START’s Former Board Chair, Professor Gordon McBean, wins the 62nd International Meteorological Organization Prize

The World Meteorogical Organization, the United Nations system’s authoritative voice on weather, climate and water, honored Professor Gordon McBean with the sixty-second International Meteorological Organization (IMO) Prize for his outstanding work in meteorology and climatology and his leadership as a scientific researcher.

Professor Gordon McBean co-chaired the START Scientific and Development Committee until 2009 and chaired the START Board of Directors from 2009 to 2015. He is Professor at the University of Western Ontario, London, Canada, and has been the the President of the International Council for Science (ICSU) since 2014.

The IMO Prize is the most important award in meteorology. Established in 1955, it is awarded every year to individuals in recognition of outstanding contributions to the field of meteorology, hydrology, climatology or related fields.

Read the press release on WMO’s website


START and the Belmont Forum establish formal collaboration

START International has become a formal partner of the Belmont Forum. The Belmont Forum is a group of the world’s major and emerging funders of global environmental change research. It aims at mobilizing international resources to accelerate delivery of environmental research.

START will work with the Belmont Forum to advance global environmental change research, bringing to the partnership its longstanding expertise in science capacity building and its established networks in Africa and Asia.

“We are looking forward to engaging with the Belmont Forum and contributing with our expertise and leadership to our mutual priorities on global environmental change, especially in developing countries,” said Cheikh Mbow, START International’s Executive Director.

START has a strong track record of collaboration with many Belmont Forum member countries and partners, including the National Science Foundation, Future Earth, the International Council for Science (ICSU) and the International Social Science Council (ISSC).

Read the post by Erika Key, Executive Director of the Belmont Forum Secretariat

Critical Thinking and Visions of the Future with ASSAR in West Africa

assar-wafricaThe second round of Transformative Scenario Planning (TSP) workshops were held near the end of 2016 in Ghana and Mali as part of the Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions (ASSAR) project. These workshops built on a set of scenarios developed through a collaboration of ASSAR researchers and stakeholders from Upper West, Ghana and Koutiala, Mali. These scenarios facilitated participants to think critically about what the future may hold in terms of climate change, agriculture and food so that more legitimate actions can be designed and taken in the present.


In Ghana, the second workshop was held the 2nd and 3rd of November at the Nouyong Empire Hotel in the city of Wa in the Upper West Region. Dinesh Budhram from Reos Partners and Margot Steenbergen from the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre facilitated the workshop. Participants were reacquainted with the scenario stories that had been developed over the preceding months through use of a set of scenarios videos prepared by the ASSAR communications team. The facilitators then led participants through at process of critical thinking and collective visioning that ultimately resulted in a set of prioritized themes or action areas. These included 1) disaster risk management, 2) improved market systems, 3) ecosystem management, 4) sustainable food and livelihoods empowerment, 5) climate smart water resources management, 6) and dissemination of the group’s shared vision for Upper West region, termed “Vision 2035”, to larger audiences and integrating it with national policy documents. Action groups were formed around these key action areas by those participants interested in and committed to shaping these ideas further, and remaining in touch with the ASSAR team to carry forward.


In Mali, the 2nd TSP workshop was held on the 13th and 14th of December in Koutiala, Mali. There, participants from the Sikasso region along with two national level stakeholders worked to develop a common vision: “A l’horizon 2035, faire des investissements dans l’agriculture et la conservation des ressources naturelles afin de garantir la sécurité alimentaire et améliorer le revenu des ménages dans le cercle de Koutiala” – translated as: “By 2035, strategic investments will target agriculture and natural resource conservation to ensure food security and wellbeing in Koutiala Region”. Based on this common vision, the socio-cultural context of the Region was analyzed to identify existing opportunities and barriers. Three groups of stakeholders were formed: public workers; civil society and farmers (farmer organisations). Each group was asked to list relevant strategies for achieving the vision, and for each of those, resources needed; problem to be addressed; actors to engage, and short and long term actions neede. From their lists, participants prioritized the following strategies, 1) management of rainwater on farms, 2) improvement of soil fertility, 3) promotion of improved seeds, 4) promotion of good nutritional practices, 5) secure land tenure, 6) forest resource management, and 7) production and post-harvest management. The Mali team is now working with the stakeholders on ways to put these strategies into action.

New Knowledge Briefs on Disaster Risk Reduction

okta pictureThe Pan-Asia Risk Reduction (PARR) Fellowship Program is pleased to announce the release of three knowledge briefs on urban disaster risk and vulnerability under global environmental change. The knowledge briefs are outputs from competitive grants on topics ranging from the creation and testing of a decision support system in the Philippines, an analysis of the linkage between urbanization and disaster in India, and validation of a framework for school-community collaboration for coastal community resilience. Click below to download the knowledge briefs.


Decision and Framework for Decision Support System for Highly Urbanized Megacities: Case study Metro Manila
Principal Investigator: Gemma T. Narisma


Exploring the Existing School-Community Network and Enabling Environment for Enhancing Community Resilience to Disaster
Principal Investigator: Rina Suryani Oktari


Flood Risk Vulnerability of Peri-urban Communities: The case of Surat
Principal Investigator: Aparna



parr logoThe PARR Fellowship Program offers unique research, training and educational opportunities to Asian researcher, practitioners, and policy makers to enhance their capabilities for advancing and applying knowledge on critical issues of global change and risk in the Asia-Pacific. The PARR Program is pioneered by an international alliance of science-focused, research, education and capacity building organizations that share a common goal and complementary track records for advancing resilience and sustainability in the Asia-Pacific.

