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Leading research and humanitarian agencies have joined forces to harness data and technology in a bid to stop climate shocks resulting in hunger in vulnerable livestock farming communities.

The Jameel Observatory for Food Security Early Action is being created to help tackle the growing threat to people in the world’s drylands posed by the increasing severity and frequency of climate-related disasters.

The new venture will bring together the expertise of five partners – the University of Edinburgh, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Save the Children, the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), and Community Jameel.

The partnership will connect cutting-edge technology and data surveillance on early warning signs of severe weather and systemic climate change with community-driven applications and interventions.

The Jameel Observatory will engage with agencies that work with farmers to develop and apply digital and analytical tools that help them shape their own food security, nutrition and livelihoods.

Researchers plan to use community-level data together with satellites, drones, weather data and remote sensing to understand, prepare for, and mitigate the likely impact of climate shocks.

The Jameel Observatory’s first project aims to fill the evidence gaps that currently prevent effective forecast-based action to protect children and their families’ livelihoods and nutrition in parts of East Africa.

As the world turns its attention to the UN Food Systems Summit and COP26, there is a sharp focus on the need to be fully prepared for the vulnerabilities, shocks, and stresses triggered by changing climate.

Drylands, which are home to billions and make up 40 per cent of the word’s land area, are at risk from fluctuating rainfall, drought, rising temperatures and land degradation. These create insecurity and conflict caused by competition for resources.

By the time the full force of these crises is felt and hunger takes hold it is often too late to respond effectively, experts say.

Each partner will bring specific insights to the work of the Jameel Observatory. The University of Edinburgh will use its expertise in data-driven innovation to combine data, information and local knowledge to better predict climate risks, encourage coordinated actions and guide interventions.

The Jameel Observatory will be based at the International Livestock Research Institute in East Africa. ILRI works with hundreds of partners throughout the continent and is home to the Mazingira Centre and other projects focused on food security and environmental research in dry lands.

Save the Children has been working to tackle hunger and malnutrition in some of the toughest places in the world for 100 years. The aid agency brings a wealth of practical and programmatic experience supporting communities to respond, prepare and adapt. Save the Children is committed to strengthening forecast-based action to food crises using tools like the Household Economic Analysis to predict the impacts of climate shocks on vulnerable families.

The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab is an evaluation and knowledge partner and will connect Jameel Observatory with teams of researchers to help assess the initiative’s interventions. J-PAL will also share evidence on effective climate change and adaptation programs from existing experimental evaluation literature.

Community Jameel is an international organisation tackling some of the world’s most urgent issues and challenges, with action and solutions based on evidence, science, data and technology. It is supporting the Jameel Observatory and providing its expertise in establishing collaborative institutes and research programmes for the past 75 years.

Alan Duncan, of the University of Edinburgh’s Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Security, said: “The Jameel Observatory will deliver targeted decision-making tools to those who are facing the most challenging effects of climate change. We know that no single organisation has the ability to address the complexities facing drylands communities. With expertise in data-driven innovation in a range of contexts, the University of Edinburgh is well-placed to lead this partnership by bringing pastoralist communities together with experts in big data, earth observation and food security. Our work must tackle real problems faced by real people. The project aims to complement other food security initiatives already underway." 

Hassan Bashir, Founder Director of Nourishing Nomads Limited and Director at Agency for Inclusive Insurance Development, said "Pastoralist markets in Africa are remote, disaggregated and costly to service sustainably. Innovative models that take advantage of data and analytics can help improve efficiency, scale and impact across the pastoralist regions of Africa."

George Richards, Director of Community Jameel, said: “Evidence and data are keys to unlocking effective responses to the threat of climate change on vulnerable communities. The Jameel Observatory’s approach will enable a shift from reacting to the climate crisis to data-driven anticipation and adaptation, helping to find better solutions to the challenge of food insecurity. We are honoured to be supporting the launch of this centre of excellence, and to offer Community Jameel’s experience in developing and mobilising partnerships that unite world-leading scientific expertise with locally tailored action to tackle this urgent issue.”

Joanne Grace, Head of Hunger and Livelihoods at Save the Children, said: “In a world increasingly impacted by climate change, forecasting the impact of droughts and severe weather on hunger and malnutrition and acting early to stop lives from being lost is of urgent importance. Getting it right would be monumental for the health of children for decades to come. The Jameel Observatory aims to help ensure that acting early to prevent food crises becomes the norm rather than the exception”.

Jimmy Smith, ILRI’s Director General, said: “We’re delighted to host and help inaugurate the official opening of the Jameel Observatory. Like ILRI, the Jameel Observatory is a centre dedicated to research for development. Its focus on drylands and fragile ecosystems could not be timelier. The need to work with pastoral peoples as well as other organisations that serve them is essential if we are to help pastoral communities prepare for climate-driven food security and nutrition shocks.”

Iqbal Dhaliwal, Global Executive Director at J-PAL, said: “Climate change is the defining problem of this century. We are honored to join this partnership and support investments in rigorous evaluation and evidence-informed decision-making to help ensure that people on the frontlines of climate impacts and experiencing poverty are not left behind.”

More information can be found on the Jameel Observatory’s website: http://jameelobservatory.org/

For further information, please contact: media@savethechildren.org.uk 

Notes to editors

1 - The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) was established in 2003 as a research center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Since then, it has grown into a global network of more than 260 affiliated researchers who use randomized evaluations to answer critical policy questions in the fight against poverty. J-PAL’s mission is to reduce poverty by ensuring that policy is informed by scientific evidence. The Environment, Energy, and Climate Change Sector’s King Climate Action Initiative generates evidence and catalyzes the scale-up of high-impact policy solutions at the nexus of climate change and poverty alleviation in partnership with governments, NGOs, donors, and companies worldwide.

2 - The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), a CGIAR Research Center, works for better lives through livestock in developing countries. ILRI is co-hosted by Kenya and Ethiopia, has 14 offices across Asia and Africa, employs some 700 staff and has an annual operating budget of about USD80 million: www.ilri.org. CGIAR is a global research partnership for a food-secure future. Its science is carried out by 13 Research Centers, including ILRI, in close collaboration with hundreds of partners across the globe: www.cgiar.org

3 - Community Jameel is an international organisation tackling some of the world’s most urgent issues and challenges, using a pioneering approach grounded in evidence, science, data and technology. Founded by Mohammed Jameel KBE – a graduate of MIT and engineer by training – Community Jameel employs a new approach to creating impact by driving new scientific and technological breakthroughs and innovations in the fields of education, health and climate. Community Jameel supports programmes, projects and ideas that unlock the power of data, research, AI and other digital tools to understand and address pressing human challenges. The work enabled and supported by Community Jameel has led to significant new breakthroughs and achievements, including the discovery of the new antibiotic Halicin, critical modelling on the spread of Covid-19 and a Nobel-Prize-winning approach to global poverty alleviation. Community Jameel and the Jameel family are currently celebrating three quarters of a century of philanthropy; this journey is marked through the 75 Years / 75 Voices / 75 Stories project, which includes contributions from our partners and constituents.