Developing User-Centric Climate Services to Enhance Drought Resilience in Africa
From 23 to 25 August, seventy participants from national meteorological services, international partners, as well as expert practitioners, policymakers, and researchers from agriculture, health, disaster risk reduction, water resource management, education and finance reviewed current tools and offered recommendations for new climate tools for drought risk management in Eastern Africa. The workshop, which took immediately after the Forty Seventh Greater Horn of Africa Climate Outlook Forum (GHACOF47), was designed to address two main objectives: make decision-makers in target sectors more aware of the online climate information that is available or under development; and give these decision-makers a voice in the information that national meteorological services provide in the near future.
The climate change challenge – the perfect storm"Drought is a slow creeping hazard; how can we predict then prepare for this? We acknowledge that tools and information are available; however, the challenge is awareness among users and also skills on how to use the tools," stated Dr. Ladislaus Chang’a of the Tanzania Meteorological Agency. This was also emphasized by Dr. Guleid Artan, the director of ICPAC, who pointed out that over 27 million people in the region have been affected by drought over the last 4 years.
Even though episodic droughts have always been present in East Africa, studies show they have become more frequent in recent decades. There is growing evidence suggesting that the impacts of current and recent droughts in East Africa are likely to have been aggravated by climate change. Poverty, chronic malnutrition, weak governance, conflict, drought and climate change have combined to create a perfect storm.
During the panel session on ‘policy and operational needs for drought-related disasters,’ panellists from agriculture, livestock, health and disaster risk management sectors agreed that pastoralists and smallholder farmers are most at risk. They lack the skills and resources to cope with the inherent risks of farming, live on harsher lands, and rarely have access to economic safety nets when crops fail and livestock die. More frequent droughts are making it harder for people to recover between shocks, making them more vulnerable. As such, there is an increasing need and demand for tailored climate information products and services for agriculture and food security, pastoral systems, health, water, and energy resources in Eastern Africa.
Tools for developing sector specific responsesTo respond to the challenges caused by climate change, research institutions have partnered with regional and national meteorological service providers to create online “Maproom” tools that can be used to inform decision making across sectors. During the workshop, the following Maproom were shown:
- ICPAC drought risk analysis, monitoring and prediction Maprooms
- ENACTS Climate Data and Maprooms available from several National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHS)
- WISER-SCIPEA Climate Data Portal at ICPAC, which provides NMHS access to seasonal forecast model output from several international forecasting centers
- Meteo-Rwanda Agriculture and Food Security Maprooms, under development through the Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS)-led Rwanda Climate Services for Agriculture project
The future outlookThe workshop showcased a rapidly expanding suite of inline climate information tools. New Maproom tools for agricultural and food security decision-makers, some still prototypes or under development, are being rolled out at a national scale in Rwanda, and regionally through ICPAC. CCAFS and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) are working with ICPAC to increase its ability to assist the NMHS of member countries in East African to provide online Maprooms that better serve the needs of their farming populations and agricultural sectors. Workshop participants offered several additional recommendations for increasing the use of climate information for managing drought risk:
- Expand sector- specific Maprooms beyond agriculture and health, to include disaster, water, energy and tourism.
- Integrate sectorial and socio-economic data with climate databases, to better inform decision-making.
- Promote sustainability by involving users with national meteorological services in the co-development of tools.
- Enhance access through mobile phone applications, and offline access versions where Internet connectivity is unavailable.
- Encourage continued collaboration across sectors; and among research institutions, line ministries, private sector, and development and humanitarian organizations working directly with communities.
The workshop was organized jointly by ICPAC, CSRD, IRI, CCAFS and UK Met Office; and hosted by the Tanzania Meteorological Agency.
Financial and in-kind support for the workshop came from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), through the Climate Services for Resilient Development (CSRD) Partnership, the Climate Services for Africa project, and the Rwanda Climate Services for Africa project, and from the UK Department for International Development (DfID), through the WISER (Weather and Climate Information Services for Africa)-ENACTS and WISER- SCIPEA (Strengthening Climate Information Partnerships - East Africa) projects.
This blog was originally posted on the CCAFS blog.
Catherine Mungai is the Partnerships and policy specialist for CCAFS East Africa.