Boosting Climate Resilience in Africa Through Improved Climate Services

By Katherine Peinhardt

The International Research Institute for Climate and Society is hosting a side event on improving data availability, access and use at the Third African Ministerial Conference on Meteorology (AMCOMET) conference, a high-level meeting of ministers and heads of meteorological services in Africa, which takes place in Cape Verde, from February 10-14, 2015.

This year’s conference will focus on improving Africa’s weather and climate services, which will help countries better anticipate and manage extreme weather, droughts and other climate-related impacts.

The focus of the side event is to share experiences on the Enhancing National Climate Services (ENACTS) initiative, an ambitious effort by IRI and its partners to transform climate services in Africa. ENACTS focuses on the creation of reliable climate information suitable for both national and local decision making. IRI’s Madeleine Thomson and Tufa Dinku will be presenting at the event, as will directors from the meteorological services of some the countries where ENACTS has already been implemented.

Dinku describes ENACTS in more detail in the brief Q+A below.

Q. You’ll be presenting the ENACTS experiences from Ethiopia and Tanzania – take us through a before-and-after comparison – what is different in these countries now that ENACTS has been implemented there?

Ethiopia and Tanzania are the first two countries where ENACTS is being implemented. ENACTS is now also being implemented in three more countries: Madagascar, Rwanda, and most recently The Gambia. In terms of what is different, ENACTS focuses on three things: improvement of the data available, improving access to climate information products, and lastly, engaging with users so that they understand and use the information products to improve decisions. I’ve seen two main changes after the implementation of ENACTS. The first is data coverage. Ethiopia for example, now has climate data available at a resolution of 4 kilometers over the whole country, going back 50 years. This is a transformational change.

Previously, the country had to rely mostly on ground-based weather stations, which covered only parts of the country. Now there’s more data available for more people to use. ENACTS has also helped improve access: the services now have online map-rooms for users to obtain a range of climate information products. This access did not exist before; this is something very new. Ethiopia was the first country in the whole of Africa to make this kind of information available; the very fact that you can now click on any area in Ethiopia and obtain information is revolutionary in Africa.

What are the key elements that have made ENACTS so successful in such a diversity of African countries?

With ENACTS, we don’t just focus on improving data, but also improving both the access to data and its use. We work on making sure people have access to information, and we spend a lot of effort training users to understand the newly available products. The other element is the process of improving the data itself. We don’t ask national meteorological services to relinquish their data. We work in-country with them on their data and help them to create high quality products by blending station data with publicly available satellite and reanalysis data – and that is very critical. In this way, we have access to more data, which means better quality products. Another element at the core of ENACTS is to properly train staff at the national meteorological services so that their work is long-lasting and sustainable. Finally the value of the information is only in the extent users can access it and use it in decision making. When better decisions are made using ENACTS products then the meteorological services can be seen as a key partner in national development.

Where are you hoping to implement ENACTS in 2015?

We are making plans to expand ENACTS in Ghana and Mali, and are hoping to initiate the service to Burkina Faso and Zambia before the end of the year.