Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Monitoring a changing climate in Africa

Isaiah Esipisu in IPS: The gathering environmental crisis presented by global warming makes effective weather information and prediction a matter of urgency. As Africa's farmers come to grips with adapting to climate change, it may be that the best way to equip them is to involve them directly in collecting the data.

Evidence presented to the first conference of ministers responsible for meteorology in Africa, taking place in Nairobi, Kenya from Apr 12-16, shows that countries which have involved local communities in monitoring of climatic conditions have markedly better outcomes in terms of improved agricultural yields and public health.

African governments may need to localise meteorological services from the monitoring level, through data analysis, to dissemination, in order for weather and climate information to make sense to the people who need it most in agriculture and related sectors.

"For years, African communities have used traditional methods of predicting climatic conditions. But in the wake of climate change, it is no longer easy for them to use natural indicators to determine the same," said Issa Djire, the director of the Upper Niger River Valley Programme (OHVN in French, Office de la Haute Vallée du Niger) based in Bamako, Mali.

Accurate weather information is a key part of more than one climate change adapation strategy. The UAP Insurance company in Kenya is offering pastoralists and small-scale farmers insurance against losses incurred in times of drought or excess rain. Vital to the schemes functioning is accurate weather information. The Kenyan insurance scheme relies on solar-powered meteorological equipment powered by solar energy, and is monitored in collaboration with local farmers.

...Twelve years ago, Mali adopted a new system in which rain monitoring is carried out entirely at the local level. Thousands of rain gauges are located in villages, and community members are involved in collection and analysis of rain patterns. The information is then passed on at community meetings and through community radio stations broadcasting in local languages. "Packaging of the information is extremely important. The farmers will use it accurately only if they understand it fully," Djire told IPS at the conference….

Borko, Mali, at sunrise, shot by Nbminor, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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