The Herald (Harare)

17 December 2012

Southern Africa: Weather Experts Called to Simply Infor

Southern African Development Community weather experts have been challenged to package weather information in proper way to meet the requirements of the intended users. This came out at the recent 16th Southern Africa Regional Climate Outlook Forum Mid Season update and communication workshop in Lusaka Zambia.

Climate and media experts from Sadc countries among them Zimbabwe, South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique, Zambia, Angola, DRC, Lesotho, Mauritius and Swaziland attended the workshop.

Participants at the workshop said although the meteorological services departments in the region were giving out information, many times users were failing to interpret the message due to the technical terms being used.

Malawian communication expert, Mr Yobu Kachiwanda said farmers were only interested in knowing the correct time to carry out agronomic practices.

"Farmers are only interested in knowing whether the amount of rain will be enough for crop production, the crops they should grow and the varieties.

"Farmers are not interested in the "normal to above normal rainfall" as this confuses them and they will not be able to make informed decisions," he said.

According to the weather experts, weather updates were not only meant for farmers but different sectors such as the aviation, construction and health among others.

Southern Africa Journalist Association representative, Mr Lloyd Zambara said the effectiveness of the weather information could improve if the information was designed for specific users and disseminated in local languages.

South African communication expert in the department of meteorology, Kenosi Machepa said the department now includes the use of social media to convey weather information.

"We use twitter to send messages to youths and we have had more than 6 000 followers since we started last year," she said.

Communication experts complained that media had problems in interpreting forecasts end up misinforming people. Zimbabwean weather expert, Mr Jephius Mugumbate said in some instances media blew things out of proportion. It was resolved that there was need for constant training of reporters to be able to report accurately on weather issues.

Officiating at the workshop on Thursday, Zambia deputy minister of Transport, Works, Supply and Communications, Dr Andrew Mwali said the national meteorological and hydrological services has the responsibility of generating, interpreting and delivering weather and climatic information to various sectors of the economy.

"Weather information should be used to reduce the adverse impacts associated with extreme weather and foster sustainable social economic national development," he said.

Dr Mwale said climate experts should have well-organised telecommunications system for rapid collection and dissemination of meteorological data for use in the planning of economic development and national exploitation of natural resources,

"They should also conduct research in meteorology, climate change and their applications to various socio economic sectors," he said.

The workshop was meant to provide weather experts platform to come up with climate information dissemination strategy.

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