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Strengthening the capacities of early-career scientists in West Africa


The Collaboration for adaptation and resilience in Mali (Co-FARM) project was supported through the Climate Adaptation and Resilience (CLARE) initiative and aimed to increase the resilience and adaptive capacities of smallholder farmers in Mali.  

The main goal of the project was to convene local stakeholders in Koutiala, Mali, around the shared use of water and land resources associated with runoff catchment basins called BCERs (Bassin de collecte des eaux de ruissellement), constructed as a pilot as part of the Adaptation at scale in semi-arid regions (ASSAR) project. In addition, the research team aimed to foster leadership capacities of early-career researchers, particularly among young francophone scientists in West Africa. 

Three Malian master’s students were directly supported to conduct their research in Koutiala and to experience working in close collaboration with stakeholders there.  As part of Co-FARM, the students also joined other early-career scientists from Senegal and Burkina Faso to participate in a science leadership lab developed and delivered by START and Reos Partners. The virtual lab included weekly modules exploring leadership competencies (reflexivity, empathy, foresight and flexibility) essential for collaborative research, as well as virtual interactive sessions where the researchers were able to share reflections and experiences, benefit from peer-to-peer exchange and receive guidance from senior researchers. 

Participants in the leadership lab indicated that the tools taught in this lab were useful to, for example, help them adapt to new ideas concerning their field of research through planning scenarios and anticipating the future.  

As a result of these capacity-strengthening activities, the early-career scientists were able to build their leadership and research capacities, build self-confidence and increase their curiosity to look at the bigger picture of their work.  

Following the positive participant feedback received on the leadership lab, the virtual modules are now being revised and adapted to support a new group of early-career scientists and practitioners working in the renewable energy sector in West Africa, recruited as part of START’s Promoting gains in renewable energy (PROGREEN) project. 

Research Highlights

  • The Co-FARM project fostered leadership capacity of early-career researchers in West Africa through a leadership lab. 

  • Through engaging virtual sessions, the researchers learned about key leadership competencies and participated in peer exchanges. 

  • As a result, the participants strengthened their leadership capacities, and the program is being adapted to support additional researchers in the future.