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The Power of Climate Information Services as a pillar for development

8 September, 2021

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, 1 September 2021 - The UN Economic Commission for Africa’s Climate Research for Development (CR4D) initiative, funded by the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland through the Foreign, Commonwealth Development Office(FCDO) within the Weather and climate Information SERvice (WISER) Programme, continues in its quest of placing homegrown African climate research at the centre of development planning in the continent. 

In fulfilling this ambition the CR4D and its partners have brought together more than 50 experts from national meteorological and hydrological services (NMHS) and the agricultural and food security sectors drawn from 15 Southern, Eastern and Horn of Africa nations for a week-long advanced workshop in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. 

Also participating in the workshop, which was officially opened early this week by Mr. Munesu Munodawafa, the Permanent Secretary of Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Tourism and Hospitality Industry (MECCTHI), are specialist participants from regional and international research centres. 

In this expert workshop currently underway, CR4D initiative is collaborating with the IGAD Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC) and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security East Africa (CCAFS- EA) to publicise objective seasonal forecasting in agriculture and food security, enhance institutional linkages and consolidate South-South partnerships. 

ICPAC is the meteorology program of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) while CCAFS is a programme of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). Both ICPAC and CCAFS, which have long-standing records of public service accomplishments on climate change in Africa, are members of the Institutional Collaboration Platform (ICP), which is one of the three governing arms of the CR4D. Complementing ICP in the governing of the CR4D are the Oversight Board (OB) and the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC). The CR4D Secretariat is domiciled at the lead continental climate think-tank, the Africa Climate Policy Centre (ACPC) of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). 

The ICP is designed to serve as a converging dais for both users and producers of climate information services (CIS). The core essence of the platform is to provide a space for coordination and continued dialogue for collaborative explorations, designing, producing and communicating climate information services in the continent. So far, 50 institutions are participating and collaborating in climate science, research, academia, and various end-user sectors. 

In the on-going training workshop, CR4D initiative and CCAFS-EA’s new Accelerating Impacts of CGIAR Climate Research for Africa (AICCRA-ESA) program are working together with ICPAC Intra-ACP Climate Services and Related Applications (ClimSA) as well as the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), which supports the African Science for Weather Information and Forecasting Techniques (African-SWIFT) projects. This joint collaboration aims at supporting the implementation of objective seasonal forecasting and provision of reliable climate information and services at regional and national levels. 

According to Munodawafa, medium range weather forecasts are critical as they serve as advance notices informing and enabling agriculturalists to apply appropriate measures and deploy suitable strategic interventions on their farms. 

In his official opening speech, Munodawafa reiterated the importance of climate information as an effective early warning system to combat food insecurity in Africa.

The African Climate Policy Centre (ACPC) Chief, Dr James Murombedzi also addressed the hands-on workshop. “Millions of people in Africa are influenced by activities sensitive to climatic conditions, the significant gaps in the quality and availability of climate information to users limits the realization of potential benefits in many sectors and countries in the continent.” Murombedzi said. 

According to Murombedzi, enhancing multinational collaboration to bolster resilience to climate impacts and sharing climate tools in objective forecasting to national meteorological and hydrological services  in  the IGAD and Southern African Development Cooperation (SADC) regions for improved applications in agricultural and food security services is a key objective of the workshop currently underway. 

Dr. Zewdu Segele of ICPAC reiterated that the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) has recommended for the implementation of objective seasonal forecasting approaches to improve application of reliable weather and climate information and services. Dr Segele revealed that ICPAC through the European Union (EU) funded ClimSA and the Co-production of Climate Services for East Africa (CONFER) as well as GCRF-African SWIFT, was looking at  developing and delivering services in five key priority sectors  of agriculture and food security, disaster risk reduction, energy, health and water.   

Also speaking at the workshop was Dr Teferi Dejene of CCAFS. Dr Dejene outlined the work of CCAFS on impacts of climate change adaptation and mitigation with greater emphasis on vulnerable communities.

Dr. Dejene, noted that CCAFS has unveiled the Accelerating Impacts of CGIAR Climate Research for Africa (AICCRA), which is a new program, seeking to increase and improve access to climate information services, and at the same time validating climate smart agriculture technologies in the continent.  AICCRA-ESA has prioritized the Eastern and Southern Africa regions and is working with the ACPC, ICPAC alongside SADC to improve climate forecasts strengthen and scale up agro-weather advisories and climate smart technologies as well as build capacity in Africa. 

In its primary quest to strengthen links between climate sciences research embedded with climate information for ease of development planning in Africa the CR4D is supported by a strong quad-partnership.  This partnership brings together the African Climate Policy Centre (ACPC) of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), African Ministerial Conference on Meteorology (AMCOMET), World Meteorological Organization (WMO), and the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS). According to Dr Murombedzi, this partnership aims at harnessing the benefits of utilizing timely climate information for African Union member states. “Providing decision makers with timely, accurate information on climate and weather variations can help inform decisions that enhance agricultural production and avoid harvest losses, thereby improving food security, lifting agricultural incomes and increasing resilience of farmers to future shocks and stresses.” Murombedzi says. 

The 15 African nations participating in this intensive specialist workshop include Botswana, Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. 

According to Dr. Yosef Amha of the CR4D Secretariat, the proposed institutional linkages, South-South partnerships and awareness-raising, hands-on workshop is one of the avenues to streamline climate forecasts for agriculture and food security sector in Eastern and Southern Africa. This is being undertaken through the engagement of national, meteorological and hydrological services experts from the Eastern and Southern African (ESA) countries and augmenting their capacities in the use of objective climate forecasts in agriculture and food security sector. Second aspect of the workshop focuses on the enhancement and capacity building for agricultural and food security experts from the Horn, East and Southern African regions in the application of objective seasonal forecast to build resilience to climate variability and change.

The experts attending the workshop are being provisioned with hands-on training to upgrade their capacities in the use of objective climate forecasts in agriculture and food security sectors. The workshop also serves as a venue to facilitate the South-South collaboration and knowledge exchange platform. 

Mr. Frank Rutabingwa, Coordinator of WISER Project at ACPC also stated that CR4D advocates for homegrown Africa-led solutions to climate research, in the areas of mitigation, adaptation resilience building and capitalizing on emerging opportunities, is working with its partners to support Africa to utilize climate information services in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Paris Agreement and Agenda2063 aspirations.