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[NAIROBI] African researchers and policymakers agreed last week to create a network to boost African earth sciences, including climate science.

The Africa Network in Earth System Science will encourage the sharing of ideas and resources between organisations whose activities include work on climate change, said Eric Odada of the University of Nairobi, one of the organisers of the Kenya meeting where the decision was taken.

Odada told the gathering of scientists, policymakers, representatives of the United Nations Environment Project and possible funders, that Africa lacks long-term, stable intergovernmental support for research into global environmental change. 

And unlike Latin America and the Asia-Pacific, he added, Africa has no network of climate scientists despite being highly vulnerable to global warming. 

Bob Scholes of South Africa's Council for Scientific and Industrial Research said global climate change scientists were rare in Africa and unevenly distributed across the continent. 

Capacity building was therefore imperative, he said, adding that African researchers produce only one per cent of scientific articles published in major climate change journals. 

The network, planned to launch next year, is intended to help fill this gap. It will gather researchers from national institutions and international bodies such as the International Council for Science, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research and the African Academy of Science. 

Shem Wandiga, chair of the Pan Africa Committee of START, the System for Research Analysis and Training, told the meeting that Africa needs further — and more accurate — research to better assess its short-, medium- and long-term vulnerability to climate change. 

He added that African governments need to incorporate adaptation to climate change into their national development plans. 

According to Robert Kriger, deputy director of the ICSU regional office for Africa, the newly formed network will present its resolutions to the Africa Union (AU) council of environmental ministers to entrench its function into the New Partnership for African Development's (Nepad) scientific agenda.