Climate services are an increasingly valuable input to decision-making in environmental management, disaster preparedness and in evaluating climate risk, particularly when products are tailored to the specific information needs of local users.
This was among the key messages of the July Adaptation Community Meeting, which featured USAID PREPARED’s efforts to improve access to climate information in five East African countries (Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania). A webcast of the event is available here.
PREPARED, which stands for Planning for Resilience in East Africa through Policy, Adaptation, Research and Economic Development, works regionally with a variety of partners such as national meteorological and hydrological services; the IGAD Climate Prediction and Applications Center; the USAID Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) and US Geological Survey; and the Nairobi-based Regional Centre for Mapping of Development Resources.
Over the last five years, PREPARED has supported the development of a climate information network linking regional climate information providers in an informal partnership to ramp up the provision of targeted, timely climate information tailored to the specific demands of users.
“Historically, [the provision of climate services] has been very supply-side driven, mostly centered on forecasts, without a lot of thinking about what additional products we could create to align with what else users are asking for and need,” said John Parker, a water resources management specialist who served as senior technical advisor on PREPARED. “That has all changed.”
A key success factor in PREPARED’s work is a systematic service-centered approach, captured in quality service improvement plans, that engage users throughout the design and deployment of products and tools to ensure their relevance and applicability, Parker said.
Among PREPARED’s important achievements is support for a suite of data-derived decision support tools, including GeoCLIM, a dataset that combines some 35 years of ground station and satellite data on rainfall and temperature. Leveraging tools created by USGS through FEWS NET and additional data resources from partner countries, GeoCLIM offers more accurate, gridded data for analyzing the historical climate.
PREPARED and partners have used GeoCLIM to address specific information needs in East Africa, primarily related to rainfall. For example, GeoCLIM was used by the Tanzania Ministry of Water and Irrigation to understand the implications of declining rainfall in the Rufiji and Wami-Ruvu river basins for the country’s long-term water security. It is also a data source for a unique public-private pilot program which will provide crop insurance to farmers in Kenya.
To foster sustainability, PREPARED is working with IGAD to help them take over long-term management of GeoCLIM and has established a cadre of trainers to build capacity and provide technical assistance to counterparts in national meteorological agencies, ministries and other institutions.
“An important lesson is that you have to have both the “hard” side, meaning the data and technical infrastructure, as well as the “soft” side, which is everything related to information management, knowledge systems and training,” Parker concluded.
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.