Climate Information Services to Empower Africa’s Farmers
This article was originally published on Climatelinks and was authored by Dr. Tufa Dinku. In this post, Dinku discusses the USAID Assessing Sustainability and Effectiveness of Climate Information Services in Africa (Sustainable CIS) Project.
In the Dagana district of Senegal, Moustapha Aminata walks out to his rice paddies and looks to the sky for signs of rain. In 2009, floods wiped out his crop, but now dry years seem to come around more frequently than ever and Moustapha worries about how he and his family will withstand another year of low yields.
Moustapha’s profound reliance on rain for his livelihood is the central reason why he and most Africa’s farmers are among the world’s most vulnerable to the devastating impacts of year-to-year climate swings and long-term climate change.
The USAID Assessing Sustainability and Effectiveness of Climate Information Services in Africa (Sustainable CIS) Project is working to help farmers like Moustapha plan for and adapt to short- and long-term changes in climate patterns through better access to information about climate and weather.
Focusing on the government agencies that operate observation networks and generate the climate information, the project is assessing the capacities of national meteorological and hydrological services (NMHS) of seven pilot countries — Senegal, Ethiopia, Malawi, Rwanda, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali and Niger — so that they may ultimately better serve their populations.
The assessment of NMHS capacity entails the development and application of a survey and metrics to systematically and quantitatively evaluate NMHS functions and services across the pilot countries to identify capacity needs and service gaps. The metrics starts with the core functional components, or “pillars,” of the climate information systems (CIS) as described by the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS).
These functional pillars are: i) observation and monitoring; ii) research and predictions; iii) climate information systems; iv) user interface platform; and v) capacity development. Next, within each pillar, the metrics measure the NMHS capacity according to the World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) classification, which progresses from “basic” (category 1), through “essential” (category 2) and “full” (category 3), to “advanced” (category 4). The assessment of NMHS capacity builds upon the GFCS and WMO models and adds novel criteria and indicators to quantify NMHS capacity within each pillar.
For example, under the Climate Information System pillar, one of the criteria is “maintains historical climate record.” To be classified as “basic” in the version of metrics currently being tested, an NMHS must 1) maintain greater than 50 years of climate records on paper for more than 80 percent of stations with a spatial density of less than 100 km2 and 2) maintain a fully redundant backup site with copies of all historical paper climate records.
To progress to “essential” a NMHS must 1) maintain actual paper or derived climate records for greater than 70 years on 90 percent of stations with a spatial density of less than 100 km2 and 2) maintain a digital database of all historical climate records. Determining the NMHS classification for each pillar will help identify gaps to focus resources or prioritize partnerships to fill these gaps.
The metrics are currently being piloted to refine the criteria and indicators further, along with the survey questionnaire used to collect information from NMHS. This process will be described in a forthcoming white paper published here in early 2018.
A multi-institutional task force is also being planned to test and validate the metrics and questionnaire for potential broader application in other regions.
Dr. Tufa Dinku is a climate scientist at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI), The Earth Institute at Columbia University. He has over 20 years of experience in the field of in meteorology, agrometeorology, climate services and early warning systems. This includes 12 years of operational meteorology at the National Meteorology Agency of Ethiopia and 12 years of research and applications at the IRI. Dr Dinku leads the Enhancing National Climate Services (ENACTS) program, which is a unique multi-faceted initiative designed to bring climate knowledge into national decision-making.