Five countries in southern Africa have joined forces to launch a research centre that will work on combating climate change in the region. South Africa, Angola, Botswana, Zambia and Namibia signed a declaration on Wednesday to base the initiative in the Namibian capital Windhoek.

The Southern African Science Service Centre for Climate Change and Adaptive Land Management (Sasscal) is intended to support cross-border research and land management.

Ministers from the five countries were joined by Annette Schavan, Germany's Science Minister. Germany is providing €50m in aid for the first four years.

Scientists based in Namibia estimate southern Africa will suffer double the average rise in global temperature because of its regional air circulation system. This could devastate agriculture and result in severe food and water shortages.

John Mutorwa, Namibia's Agriculture Minister, said: “It is forecast that the region will be hard-hit by the effects of climate change, leading to the spread of deserts, water shortages, loss of fertile soil, biodiversity and agricultural output.”

“Hundreds of thousands of people could be displaced, aggravating poverty and increasing the spread of vector-borne diseases and epidemics such as malaria, meningitis and cholera.”

“Clearly, nations need to coordinate and communicate across political borders to jointly prepare for climate change.” Namibia said the centre, due to open in August, will equip regional researchers and decision makers with scientific data and services to address future trends of global climate change, the vulnerability of societies and ecosystems, and the potential for improved natural resource management and services.

A similar facility was recently set up among 10 west African countries, also supported and funded by Germany.© Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2012

More In: Comment | Opinion