Category: Development

Africa’s 20,000 weather station plan

Africa’s 20,000 weather station plan

By Sarah Wild

supported by The Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center

Farmers across Africa need weather data and climate projections to put food on people’s plates. But often the data does not exist or is inaccessible. The same goes for scientists trying to model how the climate is changing, and how diseases spread, for the planet’s second-largest continent.

Only 10 out of Africa’s 54 countries offer adequate meteorological services, the World Bank estimates, with fewer than 300 of its weather stations meeting the World Meteorological Organisation’s observation standards.

The Bank estimates it would take US$1 billion to modernise key meteorological infrastructure.

An investment of that scale is prohibitive in countries where funds for basic services are often missing. But there may be a way around it: the Trans-African HydroMeteorological Observatory (TAHMO) hopes to expand the continent’s weather-watching capacity for a fraction of the cost.

The not-for-profit organisation has an ambitious plan to deploy weather stations at every 30km. This would translate into 20,000 individual stations supplying weather data to information-thirsty scientists, companies, and governments. It estimates it can do this for US$50 million, with an additional US$12 million a year for maintenance.

It is thrilling to be in a position to transform the culture of African climate observations and the capacity for scientific discovery. –John Selker

So far, about 500 weather stations — white cylinders about the length of a forearm and a shoe box-sized data logger — have been mounted on poles around the continent.

“It is thrilling to be in a position to transform the culture of African climate observations and the capacity for scientific discovery,” says John Selker, TAHMO co-director and a professor of hydrology at Oregon State University in the United States. Climate data is simply scarce, he says; and where it exists, scientists often have pay for it and jump through bureaucratic hurdles to get it.

Selker and colleague Nick van de Giesen from Delft University in the Netherlands established the observatory in 2010. The idea was seeded in 2005, when the two were performing an experiment in Ghana and needed rainfall data. “I asked where we could get [the data] from and [our colleague] laughed, and said there was no way we could get that data from anyone,” Selker recalls.

He had been working on electronic measurement methods and knew it was possible to develop sensors that could generate the data.

The continent’s climate is one of the world’s most understudied, according to the Future Climate for Africa report. And the authors of a World Bank report say the paucity of data from synoptic weather stations “inevitably results in poorer-quality numerical guidance and forecasts in those regions”. Calibration of the sensors used in surface observations is very important, they explain, but in practice few are calibrated to internationally accepted standards.

100 MB/year

TAHMO is trying to fill this gap with its network of weather stations. The non-profit teamed up with US-German company Meter Group to develop a weather station that measures rainfall, temperature, solar radiation, pressure, and wind speed, among other variables. The stations have no moving parts, meaning they are less likely to break and require maintenance.

Each station produces about 100MB of weather data a year, transmitted via a sim card in the data logger to a central database.

This data is available for free for scientists and local meteorological facilities, but companies wanting to access it need to pay. Selker says that, so far, TAHMO has signed memorandums of understanding with 18 African countries and received their permission to operate the network within their jurisdiction.

“It has been a massive challenge to convince African countries to make their data freely available,” he says.

Countries are suspicious of doing this because of ideas of national sovereignty and commercial value, according to Selker. “Their weather agencies have been under the impression that they can make a lot of money out of their data, even though no one has.”

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration makes its data freely available, and this is one of the main reasons why US climate and weather patterns are better understood than those on the African continent, according to Selker. “You can’t do science on proprietary data — it doesn’t help the building of scientific understanding.”

However, there is a reason African countries’ meteorological agencies charge for their data: many survive through selling it to make up for a continent-wide lack of investment in weather infrastructure, says Mark New, director of the African Climate and Development Initiative at the University of Cape Town.

TAHMO funds its operations, and the free provision to scientists and local facilities, by selling its data to companies. Technology company IBM is its biggest client: it channels the data into its subsidiary, The Weather Company, to use in its weather modelling. TAHMO also sells data to seed producers, insurers, farming companies, and consulting firms.

Intermediaries, whether they are businesses or non-profits, need weather data before they can develop the data-based services that farmers need.
Selker estimates the value of the data to the African economy at about US$100 billion a year, through industries such as insurance. “If we could insure those crops, farmers could take bigger risks,” he says. “As long as governments keep those data secured, that economic opportunity is missed.”

Ben Schaap, research lead at the Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition, says there are pros and cons to keeping weather data secure. If it is free, companies can more easily use it to innovate and create services; if the data is protected, the data provider can more easily create a business model around it — but this could make using the data less economically viable for other businesses.

