In Congolese French referring to something as “c’est du météo” describes it as being untrustworthy or false, because people find the official weather forecasts so unreliable. However, in Ethiopia a new project is exploring how to make climate information much more reliable and how it can be used to build the resilience of households and communities at risk of extreme climates. I recently met Solomon Woldetsadik, a staff member of the organisation Christian Aid, who told me about his work on translating complex weather data issued by the National Meteorological Agency into actionable information for people at risk of extreme weather to enable them to take better, more informed decision about their livelihoods.
One of the key deliverables of the project is the provision of climate information services (CIS) in targeted districts that is delivered through a mechanism that enables not only delivery of information but also feedback on its quality and usefulness. The CIS is designed to be community friendly, regular, timely and reliable.
By community friendliness the consortium means the degree to which climate information being provided is in line with their livelihood; community members are able to understand (such as listening in their own languages); and conforms to their own cultural values. Regularity is about the extent to which information dissemination is consistent over space and time as per its schedule. Timeliness refers to the degree to which the information is disseminated at the right time in a way it helps to inform resilience building decisions. For example, forecast on possible drought conditions after farmers planted their crops is of little or no use. Reliability of information is about its dependability because of truthfulness. Ensuring the reliability of climate information requires application of robust methods of forecasting and observation, high level of analysis and interpretation capability; and triangulation of the information in real life settings.
The consortium draws on partnerships among four different groups, recognising that each has its own area of expertise:
1. the producers of information – the National Meteorological Agency;
2. the capacity builders who provide training and support – UK Met Office and BBC Media Action;
3. the disseminators who ‘translate’ information into the right formats at the right times for the end users – BBC Media Action and local radio channels; and
4. the users or beneficiaries at community level who receive, use and provide feedback on the information.
In this project the primary users of the climate information are pastoralists, agro-pastoralists and sedentary farming communities in two regions of Ethiopia: SNNPR and Oromia. They are expected to make adaptive and anticipatory livelihood decisions on the basis of climate information they receive and provide feedback on whether the information is useful and/or the extent to which they have applied it. The major channel to share information is through local radios in five local languages, through DRR and early warning platforms, community listening groups and through agricultural extension agents.
The consortium is also looking at how to blend oral stories and indigenous forecast knowledge with scientific forecasts, as well as how best to link the climate information with sound decision making.
Asking him about the achievements of the project so far, Solomon said, “On the basis of weather forecast and climate information received on flood risk on the bank of river Woito in Benatsemai the district’s Disaster Risk Reduction and Early Warning Committee assigned early warning experts to conduct further analysis and verification of flood risk to the local residents in this area. The early warning experts’ report indicated that the communities were highly vulnerable to flood risk and could be significantly affected if they were not relocated. As a direct result, the committee made a joint decision with the community to re-settle 268 households from a flood prone river bank area to a safe area.”
For more information contact: Solomon Woldetsadik <SWoldeTsadik@christian-aid.org>
Climate Information and Assets for Resilience in Ethiopia is a Christian Aid led consortium, funded by the Department for International Development’s (DFID) programme on Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED).
Two projects under DFID’s Disasters and Emergencies Preparedness Programme are also working with communities and the government in Ethiopia to improve national early warning and disaster preparedness and health emergency preparedness in the remote border region of Gambella. Hear more about them on a CDAC Network podcast: Why Ethiopia has Lessons on Emergency Response https://soundcloud.com/listener1984/why-ethiopia-has-lessons-on-emergency-response