A Summary of the 15 Catalyst Projects

WHAT IS UPGro? UPGro is a 7-year interdisciplinary (social sciences / natural sciences) international research programme which is jointly funded by UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).  It aims to improve the evidence base around groundwater availability and management in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) to enable developing countries and partners in SSA to use groundwater in a sustainable way for the benefit of the poor.
WHAT ARE THE CATALYST PROJECTS? The Catalyst Projects are small (up to £150,000), short duration (up to one year) projects, the aims of which are to test new ideas while simultaneously facilitating the development of new interdisciplinary research teams.  The Catalyst Projects are precursors to a larger programme which will include a small number of 4-year Consortium Grants.  The total cost of the 15 Catalyst Projects is £1.95 million.  The budget for the Consortium Grants is £7.6m.

HOW HAVE THE RESEARCH TEAMS FOR THE CATALYST PROJECTS FRAMED THE PROBLEMS? How much groundwater?  Five of the projects focus especially on our relative ignorance of the magnitude of groundwater resources in Africa, and the corresponding difficulties of managing groundwater well.  They propose various ways of better estimating groundwater recharge, and linking this improved knowledge to better management or ‘governance’.

Groundwater quality.  Another four projects focus on groundwater quality, especially in relation to its potability.

Developing groundwater.  Four projects are focused especially on the development of groundwater for human and agricultural use, and the challenges associated with continued sustained delivery of water services.

Risk, uncertainty and change.  Although most of the projects allude directly or indirectly to the risks and uncertainties surrounding the management of groundwater, two focus on this aspect strongly, and another two focus on variability and change in climate and land use, and their impact on groundwater.

Contexts.  The Catalyst Projects are working in a range of contexts.  Unsurprisingly given the population distribution in Sub-Saharan Africa, most of the projects are working in predominantly rural environments.  These range from seasonally humid to dryland contexts.  Three of the projects are working in urban or peri-urban environments, while two are focused specifically on coastal regions.

Problem statement.  An overall problem statement which most if not all of the Catalyst Project teams would share is as follows: “The quantity and quality of groundwater in Africa, and its spatial and temporal variability, are inadequately understood.  This poses problems for the design, implementation and sustained management of water supply systems which use groundwater.  These challenges are exacerbated by variability and change in the factors which determine groundwater availability.

WHAT APPROACHES HAVE THE RESEARCH TEAMS TAKEN? Most of the projects have adopted a mix of methods to address their identified objectives.  For the projects en masse, these include seeking out and reviewing existing datasets, conducting interviews with key informants and focus groups, undertaking technical field investigations, developing new tools and sensors, design of new metrics, use of remote sensing and digital terrain models, mapping, development of models, ground-truthing and development of policy recommendations.

All projects involve international collaboration between African academic and practitioner institutions and UK or European institutions.

WHERE HAVE THE CATALYST PROJECTS BEEN WORKING? The projects are working in a total of 14 countries in West, East and Southern Africa.  Seven of the 15 projects are working in a single country, while the rest are working in two or three countries.

An overview of the 15 UPGro Catalyst Projects
An overview of the 15 UPGro Catalyst Projects
WHAT WILL BE THE OUTPUTS FROM THE CATALYST PROJECTS? Nearly all the projects are conducting dissemination workshops as part of their activities, and likewise most plan to publish academic papers and datasets.  A total of at least 18 academic papers and three conference papers are promised in the full proposals.

About half of the projects intend to produce practical guidance and / or policy briefs.

Nine of the projects intend to develop dedicated web pages, and two intend to hold webinars to disseminate their findings.

WHAT IS THE TIMESCALE FOR COMPLETION OF THE CATALYST PROJECTS? The projects were all approved in 2013.  Completion dates range from May 2014 (one project) through June (5 projects), July (6 projects), August (2 projects) and November 2014 (1 project).

One thought on “A Summary of the 15 Catalyst Projects

Comments are closed.