ENACTS Climate Services Initiative Ripples Across East Africa with WISER Support

Somalia, South Sudan and a number of other East African countries are now developing their own powerful climate analysis and visualization tools for decision making, using the Enhancing National Climate Services (ENACTS) approach. These efforts were made possible through a partnership with the Kenya-based IGAD Climate Prediction and Application Center (ICPAC) and with funding from the Weather and Climate Information Services for Africa (WISER) program, a project by the UK’s Department for International Development (now the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office).

ENACTS, led by Columbia University’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society, brings reliable and readily accessible climate knowledge into the hands of national decision makers through an approach that looks beyond the mere generation of climate data to include its access and use.

This approach has helped to transform national climate services capabilities in 13 African countries since ENACTS first launched in 2012. IRI has worked with ICPAC since 2016 to adopt the ENACTS approach and extend it to member countries in the Greater Horn of Africa, with support from USAID and the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

“ENACTS has been successful because it addresses a longstanding challenge that many developing countries face: providing high-quality, decision-relevant information that meets the needs of users working in agriculture and other climate-sensitive sectors,” said IRI’s Tufa Dinku, who created the initiative. “And perhaps most importantly, it works closely with national meteorological and hydrological services to ensure the kind of iterative dialogue and user engagement that transforms climate information into meaningful climate services.”

However, the 13 ENACTS countries represent only a fraction of the continent where such climate data and information products are critically needed to support decision making under climate uncertainty, Dinku added.

Scaling to other countries could only be possible through partnership with Regional Climate Centers such as ICPAC in East Africa. ICPAC has been playing a key role in building ENACTS-related technical capacity across East Africa.

Through the WISER-supported initiative, the IRI has worked closely with ICPAC to expand the ENACTS approach to the Greater Horn of Africa countries, primarily through training of ICPAC staff on how to implement and maintain these climate services. The trainings have covered a wide breadth of technical topics, from the use of the IRI’s Climate Data Tool (CDT), which helps technicians organize and conduct quality control on station-observation data, to the installation and use of the IRI Data Library to generate online climate information products and visualizations called “maprooms.”

“ICPAC’s expertise and mastery of CDT and maproom development has reached a standard that allows it to successfully organize and lead its own trainings in the region.”

“In a big win for the region and all who depend on its climate information, these extensive training activities have now enabled ICPAC to develop its own maproom products and initiate robust CDT and maproom trainings for countries in the region,” Dinku said.

In 2019, for example, ICPAC staff successfully developed their own suite of country-specific maprooms independently of IRI support, by using existing ENACTS maprooms as a model. The team first developed maprooms for Burundi and Djibouti to visualize key information for agriculture, climate monitoring, climatology, and climate forecasts, and then it leveraged funding from the WISER-Somalia and South Sudan project to develop maprooms for both Somalia and South Sudan. These new maprooms even included additional functionalities for analyzing climate change projections—innovations developed by the ICPAC staff as a result of their training.

“The training has built the capacity of two ICPAC staff members in Data Library and maproom development,” said Philip Omondi, an ICPAC climate information expert. “They have developed the first climate-change maproom within ICPAC, adding this functionality to the South Sudan and Somalia maprooms, by using climate-change model output data. ICPAC will soon enhance the Kenya and Uganda maprooms with these same functionalities.”

What’s more, ICPAC’s expertise and mastery of CDT and maproom development has reached a standard that allows it to successfully organize and lead its own trainings in the region, independently of the IRI. The timeline at the beginning of this article for a description of these trainings.

The CDT workshops run by ICPAC require at least seven days of hands-on exercises and explanations that require servers, computers, and IT personnel. As Omondi observed, “With adequate funding, training workshops will continue to help NMHS within ICPAC member states with dissemination of climate information to end-users. The addition of climate change model output data within the Data Library will increase the use of these datasets for climate change analysis within member states, because it lessens the burden of data manipulation, eliminating the need for downloading the raw data for analysis and allowing users to download data in whichever format they prefer.”

Already, ICPAC has gained enough maproom and CDT expertise from the IRI to sustain the ENACTS vision and spread it throughout Eastern Africa. Access to and capacity building for these dynamic tools is empowering climate professionals at NMHS agencies in South Sudan, Somalia, Djibouti, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, and Tanzania to make well-informed, timely agricultural decisions to protect the livelihoods and food security of the region’s many farmers most affected by climate variability and change.