A new report from global think-tank ODI sheds light on the need to strengthen sustainable climate services across Africa if ambitions for effective climate adaptation are to be realised.
African countries are expected to be hit hard by climate change, and unpredictable and extreme weather is already having a significant impact on people's lives across the continent.
Well-functioning weather and climate information services can save lives and livelihoods. In order for African communities and businesses to adapt more effectively to the inevitable impacts of climate change, weather and climate information services must be vastly strengthened as quickly as possible – say ODI researchers.
ODI's report, Investing for sustainable climate services: Insights from African experience, looks at the support provided to strengthen weather and climate information services in several African countries from 2016-2021. The authors consulted extensively with the experts who ran 15 projects across Africa as part of the Weather and Climate Information Services for Africa (WISER) programme. They found that donors have largely supported capacity-building efforts by funding short-term improvements, but without long-term political and financial commitments, high-level buy in from stakeholders, and strong and inclusive partnerships, projects lack sufficient traction and funding to guarantee viable results.
Where donor assistance is sought, donors should commit long term to bringing climate services up to scratch in order to fulfil their promise to support Africa's resilience to climate change.
The Climate Adaptation Summit 2021 - attended by world leaders including Boris Johnson, Emmanuel Macron and Sheikh Hasina - will highlight the need to accelerate climate adaptation in Africa. This, ODI's report finds, is not being sufficiently addressed when it comes to sustainable climate information services.
Mairi Dupar, ODI Research Fellow and lead author of the report, said: " Weather and climate information services are too often the missing ingredient of 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.
Investing in effective, sustainable climate services is a vital part of adapting to climate change. This new report sets out how stakeholders, from government leaders and domestic agencies, through civil society organisations and development partners, can rise to the challenge to make sustainable, country-led climate resilience a reality."
The ODI report looked at projects dedicated to building the capacity of weather and climate information services. Countries where projects were taking place included Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Somalia and South Sudan and regionally in east and west Africa. 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 livelihood and business decisions.
The report found that the short-term improvements being made may be easily eroded if 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 projects end. The report's 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 is required not just within National Meteorological and Hydrological Services but also within NGOs, women's groups, civil society organisations and media organisations. 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, 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). However, weather and climate information services are crucial in helping states adapt to climate change, and as such, these recommendations apply to all investors and managers of national and local funded projects.