Two recent articles on the impacts of climate change on Africa caught our attention and got us thinking about the kind of research that is relevant to a non-profit organization like MWCT. The first, titled” Warming Increases the Risk of Civil War in Africa” (Bruke et al. 2009), argues for a strong link between war and temperature on the continent (PDF here). This is a good example of research that is not especially helpful for a non-profit like ours. Essentially, the researchers ran a series of regressions with “civil war” as the dependent variable and looked for relationships with a number of climatic variables. Whatever the relationship between civil war and climate change might be, this article does not usefully describe it. This sort of macro-level, acontextual, and reductionistic approach obscures the underlying causal mechanisms at play by ignoring the complexities of particular places (or cultures or ecosystems).
The second, titled “Transitions: Pastoralists Living with Change” (Galvin 2009), explores causes of change in pastoralism, focusing on land fragmentation and climate variability (Abstract; a PDF version is not available free unfortunately). This article is closer to something that might usefully inform the work MWCT does on a daily basis. Galvin, an anthropologist, compares changing pastoralist systems in Mongolia and East Africa. Her skilled use of qualitative methods and insistent attention to local realities allows her to appreciate the complexity of changes that are occurring in pastorialism. This sort of research, combined with the insight of the members of the Maasai community with which we work, allows us to better understand and address community challenges and improve programs like our Simba Project, for example.
Check out the articles and let us know what you think about all of this.
By the way, we would like to hear from researchers interested in conducting research at our newly-opened Chyulu Conservation and Research Center. We will post more about this on our blog soon, but in the meantime, you can email us at mwctmanager [@] iwayafrica.com.