Climate Services for Africa

Project background

ICPAC, in partnership with International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI), and the University of Reading, will contribute to the CCAFS-led project, Climate Services for Africa in the following areas:

  • Providing regional suites of climate information tailored to agricultural and food security decision-makers, and introducing them into the Regional Climate Outlook Forum process;
  • Embedding capacity within ICPAC to build member country capacity to develop climate information products and services for agriculture and food security; and
  • Strengthening awareness and capacity of national and regional agriculture and food security stakeholders to use and to communicate the new climate information products.

Project Goal and objectives:

The overall goal of this initiative is to strengthen the capacity of IGAD Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC) and ICPAC member countries (covering IGAD and rest of East African Community member states) to develop effective climate services for agriculture and food security; in a manner that benefits smallholder farmers.

Project duration

The project duration is 1 June 2016 to 30 September 2018. It was officially launched in August 2016 in Kampala alongside GHACOF43.

Project Rationale

Climate information is one of the fundamental inputs to agricultural planning and decision making process (ICPAC, 2015; J. B. Mwesigwa et al., 2017). However, the potential benefits of climate information services are not fully realized in eastern Africa due to widespread gaps between routinely available information and the needs of agriculture and food security decision-makers, including farmers. Tools and methods are available that could greatly increase the usefulness of climate information services. Advanced gridded merged satellite-station data sets (e.g., CHIRPS Funk et al., 2015 and ENACTS data sets developed by several African NMHSs) provide an avenue for providing locally relevant information that is complete in space and time.

Products that would meet known needs of the agriculture and food security sector, that could be derived from daily gridded data, include: rain-fed cropping season onset and cessation, number of rain days, distribution of rainfall in space and time, probability of damaging dry spells and or storms occurring – when, where and for how long, SPI and percentile of precipitation, WRSI and related seasonal water balance variables, and seasonal peak rainfall. Statistical downscaling tools, such as the IRI’s Climate Predictability Tool (CPT) provide a pathway for developing seasonal forecasts of some of these derived variables, on a high resolution grid, in a range of probabilistic formats. IRI’s freely available Data Library software provides a highly customizable platform for producing and disseminating a range of derived data and graphical climate information products through online “Maprooms.”

Against this background, ICPAC is partnering with CGIAR’s Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and IRI to develop and integrate a regional climate data library from which community-specific climate information and products will be derived and shared with agricultural user communities across the GHA region.

Specific objectives are to:
  1. Develop a regional set of gridded historical and seasonal forecast climate information products tailored to the needs of the agriculture and food security sector, building on regional gridded merged satellite-station data sets and made available through online maprooms. Examples of new products targeted under this project include: rain-fed cropping season onset and cessation, number of rain days, distribution of rainfall in space and time, probability of damaging dry spells and or storms occurring – when, where and for how long, SPI and percentile of precipitation, WRSI and related seasonal water balance variables, peak of the season;
  2. Develop online tutorialsand other training manuals on communication and use of new agro-climatic and related food security products available in the online maprooms, including training on approaches to communicate and use these products by humanitarian community, early warning institutions, agricultural extension workers and other intermediaries. This will be achieved by initially organizing Climate Outlook Forum (GHACOF) capacity building side events as well as through introductory presentations during GHACOF and Food Security and Nutrition Working groups (FSNWG) plenary and during other regional agriculturally oriented forums. The tutorials will later be shared online.
  3. Raise awareness and build capacityof NMHS of participating member countries to produce high-resolution online maproom products that are further tailored to the needs of agriculture applications at national level and made available to national online maprooms.
  4. Assess how this initiative has contributed to the capacity of member countriesto produce, communicate and use new high-resolution climate information products tailored for agriculture and food security, and the benefits from use of these products;
  5. Develop a strategy to further develop and integrate newer useful products and processes into the GHACOF process and ICPAC’s operational services.
Major project outputs will include:
  • Online regional maprooms that provide agriculture and food security users with access to an expanded set of location-specific and high resolution historical and forecast climate information products (i.e. rain-fed cropping season onset and cessation, number of rain days, distribution of rainfall in space and time, probability of damaging dry spells and or storms occurring – when, where and for how long, SPI and percentile of precipitation, WRSI and related seasonal water balance variables, peak of the season), in a range of useful formats;
  • Validated seasonal forecast process documented, based on downscaling onto a set of gridded rainfall and derived variables tailored to agricultural and food security users;
  • Training materials, including online tutorials and training manuals for NMHSs, agricultural extension workers, early warning and humanitarian user community and other intermediary users and communicators of climate information;
  • Documented awareness, engagement and training/capacity building workshops (including 2 pre-COF training side events per year, 2 introductory presentations during GHACOF per year, 2 introductory presentations at FSNWG plenary);
  • Documented contributions to capacity of member countries to produce and use expanded sets of information products tailored to agriculture and food security users;
  • Documented contributions to ICPAC’s strategy and operations;
  • Peer-reviewed publication(s) of key project outcomes;