On October 6 2022, Minister Meryame Kitir visited the African Climate Center ACMAD in Niamey, the capital of Niger. On the program: the demonstration of a digital platform for the city's climate, a meeting with young volunteers, and the planting of a climate tree.
In front of ACMAD headquarters in Niamey: representatives of the Belgian Embassy, Enabel, ACMAD, the City of Niamey, and the group of young volunteers. ©VITO
During her visit, the Minister of Development Cooperation and Urban Policy was accompanied by representatives of the Belgian Embassy, Enabel, the City of Niamey, and a group of young volunteers. The purpose of the visit was to inform about the results of the u-CLIP project, a project concerning the present and future urban climate, conducted jointly by the Belgian research center VITO, ACMAD and the City of Niamey.
Urban climate in Africa is an important issue: exposure to extreme heat in African cities is expected to grow exponentially, due to the combined effects of climate change and enormous urban population growth. Recognizing that now is the time to seize (or lose!) the opportunity to direct this growth in a sustainable manner, the objective of the u-CLIP project is to create a decision support tool to support climate change resilient urban planning.
The ministerial delegation's visit began with a demonstration of the digital urban climate platform, and an explanation of how the platform can be used to set adaptation priorities in Niamey.
u-CLIP platform demonstration. ©VITO
Afterwards, the visitors were invited to attend a demonstration of some urban heat stress measurement instruments, presented by young volunteers, who in the previous months had participated in the measurement campaigns. During this demonstration, a lively dialogue developed between the minister and some of these young volunteers, who spoke about their motivation to advance the climate cause in Niger.
Demonstration of a climate measurement device by youth volunteers who contributed to data collection campaigns. ©VITO
A very important element that emerged from the analysis of the field data is the role of urban vegetation in mitigating heat stress. Indeed, as shown in the figure below, city trees have the ability to reduce heat stress by several gradations of intensity, for example, on a hot day, reducing 'extreme' to 'strong' stress.
Given the ability of urban vegetation to reduce human exposure to intense heat, and given that the City of Niamey is already conducting a strategic tree planting program, it stands to reason that urban green infrastructure is an important element when it comes to adaptation plans. Apart from its ability to soothe climatic extremes, vegetation has many other benefits, such as its role in food security, especially when it comes to fruit trees or trees deployed in an agroforestry context.
Minister gets her hands dirty when she plants a climate tree... ©VITO
It can be said that the interest in urban (re)afforestation fits perfectly into the Great Green Wall initiative in the Sahel, to which Belgium - and Minister Kitir in particular - are strongly committed. That is why it was not too difficult to convince the Minister to plant a tree in the ACMAD compound, as a witness of this commitment.
In the coming months, the u-CLIP project will initiate scaling up actions, with the aim of applying the platform to other African cities. The most important action will be the dissemination of results and networking at the international level, by several members of the project, at the United Nations Climate Conference, COP27 in Egypt.
Another action point will be the definition of nature-based adaptation projects, which will give an important role to the urban tree as an element of adaptation strategies in the city. Already, a new project in this sense has been launched: it is the "Niamey Climate Forest" project, financed by the Flemish Government in the framework of its Climate Action Programme.
Perhaps the best prospect for the future is the realization that the u-CLIP project has succeeded in creating a truly invigorating dynamic in Niamey, particularly because it brings together stakeholders from different sectors and profiles, but who at the same time have a common goal: the fight against the impacts of climate change that are so feared in Africa.
What is certain is that the interest shown by Minister Kitir in our urban climate project is a great encouragement for all those associated with the project in one way or another. The climate tree planted by the Minister will remind us of our commitment and encourage us to continue this important work with renewed energy!