of land degradation by trend analysis of vegetation index data. Remote Sensing of Environment, Volume 125, October 2012, Pages 10-22. K.J. Wessels, F. van den Bergh, R.J. Scholes.

Simulation of vegetation feedbacks on local and regional scale precipitation in West Africa. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, Volume 222, 28 May 2016, Pages 59-70. Andrew J. Hartley, Douglas J. Parker, Luis Garcia-Carreras, Stuart Webster.

Long-term studies of land degradation in the Sneeuberg uplands, eastern Karoo, South Africa: A synthesis. Geomorphology, Volume 285, 15 May 2017, Pages 106-120. A. Boardman, I.D.L. Foster, K.M. Rowntree, D.T. Favis-Mortlock, L. Mol, H. Suich, D. Gaynor.

The vegetation cycle in West Africa from AVHRR–NDVI data: Horizons of predictability versus spatial scales. Remote Sensing of Environment, Volume 114, Issue 9, 15 September 2010, Pages 2036-2047. S. Mangiarotti, P. Mazzega, P. Hiernaux, E. Mougin.

Re-aggregation dynamics of degraded cropland soils with prolonged secondary pasture management in the South African Highveld. Geoderma, Volume 192, January 2013, Pages 173-181. Raimund Kösters, Anne C. Preger, Chris C. Du Preez, Wulf Amelung.

Ecological vulnerability indicators. Ecological Indicators, Volume 60, January 2016, Pages 329-334. Mary Antonette Beroya-Eitner.

Managing Climate Change Risks in Africa - A Global Perspective. Ademola A. Adenle, James D. Ford, John Morton, Stephen Twomlow, Keith Alverson, Andrea Cattaneo, Rafaello Cervigni, Pradeep Kurukulasuriya, Saleemul Huq, Ariella Helfgott, Jane O. Ebinger. Ecological Economics 141 (2017) 190–201.

Safeguarding rural landscapes in the new era of energy transition to a low carbon future. Energy Research & Social Science, Volume 37, March 2018, Pages 191-197. Michael Jefferson.