Across the climate information services (CIS) sector, a number of topics are emerging at the forefront for new research and learning. These include critical topics such as CIS user needs; how to quantitatively assess the capacity of National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs); feasibility of public-private partnerships; financial revenue generation options for NMHSs; and the challenges of social and sector inclusion of CIS. To advance the conversation in these areas, the USAID-funded Learning Agenda on Climate Services in sub-Saharan Africa—together with partners from the Climate System Analysis Group (CSAG) at the University of Cape Town—convened 65 participants in Cape Town, South Africa ahead of the fifth international climate change adaptation conference, Adaptation Futures.
Throughout the day, the participants—including researchers, donors, private sector actors, members of NMHSs and implementing partners—had a chance to examine and discuss recent research emerging from the Learning Agenda on the generation and delivery of CIS.
In his opening remarks, Professor Bruce Hewitson, Director of CSAG, articulated that data is not equal to information, and that knowledge is information in context. Data needs to be analyzed for the information content, and for information to have value for users, it must be contextualized. This requires considering the complexity of the systems within which climate information is produced and delivered; the contexts within which users work and use it; and the many factors driving users’ decision-making.
Another theme of the event was how climate information can be both a public and private good. Discussions centered around different revenue models to support NMHSs to expand CIS delivery and the role of the private sector in producing and delivering CIS. A conclusion from research work on the climate and weather enterprise in sub-Saharan Africa is that there is scope for private sector participation, but this must be complemented with continued public investment in NMHSs as critical providers of CIS. As panelist Floribert Vuguziga from Meteo Rwanda noted, partnering with the private sector can help reach end users but we still need to “invest in roots to grab fruits,” reiterating the need to mobilize funding for NMHSs.
Other rich discussions revolved around a new tool to quantitatively assess the capacity of NMHSs; NMHS capacity intervention opportunities; and gender and social inclusion in CIS delivery, access, and use. During the closing panel—which consisted of diverse stakeholders to discuss how to take the learning agenda forward—Kellen Eilerts from Viamo noted that CIS end users were a major focus of the day’s discussions, yet continue to be excluded from these conversations. In taking CIS learning forward, increased representation of users should be a priority. Julia Bradley-Cook from USAID highlighted the need to move away from a linear view of CIS generation and delivery to one that includes feedback loops and the creation of a virtuous cycle. Finally, Ana Bucher, a senior climate change specialist from the World Bank, emphasized the importance of showing the value of CIS to development practitioners and of engaging finance ministries in mainstreaming climate adaptation to ensure CIS is part of country climate change strategies.
The Learning Agenda expressed its appreciation for the insightful contributions of the participants and panelists at the workshop and said it would incorporate inputs into the coming stages of its research. In particular, the Mercy Corps-led Climate Information Services Research Initiative (CISRI) thanked participants for their input on the participatory CIS systems mapping methodology, and promised to incorporate feedback as the team finalizes guidance materials over the next few months. The Winrock-led Sustainable CIS team welcomed feedback on the metrics, role of the private sector, and how to think through revenue models for NMHSs that will be incorporated into the team’s final products.
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Climatelinks is a global knowledge portal for USAID staff, implementing partners, and the broader community working at the intersection of climate change and international development. The portal curates and archives technical guidance and knowledge related to USAID’s work to help countries mitigate and adapt to climate change.