Pledging commitment to a common roadmap for scaling up weather, water and climate services delivery in Africa

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Over 70 participants representing 34 organizations and 22 countries across the four corners of Africa and the world, came together in Saly, Senegal from 1 to 2 May 2017, to discuss the critical need for a coordinated effort in scaling up weather, water and climate services delivery in the region of Africa. Two main objectives were set for this meeting: 1) convene key regional stakeholders engaged in climate services to develop a common understanding of their initiatives, mutual roles and impact; and 2) define a Common Roadmap outlining how to deliver coordinated climate services through joining forces. The event was convened by the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS) and jointly organised by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA/African Climate Policy Center) and the African Development Bank (AfDB), expressing a common desire by these organizations to work together to craft a common plan of action for improving climate services delivery.

Coordination for what?

The emerging work area broadly labeled as “weather, water and climate services” is gaining momentum as a critical instrument for informing adaptation efforts in Africa, which has been flagged by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as one of the most vulnerable in the world to the impacts of a changing climate. However, for climate information to translate into societal value and contribute to saving lives and assets under a changing climate in the region of Africa, a larger value chain enabling multi-stakeholder and multi-disciplinary collaboration will be needed to link knowledge on weather and climate to action (i.e., from climate data providers to final users, and back).

This gathering opened a key opportunity for participants to reflect on what actions were urgently needed to achieve improved coordination of the multitude of projects and investments on hydromet services in Africa, which amount to over 3 billion dollars, according to a recent GFCS survey. Opportunities have been scarce, however, for mapping out the diverse and often disjointed weather and climate information service initiatives across the region. A database of these projects was identified as an essential starting point to provide stakeholders with a go-to-place for:

  1. identifying the right partners to work with;
  2. developing shared opportunities for collaboration on knowledge partnerships; and
  3. helping understand redundancies, impediments and blockages to coordination along the climate services value chain system.

The need for active stakeholder involvement

The value chain, which was conceptualised by the organising committee, was shared and tested with participants. This then led to an Africa-wide mapping of all ongoing, past and future climate service projects and initiatives, implemented or designed by each stakeholder group. Ultimately, the aim was to visualise the diverse set of projects amongst the identified stakeholder groups within the chain.

This interactive exercise was an eye-opener for most – to get a sense of how and where the investments are being made and which stakeholders are not being effectively engaged. Some of the reflections from the group included: 

  1. The most populated set of projects was at the producers end, with activities becoming sparse as we moved to the last mile of users. We’re still too focused on information production and not enough with user engagement.
  2. Project mapping by the “Donors” stakeholder category was the only coherently articulated set of projects mapped. All other projects down below on the value chain, implemented or led by either out of country or in country data providers, co-producers, intermediaries or final users, were incoherently organized – demonstrating to a large extent that donor coordination can play a key role in building coherence in action and introduce positive incentives for collaboration and effectiveness among stakeholders operating in the space of climate services. This eye-opener led to the formation of a working group dedicated to exploring options for improved donor coordination on climate services in Africa;
  3. The multitude of coordination mechanisms or institutional conveners in the area of weather, water and climate services in Africa was counter-productive and not conducive to coherence – too many cooks spoil the broth. Mandates needed to be clarified between the key coordination efforts and initiatives on the continent so that a clear framework for action can be clarified for all stakeholders intervening in this area.
  4. What are the impacts of the interventions? How can we share success stories and lessons learned as part of building resilience?
  5. Intermediaries are needed between the national meteorological services and the diverse set of users.  The use of media agencies and organizations with feet on the ground that can translate meteorological language to inform decision-making is still very weak.
  6. Political will from the part of governments and Africa’s political leadership will be critical in ensuring the success and scaling up of climate services at the national, sub-regional and continental levels.

A roadmap to scale up delivery of Weather, Water and Climate Services

Institutions represented from across the region pledged to a set of coordination efforts: from continental to sub regional to local. At the continental level, for example, the African Ministerial Conference on Meteorology (AMCOMET) and African Centre of Meteorological Applications for Development (ACMAD) have committed to be in the forefront of leading coordination at the continental action planning level.

At the sub-regional levels, the Regional Climate Centres and Regional Economic Commissions pledged to strengthen their institutional ties and, in turn, collaboratively define and develop functional Regional Frameworks for Climate Services as effective platforms to bridge the gap between climate science and user needs in each sub-region.

At the national level, National Meteorological and Hydrological Services and other critical government stakeholders affirmed their support to establish their National Framework on Climate Services (NFCS) as coordination platforms to scale up the delivery of weather, water and climate services for the use of national and local policy-makers and vulnerable communities alike. NCFSs will then be mainstreamed into National Determined Contributions (NDCs), sectoral action plans and other relevant adaptation planning processes at national and sub-national  levels. Additionally, a strong recommendation emanated from the floor to encourage governments to allocate budget lines to develop and implement their NFCS.

Finally, participants decided that a Regional Knowledge Management Platform will be established and operated by ACMAD, with support from various development partners. This platform will serve as a go-to place for information on who is doing what on weather, water and climate services in Africa.

The success of the workshop was a very strong indicator that there is a real desire for an effort towards achieving better coordination and effectiveness of climate services across Africa in order to meaningfully support adaptive resilience in a changing climate. Only through such enhanced coordination can the true societal value of climate science be obtained, and climate knowledge be meaningfully linked with action for resilience in Africa that can have an impact for vulnerable communities and policy-makers alike.

“It was such an engaging, effective and productive stakeholder workshop!” according to one of the participants. In the words of another, “We thank the organizers and all involved for a fruitful, productive and eye-opening workshop. I hope that we can keep the momentum towards coordinated delivery of Climate services across our continent going.”

The Saly Regional Stakeholder Coordination Workshop: “Defining a Roadmap for Scaling up Weather, Water and Climate Services in Africa” was made possible thanks to generous support from UNDP, the World Bank and over thirty organizations that covered the cost of their travel to attend this meeting.

By Arame Tall & Fatema Rajabali

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