Dr. Cromwel Lukorito, a distinguished Senior Lecturer in the Department of Earth and Climate Sciences at the University of Nairobi, has achieved a significant milestone by being chosen as the Vice Chair of the Working Group II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This notable appointment was officially declared on June 28, 2023, marking a significant recognition of Mr. Lukorito's expertise and contributions in the field.
Mr. Cromwell provides further insights into his responsibilities within the IPCC and highlights his notable accomplishments at the University of Nairobi.
Congratulations on your election as vice chair of the IPCC Working Group II. What are your priorities for the role?
The role of the Working Group II of the IPCC is to assess the vulnerability of socio-economic and natural systems to climate change, considering both negative and positive consequences of climate change and options for adapting to it. It addresses the challenge from a world-wide to a regional view of ecosystems and biodiversity, and of humans and their diverse societies, cultures and settlements. It considers their vulnerabilities and their capacities and limits to adapt to climate change and thereby reduce climate-associated risks together with options for creating a sustainable future for all through an equitable and integrated approach to mitigation and adaptation efforts at all scales. To adequately contribute to addressing these goals, below are some of my priorities:
- Develop and seek consensus on a database of climate and allied scientists from Africa, from which to source Coordinating Lead Authors (CLAs), Lead Authors (LAs), Contributing Authors (CAs), Review editors (REs), and Expert Reviewers (ERs) of the IPCC assessment and special reports
- Convene Africa’s scientists identified in (a) above, to identify knowledge, information, and data gaps in the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) of the IPCC and scope the Seventh Assessment Report (AR7) of the IPCC in a manner that prompts investment in demand driven climate change related research throughout the seventh assessment cycle
- Engage with the wider scientific community, both regionally and globally leveraging the University of Nairobi interuniversity’s collaborations, linkages and partnerships in Africa, the global south, and the global north to put in place a strong scientific research think tank to undertake research responding to the scope of AR7
- Mobilize resources to support Africa’s scientists to publish their research outputs in high impact scientific journals that are referenced by authors of the IPCC assessment reports
- Facilitate unlimited access of literature in high impacts journals by Africa authors to the AR7 of the IPCC
- Identify researchers in Africa to work with Technical Support Units of WGII in the area of capacity building, research, and technology development and transfer to support resilience.
Can you describe your journey as a climate scientist with a special focus on adaptation, particularly in food systems in Africa, and how it has led you to this esteemed appointment as the IPCC Working Group II Vice Chair?
My visibility as a climate scientist specializing in climate applications in agriculture and food systems begun when I successfully implemented an Africa wide Rockefeller foundation supported project on enhancing agriculture production and food security for adaptation to climate variability and change in the Greater Horn of Africa, 2011-2013 in collaboration with the IGAD Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC). In the same period, I documented stories of change within the IDRC/CCAA AfricaAdapt knowledge sharing platform on climate change adaptation in Africa programs. In 2012, I successfully implemented an experimental approach to capacity and toolkit development for monitoring and evaluation within climate change adaptation initiatives in Eastern Africa. In 2014, I contributed to
“Status of African Agriculture” by the Agrarian Revolution in Africa (AGRA). In 2015, served as a national consultant for the Resource Management Solutions international (RMSI-India) World Bank supported project on the development and deployment of Agro-Weather Tools for Climate Smart Agriculture in Kenya. This year, I developed and delivered a training Module for Africa, on adaptation and mitigation in Processing and packaging for African Food Changemakers (AFC’s) “Building Resilience against Climate and Environmental shocks” (BRACE).
In 2020, I developed Climate Change Curriculum for the Media Council of Kenya on climate change adaptation reporting by journalists in Eastern Africa. I have also made significant contribution to the adaptation agenda at national level. I assessed the Ecosystem Vulnerability, Impacts and Adaptation to Climate Change in Lake Naivasha Basin, Kenya for the World-Wide Fund for nature (WWF), 2011-2012. In 2017, I supported the mainstreaming of climate change adaptation measures into Kakamega and Siaya County Integrated Development plans in collaboration with Outlink Ltd. I also undertook an assessed of the effects of Participatory Action Research on Smallholder Farmers to Climate Change Adaptation: Case of Nyando, Kenya.
I have also been serving as a lead government reviewer on matters adaptation, loss and damage under the UNFCCC and IPCC processes. I have served as a faculty at the African Group of Negotiators Expert Support (AGNES) building capacity in the Climate Leadership, Diplomacy and Negotiations in Africa programme that has increased the capacity and network of policy makers in the continent to mainstream climate change in development planning. Through a AGNES, I have engaged young scientists in climate change space across Africa in a mentorship programme, both in climate related research and the IPCC processes.
The election results indicate a significant victory, with 101 votes in your favor. What do you believe set you apart from the other candidates and garnered such strong support from the voters?
First, I suppose the overwhelming support may have come from my demonstrated strength in climate science and its linkage to practice in the areas of climate change impacts, adaptation and vulnerability that resonated with thematic Working Group II of the Intergovernmental panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The global community had access to our CVs for over four months. Secondly, the three-point lobbying platform that we adopted as a team of Kenya’s delegates had a lot of positive impact on the electorate:
- The strong academic and research linkages inherent in our premier University of Nairobi within Africa, global south, global north that could be leveraged to enhance the global climate action through bridging of knowledge, information and data gaps that underpin the African continent.
- Kenya’s unparalleled strength in Africa, in the areas of climate and allied natural sciences, and humanities and social sciences, and adaptation interventions that could be leveraged to address Africa’s adaptation aspirations
- The unique convening power that Kenya presents, that could be capitalized to bring Africa’s, as well as partner academia and researchers to agree on a common position that informs the IPCC agenda.
As the Vice Chair of the IPCC Working Group II, what do you see as the most pressing challenges in climate change impacts, vulnerabilities, and adaptation measures, and how do you plan to address them during your tenure?
The major pressing challenge facing the world today, is the deepening vulnerability to the adverse impacts of climate change occasioned by the increasing frequency and severity of extreme climate events such as droughts, floods, heatwaves, and storms, notably the tropical cyclones. These events are ravaging human (socioeconomic) and natural (biophysical) systems leading to immense losses and damages, and aggravating transboundary and cascading climate risks across borders and sectors. This is happening against a backdrop of increasing exposure to climate hazards and eroding adaptive capacity, especially in the small Island developing states, least developed, and in developing countries such as Kenya.
- Developing a critical mass of scientists, in the natural, humanities and social sciences that are required to adequately tackle climate change impacts
- Support academic and research institutional strengthening to mainstream climate change in their routine operations and development plans
- Mobilize resources for research, climate smart innovations, and outreach activities to spur low emission and climate resilient development in Africa
- Lobby for resource allocation towards improving the monitoring and observational infrastructure of Africa’s weather and climate centers to bridge the data gaps and enhance the continent’s climate early warning capability
Your nomination highlighted your extensive experience as a climate scientist. Can you share some key achievements from your research portfolio at the University of Nairobi that have contributed to your recognition in this role?
Apart from the visibility drivers already highlighted, some pieces of published work listed below, mainly in the areas of climate change vulnerability, impacts, and adaptation could have got the attention of the nominating authority:
- Mumo, L., Yu, J., Ojara, M., Lukorito, C., and Kerandi N. 2021. Assessing changes in climate suitability and yields of maize and sorghum crops over Kenya in the twenty-first century. Theor Appl Climatol. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00704-021-03718-6
- Faridah H. W., G. A. Lukorito, C.B., T.K. Kamanu. 2020. Levels of PM10 and PM2.5 and Respiratory Health Impacts on School-Going Children in Kenya. Journal of Health & Pollution Vol. 10, No. 27: 1-20
- Masambaya, F.N., Oludhe, C, Lukorito, C.B., and Onwonga, R. (2018). Vulnerability of maize production to climate change in maize producing counties of Rift Valley Kenya: The Indicator Approach. International journal of scientific and Research publication: Vol 8 (9):28-44
- Wafula K. C., Mugivane I. F., Lukorito C., and Esilaba O. A. 2015. Assessment of Smallholder adoption of quality protein maize in Kenya. The case of Kirinyaga County. Prim. J. Bus. Admin. Manage. Vol 5(6): 1881- 1885.
- Lukorito, C.B. 2014. Climate Based Agro-advisories in Africa Agriculture Status Report 2014: Climate Change and Smallholder Agriculture in Sub Saharan Africa: p100- 102.
- Moses Tenywa, Woldeamlak Bewket, Cromwel Lukorito, David Mkwambisi and Mohamed Nasr. 2012. Synthesis of Submissions on Issues Related to Agriculture to the Thirty Sixth Session of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific and Technological Advice; Summary for African Group of Negotiators
- Lukorito, C .B and S.D. Chabvunguma. 2011. Assessment of Maize Crop Water Requirements under Present and Future Climate in Agro-Climatic Zones of Central and Southern Regions of Malawi.
