Water Conflict Africa

Full Title

A socio-environmental synthesis of the linkages between water scarcity induced conflict and land use/land cover change in Africa to enhance multi-scalar decision making


Conflict is a debatable dimension of changing water resources. This is a complex relationship to unravel because it involves environmental, social, and institutional dimensions with associated feedbacks. Conflicts are likely as disagreements occur about the best way to adapt to evolving water resources. Institutions are key to enforcing laws and regulations that govern natural resources. In many parts of the world however, there are institutional failures, which compound negative feedbacks between people and the environment.

This Pursuit will combine the expertise of social and environmental scientists, NGOs, and government officials to examine where, when, how and why conflicts arise over water. The team will synthetically analyze data about conflict events, environmental change, society, and institutions to answer three research questions: 1) What are the spatio-temporal socio-environmental dynamics of water scarcity and how are these dynamics linked with conflict across urban and rural landscapes of Africa? 2) At what spatial scale do the linkages between water scarcity and conflict operate? 3) How has and will climate change impact natural resource availability in already water scarce regions, especially those vulnerable or with a history of conflict? 

Findings will be shared with the research community, and policy recommendations designed collaboratively with government agencies and stakeholders in Africa. One of the major products of this proposal is a web portal which will announce events and progress of the research team. This portal will also be used to disseminate scholarly research products, white papers and brochures for practitioners, as well as integrated datasets and code. 

Project Type
Team Synthesis Project
Principal Investigators
Erin L. Bunting, Michigan State University
Elizabeth A. Mack, Michigan State University
Leo Zulu, Michigan State University
Ross Maciejewski, Arizona State University
Patrick Regan, Notre Dame University
Amanda Ross, The University of Alabama
Richard (Drew) Marcantonio, Notre Dame University
James Herndon, University of Alabama
Andrew Zimmer, The University of Arizona
Brenda Mwamba, Zambia Agriculture Research Institute, Soil and Water Management Division
Edna Liliana Gómez Fernández, The University of Arizona
Wapulumuka Mulwafu, University of Malawi
Shylock Muyengwa, Center for Impact Evaluation and Research Design
Kwadwo (Kojo) Owusu, University of Ghana
Jane Southworth, University of Florida
Geoff Henebry, Michigan State University
Amber Pearson, Michigan State University
Allan Chilenga, Zambia Agriculture Research Institute
Audrey Culver Smith, University of Florida
Carly Muir, University of Florida

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