Strengthening Climate Information Services in Africa: Where are the Opportunities?
This widely agreed-upon statement was made by Youcef Ait Chellouche of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in September 2017, when the Africa meteorology and hydromet community came together to call for regional cooperation, gender-inclusion, and private sector engagement to improve climate information services (CIS).
Hosted by the African Union, the inaugural African Ministerial Conference on Meteorology (AMCOMET) - Africa Hydromet Forum brought together more than 500 policy makers to discuss and identify priority areas for improving CIS and building regional climate resilience.
Participation entailed national meteorological and hydrological services (NMHSs) staff, researchers and development partners, including staff from the U. S. Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Assessing Sustainability and Effectiveness of Climate Information Services in Africa (Sustainable CIS) project, whose mission is to identify sustainable and effective models for CIS.
The AMCOMET – Africa Hydromet Forum recognized a series of issue areas that would benefit from collective action by the Africa meteorology and hydromet community and shared examples of best CIS practices. Improving regional coordination, gender integration, private sector engagement and support for local innovation were among the topics explored.
During the Forum, the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS) showcased two events that convened diverse CIS stakeholders and demonstrated the value of regional coordination: the Regional Coordination Workshop in May 2017 and the Africa Adaptive Initiative in June 2017. These meetings afforded regional and national government institutions, civil society organisations and development partners the valuable opportunity to examine how to better coordinate initiatives and serve the wide range of audiences that climate information must reach.
Participants also recognized the importance of integrating gender and use issues to bring about social change. Multiple sessions highlighted the role the youth and women should play in modernizing CIS to inform social development and economic resilience across the continent.
Specific areas identified for improvement included supporting women to access and use technology to support new approaches in climate responsiveness and resilience; investing in medium to long-term initiatives resulting in stronger socio-economic benefits; and using climate and hydrological information to stimulate local innovation and entrepreneurship. One example shared is ihub, a technology incubation centre app developed for auctioning livestock, which has strengthened direct access to local markets.
Private Sector Engagement
Forum organisers also stressed that NMHSs cannot work alone to provide CIS at regional and national levels. Other institutions can help scale up activities, including the private sector. Africa’s NMHSs and private sector have a long history of providing essential equipment and new technology for delivering climate information. However, in response to the growing demand for high quality tailored services, the private sector has entered the business of delivering forecasts, sometimes with very little or no coordination with NMHSs.
IFRC also discussed the lack of CIS investments to prepare for climate-related disasters at a localised level. Among the examples highlighted was the Building Resilience and Adapting to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED) program in Ethiopia, which has established an arrangement between the Ethiopian Meteorological Agency and BBC Action Media to develop and customize local climate scientific forecasts in five languages.
With the AMCOMET - Africa Hydromet Forum lessons and outcomes in mind, the USAID Sustainable CIS project consortia will continue to identify gender-responsive models and examine drivers and approaches for the sustainable development and delivery of CIS in Sub-Saharan Africa. Click here to subscribe to its quarterly newsletter to receive updates on the USAID Sustainable CIS research agenda and share CIS news.
Fatema Rajabali leads the Knowledge Management component of the Sustainable Climate Information Services project and is the Knowledge Management and Outreach Officer for the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS). Fatema’s recent work has focused on climate change adaptation research and implementing and evaluating strategies for research uptake.