Climate Resilient African Landscapes (CRAL)

Climate-Resilient African Landscapes is a research consortium within the World Universities Network. Focusing on climate change responses we are establishing landscape-level ‘living labs’ in South Africa, Kenya and Ghana to build a holistic, comparative and in-depth understanding of multiple components of each landscape. We will also interact with communities and other stakeholders to identify problems and explore solutions to climate change and other systemic pressures. Consortium members include the Universities of Cape Town, Alberta, Leeds, Nairobi and Ghana.



Understanding the social and environmental impacts of climate change and other drivers of change in Africa requires systemic and longitudinal place-based research. Through a landscape scale of analysis and action it is possible to gain a systemic understanding of the interactions between global and local change and risk and individual livelihood options, agency and adaptation strategies. Landscapes thus provide an ideal unit of analysis for considering the interacting impacts of change on biodiversity, ecosystem services and local livelihoods, and for realising new pathways towards a more resilient future.

The establishment of landscape-level ‘living labs’ provides the opportunity to build a holistic and in-depth understanding of multiple components of each landscape, and to interact with communities and other stakeholders to identify problems and explore solutions. Adopting a landscape approach brings together researchers from different disciplines working on livelihoods and adaptation, environmental history, ecosystem services, hydrology, biodiversity, agriculture, forestry, climate risk and water, energy and food security and provides opportunities to explore solutions such as ecosystem-based adaptation, stewardship, disaster risk reduction, agroecology, restoration and ecological infrastructure, amongst others. An on-going and regular presence in a site helps to establish relationships of trust and opens the door for knowledge co-production processes, fostering co-learning and collaboration across groups within the landscape. Local stakeholders are then able to shape the research agenda by identifying areas of need and co-designing projects with researchers and postgraduate students.

Our consortium will develop a conceptual framework, research agenda and broad protocol for three long-term, comparative landscape-level research sites overseen by three African universities (from South Africa, Kenya and Ghana)  who are partners in the ARUA-CD. This will provide a shared programme of work for the consortium and ARUA partners moving forward, facilitating cross country comparison, generic lessons and a common basis for fundraising and postgraduate research and training. A key step in the process will be a review the literature on climate-smart landscape approaches and the integration of indigenous knowledge systems into these approaches within the African context.

Key Outcomes


  • A transdisciplinary research agenda for landscape level research in South Africa, Ghana and Kenya.
  • A review of research on landscape and livelihoods in Africa.
  • Early career researchers with the capacity to lead this critical work going forward.
  • An enhanced knowledge base of landscape level sustainability challenges and solutions in Africa.
  • A tool box of concepts and approaches for landscape level collaborative work.
  • Three ‘model’ sites that demonstrate best practice in enhancing climate resilience.

Project Team


Sheona Shackleton, ACDI, University of Cape Town (academic lead)

Chris GordonInstitute for Environment and Sanitation Studies (IESS), University of Ghana

Maggie OpondoInstitute for Climate Change Adaptation (ICCA), University of Nairobi

Marty LuckertDepartment of Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology, University of Alberta

Susannah SalluSchool of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds

Phosiso SolaWorld Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), Nairobi

George Outa, University of Nairobi


As part of the CRAL project, ACDI researchers and partners through the ARUA-CD collaborated on a Special Issue of the journal Land. The Special Issue “Collaboration and Multi-Stakeholder Engagement in Landscape Governance and Management in Africa: Lessons from Practice” has been a huge success with 10 papers published4. Topics of these papers include research on biosphere reserves, transformative spaces, landscape stewardship and energy transitions in landscape governance.

Click here to view the infographic based on these 10 papers.
Click here to view the info brief which summarises the key points in these papers.