Research into water availability in the Horn of Africa

Dr Iain Robertson has been awarded a grant from the National Geographic Global Exploration Fund to study water availability in the Horn of Africa. The main aim of the collaborative research is extend records of water availability into the pre-instrumental era using tree cores from junipers growing in the Ethiopian Highlands.

Horn of AfricaMost people are familiar with the 1984/85 famines in Ethiopia and Sudan, where over one million people died. Unfortunately, the situation hasn’t improved that much. Within the Horn of Africa, 44% of the population (70 million people) currently experience food shortages. Rapidly growing populations and the impact of climate change on water availability are making sustainable management of limited resources extremely difficult. As reliable climate records only cover a few decades, it is difficult to determine if droughts are part of a natural cycle or caused by human influences. The long-term goal of this research project is to provide an empirical baseline, against which recent changes in the frequency and magnitude of drought can be assessed allowing water resource managers to make informed decisions about the allocation of limited water resources.

This research builds upon the PhD of Dr Tommy Wils, now at the Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences, with assistance from Dr Zewdu Eshetu, Addis Ababa University, Dr Marcin Koprowski from the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Poland and Dr Park Williams from the Los Alamos National Laboratory, USA.