We appreciate the financial and administrative support of the Oscar M. Lopez Center (Philippines), Kyoto University (Japan), Manila Observatory (Philippines), National Science & Technonlogy Center for Disaster Reduction (Taiwan), University of Los Baños, Thammasat University (Thailand), and START (USA). Finally, we recognize the financial support of Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research, the United States Global Change Research Program, and the International Centre of Excellence for Integrated Research on Disaster Risk (IRDR-Taiwan).

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Transdisciplinary Research: Science with Society

Reflections and recommendations from two transdisciplinary workshops

Stellenbosch, South Africa. March 2016

stellenbosch thumbnail JPGThe complex challenges facing the world today underline the need for effective transdisciplinary (TD) research specifically orientated to address ‘real-world’ problems that are too complex and multidimensional to be answered by singular research disciplines. START and partners organized two workshops to strengthen capacity in the development, use, and evaluation of TD approaches. The introductory training consisting of two back-to-back workshops was organized as an International Social Sciences Council (ISSC) activity, convened by START and the Centre for Complex Systems in Transition at Stellenbosch University in partnership with the Transdisciplinary Lab at ETH Zurich, Switzerland. Both trainings were made possible due to generous support of the National Research Foundation (NRF) of South Africa and the hosting of the Sustainability Institute in Stellenbosch, South Africa.

The introductory training workshops were designed for a broad audience and included researchers, research managers and funders, civil servants, government departments, and NGOs interested in learning about theories, methods, and examples of TD research. The objective was to transmit the principles of TD research and the various steps to follow; introduce the most frequent methods used; present case studies; include TD site visits, and introduce M&E tools. The curriculum for the introductory training program was developed and tested by researchers and practitioners with strong experience in doing, teaching, and writing about TD research.

The first 3-day national training took place 14-16 March 2016 and brought together 16 South African participants from the Stellenbosch University, NRF officials, representatives from governments, and local NGOs. The national training served as the first opportunity to engage with participants and test the developed curriculum. The training was followed by a day of reflection and evaluation by lead partners and facilitators to assess what worked and what didn’t. As a result, the course was modified wherever possible for the second training workshop that served as an official pilot, based on the experience of the first training and participant feedback. The 3-day regional pilot training program took place 21-23 March 2016 and brought together 16 participants from a variety of countries including: Angola, Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Zambia. Participants from the national and regional training were selected by the NRF.

More detail on the workshop program and recommendations are included in the full report, which can be downloaded as a PDF here. Please contact Sarah Schweizer at for further information.

TD Stellenbosch 1

Introducing Cheikh Mbow, START’s incoming Executive Director!

cheikh_croppedThe Chairman of the Board of Directors of START International, Inc., Dr. Khotso Mokhele, is pleased to announce, on behalf of the Board, the appointment of Dr. Cheikh Mbow (photo left) as new Executive Director of START International Inc. Dr. Mbow comes to START from a long and illustrious career with the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) where he currently serves as the Senior Scientist on climate change and development.  He also is an Adjunct Professor at Michigan State University and on the Science Committee for Future Earth.  In addition to these positions, Dr. Mbow comes with an embedded knowledge of START as both a grantee and as part of a team awarded funding in 2011 to research earth observation methods in Senegal and Ghana.  Dr. Mbow will be replacing outgoing Executive Director, Dr. Hassan Virji.  Dr. Virji has been with START since its inception at Bellagio in 1990. He will join the Board of Directors of START International Inc. as Emeritus Director upon his retirement on 31 July 2016.

Program Highlight: FRACTAL

Future climate change is expected to create an even more challenging environment for development in the sub-Saharan Africa. Future Climate for Africa (FCFA) is a 5-year programme funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). It aims to support world-leading research to enhance scientific understanding and prediction of extreme weather and climate in sub-Saharan Africa, and, working with African stakeholders, bring this science into use in informing adaptation to climate change.

FRACTAL (Future Resilience for African Cities and Lands) was the first of the regional FCFA research consortia to host their kick-off in August 2015. Over the next four years, FRACTAL’s work will be focused around three aims:

  1. To advance scientific knowledge on climate processes driving the southern African climate system’s natural variability and response to global change in historic and climate models;
  2. To improve the distillation of defensible climate information, that are informed by and tailored to urban decision making and risk management contexts; and
  3. To test the use of innovative “co-exploration” methodologies as a means to engage urban partners to integrate climate messages within real-world decisions.

Central to FRACTAL’s collaborative approach is the piloting of Learning Labs in Windhoek, Lusaka and Maputo, to open up a discussion forum through which city officials can explore the implications of climate variability and change for their urban contexts. Alongside the Learning Labs, a full-time embedded researcher will be deployed to each of the local city governments and work alongside researchers from local university partners to offer advisory services to city governments whilst simultaneously developing their understanding of the development contexts of the cities and the interaction between climatic and non-climatic stressors in these contexts.

Read more about FRACTAL on its START program page:

Happy Holidays!

Season’s Greetings from the START Secretariat.  It has been our pleasure to work with you to strengthen developing countries’ climate change resources in the past year.  Have a wonderful holiday season and we’ll see you in 2016!

2015 START holiday card 12-22-15 C