Other current projects

Landslide and flood hazards and vulnerability in NW Rwanda: towards applicable land management and disaster risk reduction (LAFHAZAV / 2020-2024 / ARES)

Rwanda is often affected by severe cases of landslides and floods. It is also one of the most densely populated areas of the world. This context of strong demographic pressure has led to significant land use / land cover (LULC) changes which are likely the cause of an increase in landslide and flood occurrences, particularly in the mountainous regions of NW Rwanda near the Volcanoes National Park. Nonetheless, the impacts of LULC and its changes on the occurrence of these natural hazards remain difficult to predict and quantify. As a result, the development of suitable land management strategies (striking a balance between minimizing the impacts of these hazards and the high population pressure) remains highly challenging. This is especially so in the light of climate change.
This project therefore aims to study the effects of LULC and its changes over the past 60 years on the magnitude and frequency of landslides and floods, as well as the impacts of these hazards on the population. Our research will focus on two river basins in NW Rwanda with similar topographic and climatic characteristics but very different levels of LULC change. The expected results of this research are improved insights of the physical and anthropogenic factors controlling these two hazards and a better understanding of the population vulnerability facing these hazards. The outcomes of the project will be (1) an increased research capacity to conduct scientific risk assessment, integrating specific hydrogeomorphic hazards and associated risks with the human dimensions of risks; (2) the ability to make up-to-date assessments of these two hydrogeomorphic hazards which will be used to raise awareness and identify suitable mitigation and resilience strategies with exposed communities and all relevant stakeholders involved in disaster risk reduction; (3) a strong partnership from the beginning of the project with local and national stakeholders involved in disaster risk reduction, for a better integration of scientific insights into natural hazard and risk management policy. 

 

Prevention and mitigation of urban gullies: lessons learned from failures and successes (PREMITURG / 2018-2023 / ARES)

Intense rainfall, inappropriate city infrastructure and lack of urban planning lead to the formation of large gullies in many Congolese cities. These urban gullies are often formed in a matter of hours due to the concentration of rainfall runoff. Once formed, they mostly continue to expand during subsequent years. Given their nature and location in densely populated areas, they often claim casualties, cause large damage to houses and infrastructure and impede the development of many (peri-) urban areas. These problems directly affect the livelihood of perhaps more than a million of mainly poor people in DRC and may strongly aggravate as a result of rapid urban growth and climate change. Several initiatives already exist to stabilize existing gullies, but an estimated 50% of these measures fail. Furthermore, prevention receives very little attention. This project aims to contribute to the prevention and mitigation of urban gullies by strengthening the research and decision-making capacity of Congolese universities and members of the national Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) platform. For this, we aim to (i) study the factors controlling this erosion process; (ii) identify the most effective/efficient prevention and mitigation measures (iii) study the societal and governance context of urban gullies and its influence on the prevention and mitigation of urban gullies; and (iv) valorize and appropriate the obtained research results. This will mainly be done by the training of 3 MSc from DRC trained in Belgium, three MSc trained in DRC and 2 PhD students of DRC trained in Belgium and DRC. Their research will focus on urban gullies and prevention and mitigation initiatives in Kinshasa, Bukavu and Kikwit. In Kinshasa, also the societal context of urban gullies will be investigated. Apart from the training of these students, the project will support local MSc studies and provide a range of prediction tools, field manuals, trainings, seminars and workshops to assist decision makers and other stakeholders in addressing this issue.

 

Digital citizen science for community-based resilient environmental management  (D-SIRE / 2018-2021 / VLIR-UOS)

Previous projects in Uganda (e.g. AfReSlide) highlighted the developmental challenges posed by rural population exposure to natural hazards associated to population pressure, fragile livelihoods and land scarcity. To document the evolution in time of these hazards, identify potential suitable strategies to reduce their impacts, and raise awareness among the affected communities several participatory tools have been developed, including a serious game and the concept of geo-observer network. This network is based on data collection and reporting by local farmers through a smartphone application. The concept has so far been tested and proved operational in the Rwenzori mountains though still limited in terms of equipment, skills and geographical scope. The D-SiRe project aims at going a step further by 1/ extending the geographical extent of the geo-observer network to several district across South West Uganda; 2/ enhance the skills and knowledge of these geo-observers as environmental facilitators able to serve as interface between the communities and the scientists; 3/ develop teaching and research capabilities for geo-database management and analysis in the partner universities; 4/ scientifically valorise the crowd-sourced database to improve spatio-temporal modelling of hazardous processes; 5/ develop and test new methods to initiate the implementation of resilient livelihood practices; 6/ favour multi-lateral interactions between rural communities, district authorities and scientists.

 

Making Migration Work for Adaptation to Environmental Changes. A Belgian Appraisal (MIGRADAPT / 2018-2021 / Belspo BRAIN)

In the dichotomy between migrants and refugees/asylum-seekers, the former are typically cast as economically motivated, and set apart from refugees, fleeing war and persecution. Yet environmental changes are increasingly part of migration journeys, and count amongst the factors that call into question the distinction made between migrants and refugees. At the same time, in the international negotiations on climate change, migration is increasingly mooted as a possible adaptation strategy to the impacts of climate change. MIGRADAPT looks at the role of the environment as a driver for recent migration to Belgium. While it is unlikely that one could single out environmental changes as a key driver of migration to Belgium, except in exceptional cases, the project will rather attempt to provide an assessment on how migrants perceive the environment to have influenced their migration journey as well as how they perceive current environmental disruption in their countries of origin. In addition, MIGRADAPT provides evidence on how and under which conditions migration to Belgium can support the adaptation and resilience of origin communities and also on how the perception that migrants have on environmental shocks in their origin communities can impact the amount, form, and use of the socio-economic remittances. Through its transnational and multi-sited methodology that captures both the drivers and impacts of migration, MIGRADAPT addresses the multifactor aspect of the dynamics of environmental migration and its implications for both migrants and those remaining in communities of origin. 

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