The public-private partnership model under which TAHMO operates is a departure from the open-access national data provision services such as NASA, or the bite-sized donor-funded projects that aim to boost climate data capacity. Selker says the African landscape is littered with the detritus of donor-funded projects that survived for the duration of the project and then fell into disrepair when the funding dried up.

“Those other projects were just that — projects,” adds Selker. “Instead, we’re an enterprise.”

However, for TAHMO’s data to benefit small-scale, poor farmers, businesses would need to know what they need and find it worthwhile to develop services for them, says Schaap.

According to Julio Araujo, research coordinator for Future Climate For Africa, there’s ongoing debate on the best model for delivering climate services, and TAHMO is one to watch. “Selling services to African countries… is an improvement over the status quo,” he says.

Data hunger

Scientists welcome the idea of free and easily accessible data, especially for areas where conflict and poor governance mean it simply does not exist, according to New.

John Kioli, chairman of Kenya’s climate change working group, welcomed the possibility of free on-the-ground data. “We need data for research and also forecasting. It is important to have reliable data and, if possible, data that is coming from Africa.”

Scientists have already started publishing articles using TAHMO data, says Selker. To access it, they simply need to apply and declare research use. “We’re sending data to scientists in the United Kingdom, US, Europe, and Africa. We’re seeing that hunger and demand for African climate data in the African science community too,” he says.

They could help answer scientific questions over how the African climate as a whole is changing, but also tackle uncertainties around how this change plays out on a city level.

“There are many possibilities,” says Marieke de Groen, TAHMO’s regional coordinator for southern Africa, who oversees eight stations in Johannesburg. She says weather data is essential to get a better understanding of water needs and water flows, which have implications for storm water management and how groundwater is recharged.

For a large city like Johannesburg, where it may be raining in one part while the sun shines in another, the effects of extreme weather events will not be uniform across the city, explains De Groen. “You have to get a picture of the distribution. Satellite and radar data help, but this is from the ground up.”

This article was supported by The Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center. For nearly 60 years the Bellagio Center has supported individuals working to improve the lives of poor and vulnerable people globally through its conference and residency programs, and has served as a catalyst for transformative ideas, initiatives, and collaborations.

This article was originally published on SciDev.Net. Read the original article.

Cover photo by NASA (public domain): Dust storm off the west coast of northern Africa.

Senegal tackles floods to beat crime

Senegal tackles floods to beat crime

By Georgina Wade

Floods are becoming a regular occurrence in the low-lying seafront city of Dakar, Senegal. And extreme weather combined with dated infrastructure are forcing thousands of residents out of their homes each year, resulting in increased crime rates.

With many people abandoning their uninhabitable homes during the rainy season, criminals are using these spaces to set up meetings and orchestrate attacks.

The UK-funded Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED) project is working to clean up these abandoned sites and turn them into functioning gathering places. Currently, 18 sites have been transformed into communal spaces for about 300 people to work and earn an extra income.

The partnership “Vivre avec l’eau | Live with water”, a charity-led resilience project as a part of the BRACED project, aims to build resilience to flooding for 920,000 vulnerable people through an innovative, integrated and community-based approach focused on infrastructure, policy and capacity building.

In addition to the implementation of communal spaces, the initiative has also worked to study the extent of flooding in Dakar, paved roads to increase water absorption, and created water basins to collect surplus rainfall.

The Yeumbeul Nord suburb on the eastern outskirts of Dakar has seen significant change in particular. Previously, flooding was so dire around an inland lake that the area became a no-go zone rife with crime. The project has since cleaned up the area, replacing overgrown shrubbery with public benches.

Laetitia Badolo of Niyel, a public affairs firm that partners with the project, believes that community involvement will ensure that things continue to look up.

“The area has been reclaimed,” she said. “The project will be kept up by a series of community volunteers created as ‘champions’ of the neighbourhood. They are all now guardians of the safe space.”

Cover photo by Jeff Attaway/Flickr (CC BY 2.0).
Can one billion people in informal settlements be protected from climate change?

Can one billion people in informal settlements be protected from climate change?

By David Satterthwaite

It is crucial the one billion people who live in informal settlements around the world are not forgotten as cities develop climate plans.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) convened an international scientific conference in Canada from 5-7 March to explore what needs to be done to strengthen cities’ ability to withstand and even flourish in the face of climate change.

Adapting to climate change is challenging for all cities, especially if global agreements fail to keep global temperature rise below 1.5°C. But how is adaptation possible where city governments have no capacity?