- Lukorito, C. B; Ouma, G O; Adipala, E; Tusiime, G; Majaliwa, J G M. 2010. Enhancing the capacity of Kenya on climate risk reduction and climate change adaptation for sustainable agricultural productivity and food security. Second RUFORUM Biennial Meeting 20 - 24 September 2010, Entebbe, Uganda. Pp 1459-1468.
- Ambani, M.K., Ouma, G.O. & Lukorito, C.B. 2010. Monitoring vegetation phenological stages using remote sensing data for pasture management in arid and semi-Arid lands of Kenya. Second RUFORUM Biennial Meeting 20 - 24 September 2010, Entebbe, Uganda. Pp 1451-1457.
- Lukorito, C.B. 2009. Impacts of Climate Change on African Agriculture and potential roles of farmers in Adaptation and Mitigation. Paper presented at the 16th IFAP Committee Meeting, held at Panari Hotel Nairobi, 22- 25 April 2009.
- Yonah, I., S.B.B. Oteng'I, and Lukorito, C.B. 2006. Assessment of the Growing Season over Unimodal Rainfall Regime Region of Tanzania". TAJAS, Vol.7 (1).
- Lukorito, C.B. and F.K. Karanja. 2006. Effective Information delivery Mechanisms and Capacity Building Programs to raise awareness and enable Governments, Agribusinesses and Communities to understand Climate Variability. ASARECA Workshop on "Making the Best of Climate -Adopting Agriculture to Climate Variability".6 - 10th February 2006, Nairobi, Kenya.
- Muthama, N.J, A.O. Opere and Lukorito, C.B. 2003. Utilisation of Meteorological Products in Agriculture and Water Sectors in Central and Eastern Kenya. African Meteorological Society 6.
- Lukorito, C.B. 1992. Water Use Efficiency of Maize (Zea mays L.) in a Dryland Area Kenya. MSc. Thesis. University of Nairobi.
In your new position, how do you envision promoting collaboration and knowledge exchange between researchers and experts in climate science, both within Africa and globally?
In principle, the IPCC Working Group II (WGII) assesses the impacts of climate change, from a world-wide to a regional view of ecosystems and biodiversity, and of humans and their diverse societies, cultures and settlements. It considers their vulnerabilities and the capacities and limits of these natural and human systems to adapt to climate change and thereby reduce climate-associated risks together with options for creating a sustainable future for all through an equitable and integrated approach to mitigation and adaptation efforts at all scales. Given the myriad task for WGII, an inclusive approach is required to:
- Increasing capacity of Africa’s institutions and scientists, spanning the natural, humanities and social sciences through support to conduct research and publish in high impact scientific journals where the IPCC authorship can reference their work to enhance Africa’s evidence-based negotiating capacity in the UNFCCC process in areas of finance, technology development and transfer, and capacity building
- Leverage existing avenues presented by the WGII Technical Support Units of the IPCC bureau to foster research collaborations and knowledge exchange between researchers and experts in Africa, including Kenya, and those in the Global North and Global South
- Promote outreach activities that enhance processes and planning among others in addressing risks, impacts, vulnerability and adaptation to climate change
- Advocating for sustained diversity and inclusivity in the IPCC processes, putting a strong case for Africa’s participation in the science, prioritization for support to access means of implementation of climate action, such as finance, technology development and transfer, and capacity building
- Advocate for authorship of the IPCC to start from the bureau as a means of providing leadership to the process
Your appointment has been deemed exciting and a milestone for Africa. How do you plan to leverage this appointment to further enhance climate science research and adaptation efforts on the continent?
As repeatedly highlighted in climate change narratives, Africa remains the most vulnerable continent to and bears the highest brunt of the adverse effects of climate change leading to immense losses and damages. Building resilience of human and natural systems to climate change is therefore an urgent priority for Africa. As a member of the IPCC bureau, key intervention areas that could enhance climate science research and adaptation on the continent will entail:
- Develop a catalogue of scientists from Africa’s universities and research institutions working on climate change science, impacts, vulnerability and adaptation interventions across disciplines
- Use my networks in universities and research institutes to convene scientists to address current and emerging climate change research needed to drive the climate impacts, vulnerability and adaptation agenda, starting with a scoping of the Seventh assessment report (AR7) of the IPCC.
- Promote the integration of the three United Nations Conventions: Convention on Biological Diversity, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and United Nations Convention of Drought and Desertification to remove overlaps and duplication of effort, financing, and reporting
- Promote development and adoption of new tools to assist scientific authors to prepare IPCC assessment and special reports
- Develop mechanisms for continuous training of focal points and authors and reviewers of IPCC reports
- Advocate for unlimited access to literature in high impact journals by authors in academia and research How can the IPCC Working Group II help to raise awareness of climate change and its impacts?
