Sally E. Findley
Earth Institute Contact: Sally E. Findley
Additional External Researchers:
Magaran Bagayoko, Malaria Research and Training Center (Mali)
Ousmane Nyaide, International Research Institute for Climate Prediction
The study is a collaboration of the Mailman School of Public Health and Earth Institute of Columbia University, involving team members from CIESIN and IRI. Columbia University is partnered with the Malaria Research and Training Center of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Mali, which in turn is partnered with the Famine Early Warning System of Mali (and the Sahel), and the Division of Health and Social Services, District of Niono.
It addresses the fact that climate variability affects family well-being in Sub-Saharan Africa through its effects on water resources, food production and health. Many Sub-Saharan African communities subject to climate variability have developed coping strategies which reduce their vulnerability to climate anomalies, particularly to negative precipitation anomalies. Most of these strategies have been reactive, such as migration to cities or other countries to earn money to send back to family members, implemented well after the onset of the anomaly. There have been efforts, primarily in the agricultural sector, to reduce vulnerability to climate anomalies through preventive strategies such as use of drought resistant crop varieties, cultivation practices to enhance water and soil retention, use of short-term weather/climate forecasts to guide planting and grain allocation decisions, and water holding systems. Recently, efforts have been initiated to develop parallel interventions that can be used to reduce the negative health impacts of climate variability. While these climate early warning systems are only under development, in principle they can be used to guide household and local decisions regarding activities that will lessen health vulnerability in the event of a climate anomaly.
Climate variability of importance to health and other human behaviors occurs on fine temporal and spatial scales. Nevertheless, climate forecasts are delivered for three-month averages at a resolution of 2.5 degrees, limiting both analysis and policy development at the micro and regional scales. Issues of scale and knowledge of spatial variability may be increasingly important to address the missing link between forecasts and individual and programmatic decision-making for health and agriculture. For example, where climate causes drought, household strategies have evolved to send family members to wetter locations for agricultural work. Initial survey results suggest that this migration pattern creates a conduit for disease transmission because individuals may either carry disease, or, more likely, carry their own risk of acquiring new illnesses. In addition to an individual's illness, the latter may result in foregone wages and additional disease transmission in the sending community. Therefore understanding the behavioral response in a given village, also requires consideration of behaviors and ecological factors in other communities. Yet, little research has been undertaken to determine how such localized predictions can be used as the villagers and district health officers wish to reduce their vulnerability to climate anomalies (both positive and negative).
We propose developing a model for strengthening the scientific and public health community's understanding and use of climate forecasts for critical decisions affecting health (and closely related intervening factors, such as agriculture). We will develop a system for assessing and reporting on local climate-health linkages, identify feasible local, district and national interventions that can reduce family vulnerability to climate variability, and collaborate with local, district, and national officials to develop climate-health decision tools for a climate-health early warning system. This system will be empirically based. As such, the thrust of this proposal is in the research necessary to establish system. The project will be conducted in the Niono District of Mali, which is highly susceptible to climate anomalies and has experienced very high incidence rates of climate-sensitive diseases, particularly malaria; although the study will focus on the four leading causes of childhood mortality (malaria, acute respiratory infection, malaria, and measles) and, climate-susceptible meningitis. The study will be implemented through a collaborative team cutting across disciplines and extending from research scientists to district health officers to village health elders; these linkages are, perhaps uniquely, already in place and strong.
We will continue to monitor climate, population, and health events in our selected 6 study sites, but the study will be adapted to further highlight the issues of dissemination and use of localized climate predictions. This monitoring will give needed insights into the relations between 'good' and 'bad' climate years, their impact on household behaviors and decisions and the dependency structure of this information between locations. We will expand our discussions with village leaders, both men and women, to elicit their suggestions for the best ways to mutually communicate about climate-related issues. Building on the findings from the monitoring studies, we will work with village, district, and regional leaders to identify modifications to available agricultural extension, water utilization, health and educational programs that can help villagers reduce their vulnerability to climate anomalies. We will use social science research methodologies (surveys, surveillance, focus-groups, and in-depth interviews), combined with climate monitoring, forecasting, and downscaling methodologies, integrated in a geospatial framework. We will share the geospatial analysis tools with local authorities to determine their readiness and interest in using such tools in Niono.
Cross Cutting Themes:
Food, Ecology and Nutrition
Malaria Research and Training Center, University of Mali
IRI Seed Funding, other pending