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Integrating local and Indigenous knowledge with climate modeling in Uganda: an 'ethno-climatology' approach

Prof. Lea Berrang Ford (SEE), Prof. Andy Challinor (SEE), Prof. James Ford (SoG)

Project partner(s): University of Cape Town, Makerere University (Uganda), Ministry of Health (Uganda)

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The Indigenous Health Adaptation to Climate Change (IHACC) project is a trans-disciplinary, initiative working with remote Indigenous populations in the Peruvian Amazon, Canadian Arctic, and Uganda to examine the health effects of climate change. A major barrier to robust and valid prediction of climate impacts on health is a lack of expertise and capacity to integrate meteorological data and global climate projections with local knowledge of the non-climatic determinants of health that will mediate climate impacts. The IHACC team is looking for an interdisciplinary researcher with skills in climate and/or meteorological modeling to lead research on climate change and health.


The project will focus on developing and showcasing a tool for integrated assessment modeling of meteorological and climate data with Indigenous and local knowledge (ILK) to model the impacts of climate change on food systems in Uganda, where we have longstanding collaborations and extensive local support and capacity. You will work within a team of climate, health, and social scientists, and engage in transdisciplinary and impact-led research. Objectives include:

1) Characterise the meteorological conditions that affect key subsistence food crops among Batwa Indigenous communities in Kanungu District, Uganda;

2) Develop a climatic ‘vocabulary’ for the conditions relevant to food systems and security on the ground using local historic meteorological data; 

3) Develop and model thresholds for these conditions for each crop, modeling across categories of non-climatic determinants of health (i.e. land quality, agricultural knowledge/capacity);

4) Develop a matrix/map of the relationship between meteorological conditions and health for a range of local socio-economic scenarios; 

5) Project short to medium term trends in health impacts for a range of locally-relevant socio-climatic scenarios.

Potential for high impact outcome

These research will pioneer interdisciplinary approaches to integrating local and global data to generate more robust and locally valid projections of climate impacts and adaptation opportunities. In particular the research will lead global expertise in combining data of the lived experiences of food and health on-the-ground with instrumental climate/meteorological data for integrative empirical assessment modeling. The results will have direct relevance for policy development locally as they will generate empirical evidence of entry points for intervention. Such approaches — what we call an ‘ethno-climatology’ approach for public health — are critically important in catalysing development of an evidence base to guide governments in developing health adaptation policy responses. This project is situated within calls for a new generation of interdisciplinary researchers with the skills to integrate across knowledge domains to tackle grand challenges in global health and environmental change.


The School of Earth and Environment (SEE) was ranked 2nd in the UK for Research Power in “Earth and Environmental Sciences” in the 2014 UK REF Assessment. The student will work under the supervision of Profs Berrang-Ford, Challinor, and Ford at the Priestley International Centre for Climate at the University of Leeds. Their teams have a collective and longstanding track record of interdisciplinary research excellence and impact. The successful candidate will interact with global research leaders within the Priestley Centre, as well as with researchers in Nutrition and the Nuffield Centre for International Health and Development, Makerere University in Uganda, and the University of Cape Town. The University of Leeds offers a tailored programme of dedicated training and development courses for postgraduate researchers ( This project will provide expertise and mentorship in: 1) interdisciplinary and integrated assessment modeling of climate impacts; 2) environmental change research using mixed methods; 3) interdisciplinary, international collaborative and impact-led research; 4) international partnerships; 5) community-based research. 

Student Profile

This project is an excellent fit for a young researcher interested in mixed methods interdisciplinary climate change research. You will have a degree in atmospheric sciences, climate sciences, earth system sciences, physical geography, environmental sciences, or related/equivalent, and a strong interest in interdisciplinary research, including engagement with the social and health sciences. You will be interested in global health and environmental change, and willing to work closely with researchers from other disciplines and countries. You are not expected to have a background in all relevant disciplines. We are looking for a student with expertise in one or more of these fields who is excited to undertake a project that involves interdisciplinary training at the nexus of these disciplines. 

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Related undergraduate subjects:

  • Agriculture
  • Anthropology
  • Atmospheric science
  • Environmental policy
  • Environmental science
  • Geography
  • Meteorology
  • Physical geography
  • Plant science
  • Sustainability
  • Sustainability and environmental management