Climate Change: Climate information services badly needed in Africa 

By Joseph checky Abuje


Investing in effective, sustainable climate information services is a vital part of adapting to climate change, especially in Africa, a new research report by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) reveals.

The report dubbed ‘Investing for sustainable climate services: Insights from the African experience’ looks at the support provided in strengthening weather and climate information services in several African countries from 2016 to 2021.

The research calls for governments on the continent to make accessible weather and climate information services, which is viewed by scientists as tools that may offer effective adaptation capacities to communities and businesses around Africa.

The findings come ahead of the Climate Adaptation Ambition Summit on 25th and 26th January 2021, to be attended by world leaders including Boris Johnson, Emmanuel Macron, and Sheikh Hasina.

The world leaders will highlight the need to accelerate climate adaptation in Africa which according to the research, is not being sufficiently addressed when it comes to sustainable climate information services.

“Weather and climate information services are too often the missing ingredient in the international climate talks and climate finance flows and are often overlooked. But investing properly in these services so that they are robust, attuned to users’ needs, and sustainable for the long term is essential for getting climate change adaptation right. Nowhere is this more crucial than in sub-Saharan Africa, whose communities are deeply affected by climate change impacts’‘, says Mairi Dupar, ODI Research Fellow and lead author of the report,

The report suggests the need for stakeholders, from government leaders and domestic agencies through to civil society organisations and development partners, to rise up to the challenge to make sustainable, country-led climate resilience a reality.

Many projects on mitigation of climate change in Africa have been on course in Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Ethiopia, Somalia, and South Sudan. Projects included strengthening weather observation networks and understanding of past and predicted climate trends, as well as delivering weather and climate information to those who need it for their everyday lives and business decisions.

The experts who include Weather and Climate Information Services for Africa (WISER) programme researchers observe that for the continent to realise viable results from the short-term donor funding, long term political and financial commitments as well as high-level buy-in from stakeholders and strong and inclusive partnerships, are required.

However, Climate change projects in Africa lack sufficient traction and funding to guarantee sustainable results.

The research further reveals that donors should commit long term assistance to bring climate services up to standard to support Africa’s resilience to climate change.

The report, however, indicates that the short-term improvements may easily be eroded if the investment is not backed up by long-term plans to work with African institutions to keep climate services operational and local knowledge up-to-date after the end of the project.

Among the research, recommendations include consolidating professional networks on the ground and producing sustainable business models that are in sync with national development priorities.

Improved capacity and know-how are required, not just within National Meteorological and Hydrological Services, but also within NGOs, women’s groups, civil society organizations, and media organizations. These groups, the report finds, are key to delivering relevant and useful climate information to local communities and businesses: from artisanal fishermen to airline managers and public health officials.

Livingstone Byandaga, the Project Coordinator at CIAT-Rwanda, one of the WISER partners that delivered a UK-funded project to implement a national framework for climate services, said:

“Establishing high-level political buy-in and accountability for climate services is especially true in Rwanda where the Government takes issues of climate change seriously. Our project focused on implementing the National Framework for Climate Services to ensure buy-in and accountability. We have trained the staff of Meteo Rwanda but there has to be the commitment to keep the trained people and maintain their skills over time; sometimes the skills acquired are not sustainably used to benefit the users of climate services – as the ODI/WISER report suggests.”

The projects in the study were funded by the UK Government’s Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO).