Windhoek — More than 20 weather experts from across Africa met in Windhoek, Namibia from the 22-23 November to identify best practices in the African Regional Climate Outlook Forum (RCOFs) processes. The write-shop event was convened under the auspices of the African Climate Policy Centre (ACPC) and the Weather and Climate Information Services for Africa (WISER) programme.
RCOFs are organized by Regional Climate Centres (RCCs) in collaboration with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs), Global Climate Centres (GCC) and development partners. The aim of RCOFs is to provide consensus regional seasonal climate outlooks for applications in climate sensitive socioeconomic sectors for decision support for resilience building and sustainable development (ICPAC, 2016).
The meeting was a culmination of several RCOFs knowledge exchange partnership workshops convened by ACPC earlier in the year, which led to a rich collection of material consisting of procedures, lessons and practices that RCCs utilise in producing consensus seasonal forecasts, organizing RCOFs, engaging stakeholders and seeking their feedback. The institutions in the partnership are the African Regional Climate Centres (RCCs), Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).
While the knowledge shared is already benefiting the RCC focal persons who have participated, the write-shop was convened to produce a consolidated document to serve as a reference by all RCCs.
Procedures and practices applied by the RCOFs to both produce consensus seasonal forecasts and publicise them vary. While most of the RCOFs face similar challenges, especially related to engaging stakeholders, dissemination and uptake of the seasonal forecasts they produce, some RCOFs have been operational for many years and thus have lessons and experiences that can help other RCOFs avoid 'reinventing the wheel'.
The key thematic areas deliberated on included training and capacity building, consensus seasonal forecasting, funding mechanism and sustainability, communication and dissemination, engaging stakeholders and partnerships.
"It is always gratifying to note the dedication and expertise from the distinguished experts who gathered here and contributed their experiences and lessons learnt on RCOFs for the socio-economic development of our people on the continent," said Mr. Mark Majodina of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO). "As WMO, we will continue to support the knowledge partnership to enable this forum to deliver on its objectives."
"As a best practice, for sustainability, it is important that member state governments take full ownership of the RCOFs process in terms of funding because the current donor based support system is not sustainable," said Phillip Omondi of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Climate Prediction and Application Centre (ICPAC).
Mr. Omondi also believes, as other experts do, that with changing meteorological dynamics, "continuity and consistency in training is needed to keep weather experts well-informed on latest trends and tools in the sector."
It is generally agreed that there is a suspicious relation between scientists and media professionals. The weather experts therefore agreed on the need for enhanced relations between scientists and media. As a best practice, it was agreed, communication and dissemination should be enhanced through provision of training to media and boundary stakeholders, for the benefit of end users.
"I am particularly impressed with the way they arrive at the consensus, but I believe the way stakeholders are engaged is also key," said Dr. Mouhamadou Bamba Sylla, Senior Scientist in climate modeling and climate change at the West African Science Service Centre on Climate Change and Adapted Land Use (WASCAL). "Having media persons, the journalists as part of the process to serve as drafters of the press releases from the technical statement is prudent, as we scientists are trained in scientific language which is most often not understood by stakeholders. It is something we must improve upon to ensure that the solutions we discover reach the intended end users."
In line with the overall objective of the write-shop, experts agreed on an extended outline of the RCOFs best practices document, and created an early draft with content to be included in the publication, assigned roles and responsibilities, a drafting timeline and a publication dissemination plan.