Cities in wealthy countries with functioning governments already have what the IPCC terms ‘risk-reducing’ infrastructure (PDF) and services such as reliable, safe water piped to homes, sanitation, paved roads and paths, storm and surface drains and connection to electricity grids. Almost all housing conforms to official standards, which protect inhabitants from extreme weather. And most people have the added benefit of insurance for their homes and possessions.

City governments that have taken climate change adaptation seriously, have moved from a political commitment to act, to developing new policies and technical responses. The needed move to greater resilience to climate change happens within the ‘formal’ world of policies, budgets, rules and regulations overseen by elected city governments.

One of the greatest challenges for climate change adaptation is how to build resilience for the billion urban dwellers who live in informal settlements. In cities in middle- and low-income countries there is little technical and no investment capacity, and much of the population live in informal settlements that lack almost all risk-reducing infrastructure and services.

For many cities, more than a third of their population live in such settlements – in some, it is more than half.

The people who live in informal settlements and work in the informal economy form a critical part of each city’s labour force and wealth. But they cannot find ‘formal’ housing that they can afford. So, they live in settlements that are outside the system of regulations.

Most are on land that is illegally occupied; many are on such high-risk sites as steep slopes or watersheds where climate change will increase the dangers they face. Most do not receive the risk reducing infrastructure and services that should be provided to everyone who lives in cities – and which are so needed as the foundation for developing the systems fundamental to adapting to climate change.

Learning from community organisations

For city governments, addressing these issues is complicated by the many ways in which informal settlements break laws and contravene regulations. Or they are hampered by limited technical capacity, lack of funding and political constraints. It is also complicated by the fact that in many countries, local governments ignore those living in informal settlements or evict them.

But by recognising the knowledge and skills available in informal settlements, particularly through working with community organisations, city governments can develop effective upgrading measures for these areas and help protect the people who live there.

In many Latin American cities and some in Asia this is already happening. Extending such key infrastructure to informal settlements as roads, water mains, sewers, storm drains and electricity is becoming an accepted part of what a city government does, as can be seen in the cities of Rosario in Argentina and Manizales in Colombia. In Thailand, the national government set up the Community Organizations Development Institute that supports these community-driven upgradings.

Community organisations have led many of these initiatives over the last 20 years. They include many by federations of slum or shack dwellers that are active in more than 30 countries, supported by Slum/Shack Dwellers International (SDI) and the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights (ACHR).

Although none of this action was initiated in response to climate change, its contribution to increasing informal settlements’ ability to cope with its impacts and adapt is acknowledged within the IPCC.

This international scientific conference is an important opportunity to help make sure all cities can meet the growing challenges that will be posed by climate change in the coming decades, including those living in informal settlements.

There is an obvious need to reconcile different urban agendas, especially poverty reduction, disaster risk reduction and preparedness and climate change adaptation. Although there are tensions between these and often competition for resources, they all share a focus identifying and acting on local risks and their root causes.

One of the toughest tests for global climate finance is to develop the institutional channels through which to encourage and support locally-driven initiatives in informal settlements. This means global climate funds learning to work with local governments and with the grassroots organisations and federations formed by the people who live in informal settlements.

David Satterthwaite is senior fellow in IIED’s Human Settlements research group. This blog originally appeared on the Climate Home website, and was based on a background paper for the conference on ‘Responding to climate change in cities and in their informal settlements and economies’ (PDF).

This blog was originally published on IIED’s website and is shared under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Licence accessible.

Cover photo by Ben Dumond on Unsplash.
Bangladesh to empower women and girls in the face of increasing climate impacts

Bangladesh to empower women and girls in the face of increasing climate impacts

By UNDP Adaptation

The world’s largest multilateral fund for climate change action, the Green Climate Fund, has approved almost US$25 million in grant funding in support of Bangladesh’s efforts to build the adaptive capacities of vulnerable coastal communities.  With a focus on women and adolescent girls, a new 6-year project is set to benefit 700,000 people living in disaster-prone southwestern districts.

Led by the Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs, also providing $8 million in co-financing, the UN-supported project marks a paradigm-shift in the way women are empowered as ‘change-agents’ to plan, implement, and manage climate-resilient solutions to safeguard livelihoods and lives in the Least Developed Country.

A coalition of partners, mobilized by the UN Development Programme, will support the Government.

The project will provide assistance to 25,000 women and girls in Satkhira and Khulna to adopt resilient livelihoods, while ensuring reliable, safe drinking water for 130,000 people through community-managed rainwater harvesting solutions. It will also seek to strengthen the participation of women in last-mile dissemination of gender-responsive early warnings and continued monitoring and adaptation of livelihoods to evolving climate risks.

