The Belmont Forum is a partnership of national funding organizations and international science councils that promotes international transdisciplinary research on global environmental change. The Theory of Change Observatory on Disaster Resilience (TOCO_DR) is one of the five projects that was awarded a grant for the period 2020-23 (https://www.belmontforum.org/projects/?fwp_project_call=dr32019). The TOC0_DR consortium is funded under the DR3 Call on Disaster Risk, Reduction and Resilience. By employing a Nexus framework to study drought resilience using cyber-enabled and place-based observatories for data aggregation and analysis using remote sensing and artificial intelligence the project aims to highlight the role of trade-offs in environmental policy and governance. The international consortium is led by Dr. Mathew Kurian and builds upon previous work that was initiated at United Nations University covering Africa and South America. Project partners include Penn State (funded by US National Science Foundation), Cranfield University (funded by UK Research and Innovation) and University of Sao Paulo (funded by Sao Paulo Research Foundation- FAPSEP). Other partners are based at the Water Institute, Tanzania, Mekelle University, Ethiopia, UNHABITAT, Geneva and Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee.
The overall aim of the Theory of change Observatory project is to enhance regional capacity to develop, pilot-test and validate regional climate models that enables the prediction, assessment, and response to effects of droughts and flood risk. Millions of people in Sub-Saharan Africa face disasters every year which obviously leads to food, water, and energy insecurity. Besides the humanitarian consequences of disasters such as floods it also heighten investment risks due to creation of stranded assets such as wastewater treatment plants in countries such as Brazil and India. Global climate models can be used to identify the geographical distribution of disaster risk but without being able to specify the regional intensity, frequency, and duration of events. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the difference between what models forecast and the reality of dryness has come to be known as the East Africa Climate paradox.
Because of model inconsistency, it is difficult for investors and decision makers to be forewarned about impending events and to respond when they occur. Two recent policy trends have however converged to enhance the potential for Cyber-enabled Effective Disaster Response in countries such as Tanzania and Ethiopia: (a) the expansion of Regional Early Warning Systems (REWS) and (b) a growing demand for open data platforms to enhance accountability of decision-making processes.
In addition to remote sensing and climate model downscaling the project will attempt to leverage citizen science given the ubiquity of cell phones in helping ground truth data (information verified/observed on-site) to complement of environmental information and proxy data.
Project outcomes include:
1) a place-based observatory based on principles of dispersed data handling and reuse 2) co-curating and co-designing regional research that focuses on down-scaling and coupling robust models of disaster risk monitoring and
3) pilot-testing and validating composite indices as a means of knowledge translation with the objective of building a theory of change on disaster resilience.
Linked databases will also generate nexus analytics on different aspects of a “web of data” relevant to disaster resilience and water energy and food security.
More details about the project are outlined in Kurian M. 2020. Monitoring versus modelling water-energy-food interactions: how place-based observatories can advance research for sustainable development, Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 44, pp. 35-41.