- Maintaining active leadership role in authorship of IPCC assessment reports as well as promotional materials to spur awareness of climate change and its associated impacts and opportunities that it presents
- Enhanced outreach activities to create awareness of its products, roles and importance in all global forums and events, and through its network of national focal points, embed messages, experiences and best practices synthesized in all forums and events at national and sub national (County) levels
- Provide a coordination mechanism for packaging and dissemination of IPCC products including assessment reports, methodologies, and other knowledge products that are relevant for climate change resilience building
- Putting more emphasis on supporting processes rather than activities as a capacity building strategy
- Continuous training of national focal points and the scientific community on their duties, roles and responsibilities in the IPCC processes.
How can/will the university benefit from this appointment more so the students undertaking climate change courses at the dept of earth climate sciences
Climate change issues go beyond the climate science. Its management requires a multidisciplinary approach drawing from physical sciences, humanities and social sciences, biological sciences, agricultural sciences, health sciences, architecture and engineering, economics and development studies, law, and computing and informatics among others. The diversity and versatile programmatic nature of the University of Nairobi coupled with the immense interuniversity’s collaborations and partnerships within Africa, the global South, and the global North with research and academic institutions will be leveraged in several ways to deliver both direct and indirect benefits to the university community:
- Increased support for postgraduate students to access PhD scholarships offered by the IPCC to tackle identified problems of interest in addressing climate change threats in the continent
- Recognition as a Centre of excellence in matters adaptation to climate change
- Opportunity for early career scientists to engage in IPCC as chapter scientists, and mentorship and learning
- Increased participation of scientists Coordinating Lead Authors (CLAs), Lead Authors (LAs), Contributing Authors (CAs), Review Editors (REs), and Expert Reviewers (ERs) of the IPCC assessment and special reports
- Enhanced interuniversity’s partnerships, collaborations and linkages with research and other universities in Africa, global south and global North that will foster staff and students’ mobility
- Increased access to literature in high impact scientific and allied journals by academia and researchers
You have been a leading voice on climate change research at the University of Nairobi. What are some of the most important findings from your work?
Below are some of my research and supervised projects undertaken at the university of Nairobi:
- Assessment of Maize Crop Water Requirements under Present and Future Climates in Agro-Climatic Zones of Central and Southern Regions of Malawi.
- Monitoring Vegetation Phenological Stages using remote sensing data for pasture management in Arid and Semi-Arid Lands of Kenya
- The impact of Climate Variability on Sugarcane production in the Mumias Sugarcane growing zone of Western Kenya
- Application of Phosphorus Fertilizer in Pigeon pea, Cajanus cajan (L.) Millsp in South eastern low lands of Kenya
- Investigating the effect of Climate Variability on Pearl Millet (Pennisetum glaucum) productivity and drought monitoring in Namibia.
- Impacts of Climate Change on Indigenous Peoples’ livelihoods: A case of Loodokilani Maasai, Kajiado County, Kenya
- Comparative Analysis of Communication Channels influencing Diffusion and Adoption of Quality Protein Maize: The Case of Kathonzweni and Kirinyaga Sub Counties of Kenya
- An Evaluation of Access to Weather Forecast Information among Maize Farmers in Busia County: The Case of Bunyala Sub County.
- Effects of Participatory Action Research on Smallholder Farmers to Climate Change Adaptation: Case of Nyando, Kenya
- Evaluation of the effects of Agro-Meteorological Information on the Maize Enterprise Selection among Smallholder Farmers.
- Assessing the impacts of climate variability and change on maize productivity in Narok County, Kenya
- Impact of climate variability and change on sorghum yield in Lesotho
- Assessing the influence of the variation in some seasonal rainfall parameters on maize production in Eswatini
What advice would you give to young people who are interested in pursuing a career in climate science?
Climate science is instrumental in supporting development sectors to enhance the quality of life and the environment. Young people aspiring to pursue a career in this field must embrace a system thinking approach to unravel the complex interactions among the components of the physical environment that define the climate system. The aspirants should therefore strive to be critical thinkers and innovators in their pursuit for solutions to the increasing climate change problems. In doing so, they will exploit the opportunities that are brought about by climate change, such as the need for technology and employment opportunities. Young people being computer and ICT savvy, should leverage current and emerging ICT tools, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to develop climate solutions needed to support low emission climate resilient development pathways, and mitigation and adaptation to climate change.