Facing Uncertainty: the value of climate information for adaptation, risk reduction and resilience in Africa

Submitted by Michael Rastall | published 1st Sep 2014 | last updated 12th Jun 2018

Climate change is not only a concern for the future. Ongoing and visible changes in temperature and rainfall patterns and increased frequency, severity and unpredictability of extremes in weather and climate are already having devastating impacts on productivity, economies and above all, on the livelihoods of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable. Added to these, longer term, slow onset impacts from rising temperatures and sea levels threaten development and economic growth at local, national, regional and international levels. In response, efforts to support adaptation to climate change, disaster risk reduction and a focus on resilience have become mainstream features of development assistance. Demand for and investment in adaptation programmes and policies are increasing across Africa, where some of the worst climate induced impacts are felt. Climate scientists are responding to the new demands with development of more information products on the past, current and future climate and with greater openness about the limitations and associated uncertainties in the climate information they produce.

This document explains why and how climate information is a valuable resource for rural communities and those working with them in confronting climate variability and change. It is based on lessons from the Adaptation Learning Programme (ALP), implemented by CARE International, together with the national meteorological services in Ghana, Kenya and Niger. The document will help those working in adaptation, agriculture, sustainable development, disaster risk reduction (DRR), resilience and other climate-sensitive sectors to connect with and use meteorological services and other sources of climate information. It demonstrates how climate information can inform decision making, planning and policy development in these areas and ensure results are climate resilient. 

Recommendations

  • Multi-stakeholder dialogue is essential in generating useful climate information. It enables better interaction between scientists, local forecasters, intermediaries and users for co- production of climate information that is useful for decision making and planning in different contexts. Multi-stakeholder dialogue also allows for feedback loops so that different users can share their experiences in accessing, understanding and using climate information. On the other hand, it can be a platform for science to share on new and improving scientific information as well as progress, opportunities and limitations they face in developing new climate information products. Engagement in multi-stakeholder dialogue is important for developing climate information services that are more effective and responsive to specific and changing climate information needs.
  • Climate information services must be embedded in local, national and regional processes to enable scaled-up support for widespread adaptation activities. This will facilitate comple¬mentary actions that cut across traditional sectors and disciplines, leading to enhanced results and greater coordination across disaster risk reduction, climate- resilient livelihoods, sustainable natural resource management, humanitarian and development assistance. Integrating climate information services into planning processes ensures that planning goes beyond projects to focus on long-term issues of building adaptive capacity and strengthening resilience to climate.
  • Investment in climate monitoring networks for data collection will go a long way into improving the accuracy of weather and climate forecasts and give a clearer picture of historical climate in different places. The availability of good quality meteorological data as well as the few and sparsely spread monitoring networks in African countries are the most problematic issues that affect accuracy of weather and climate forecasts. A collaborative effort – involving different government sector ministries, community groups, organizations and institutions and the private sector – to increase monitoring networks will help national meteorological services address this chronic problem in Africa.
  • Harnessing communication opportunities in the 21st century such as smart phones and other ICTs as well as linkages to private sector platforms such as market information systems will enable a wider, targeted and timelier reach of climate information. These communication systems can allow on-demand access to climate information by different users, while also giving climate information producers a chance to share a wider variety of user driven products.
  • Capacity building of all stakeholders on different aspects is critical for the value of climate information to be realised. Meteorological services, especially in Africa, need capacity building on technical aspects, packaging of climate science products and communication to a non-scientific audience. Users require capacity building to have a better understanding of information presented by climate science. Intermediaries also need capacity development so that they can better communicate and provide the necessary link between users and producers of climate information.
  • Persistence of effort and longevity of timeframe are essential for scaling-up of needed climate information services. When developing stakeholder networks and relations, the timeframes can be significant because processes for establishing relationships, learning and generating evidence, building resilience and developing sustainability can take 5 to 20 years or longer.

Suggested citation

Facing uncertainty: The value of climate information for adaptation, risk reduction and resilience in Africa © 2014 CARE International. Used with permission.