A key aspect focuses on enhancing women’s access to markets and finance. In addition to training in business development, the project will link women’s producer groups to business via networking activities (including through Public-Private Initiative platforms to be established at local level), and will provide support to access credit from the financial sector. In addition, the project will link women’s producer groups to market.

Secretary, Economic Relations Division, Ministry of Finance, and National Designated Authority for Bangladesh to Green Climate Fund, Mr. Kazi Shofikul Azam, welcomed the approval saying, “The Government of Bangladesh is committed to tackling climate change in the context of its overall development framework and its goals under Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development. This newly approved project contributes towards priorities outlined in Bangladesh’s Nationally Determined Contributions and climate change strategies, including its Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan and existing Climate Change Gender Action Plan”.

Through the project, the Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs will be integrating gender and climate change across sectors. The Department of Public Health Engineering will be scaling-up climate-resilient solutions to ensure safe drinking water across coastal communities.

Extensive consultations with non-government organizations, civil society, donors and communities informed the design of the project. The Dhaka-based International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCAD) played a key role in assessing the climate change impacts and adaptive responses to cope with evolving risks.

Dr. Saleemul Huq, ICCAD Director said, “Bangladesh ranks among the world’s one of the most vulnerable countries when it comes to climate change. Women are disproportionately affected by the impacts.  As household managers, women are primarily responsible for producing food for the family, as well as securing household water and energy. Limited control over resources and decision-making often puts extra burden on women. Through this initiative of Green Climate Fund and UNDP, the situation is expected to get better.”

UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Bangladesh, Mia Seppo, said, “We know that the poor disproportionately bear the risks and impacts of climate change. Without the ready means to adapt, they are also disproportionately vulnerable.”

“In the context of UNDP’s new Strategic Plan, UNDP is proud to work side-by-side with the Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs, and to bring together a coalition of partners to deliver this project. Under this project, women will more in command of their, and their communities’, own future.”

Over the past several years, the contributions and needs of women in relation to climate change has been moving steadily up the global agenda. Last August, the Green Climate Fund, together with UN Women, released its first gender manual on how to include women, girls, men and boys from socially excluded and vulnerable communities in all aspects of climate finance. At COP23 in Bonn in November, the Fiji Presidency announced the first Gender Action Plan.

The announcement at the Green Climate Fund’s 19th Board Meeting in Songdo, Korea follows the Green Climate Fund’s approval of over $2.8 million in support of Bangladesh’s formulation and advancement of a National Adaptation Plan process.

Implementation of the project ‘Enhancing adaptive capacities of coastal communities, especially women, to cope with climate change induced salinity’ is set to begin in July, 2018.

For more information, please Click here.

Read more stories from UNDP Adaptation about women and climate change:

Cover photo by Nowshad Arefin on Unsplash

On International Women’s Day, Acclimatise celebrates its great team of women and their contributions to the company’s success!

How can we measure resilience? Mobile phones – and the right questions – can help

How can we measure resilience? Mobile phones – and the right questions – can help

By Lindsey Jones, Overseas Development Institute

People and communities around the world are struggling to deal with the impacts of climate extremes and disasters. At the same time, international finance for supporting people’s resilience to shocks and stresses is limited.

That means understanding how to effectively build resilience is crucial – but to do that we first need to be able to track and measure resilience – something that is often fiendishly difficult.

For example, we might consider a resilient household to be one that can take precautions after receiving early warning of an imminent flood; bounce back quickly from a recent drought; or adapt to increasingly frequent heatwaves. But deciding what factors contribute and are most important to a household’s resilience is a matter of fierce debate. Dozens (if not hundreds) of different resilience frameworks exist, each with a unique mix of indicators and ideas.

To make matters worse, collecting information on resilience is hard work. Face-to-face household surveys are expensive, time consuming to run and can take months to set up. This is where the Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED)’s Rapid Response Research (RRR) is making a difference.

RRR is a survey effort that collects information on resilience and post-disaster recovery, currently focusing on the east of Myanmar (in the township of Hpa-An). The initiative is trying two new methods that have the potential to drastically change the way that we collect resilience information.

The first is the use of mobile phones to gather information from households affected by disasters.

With a rise in mobile phone usage across the developing world, contacting people and collecting data has never been quicker, cheaper or more secure. As part of the RRR effort, 1,300 mobile phones and solar chargers were given to households across eight villages in Hpa-An. A call centre based in Yangon then administers short surveys by phone once a month, with households receiving a small financial reward – in the form of airtime credit – for every survey they complete. If households are busy, they’re simply asked for a preferred time to be called back.

This means that not only can we can collect data at roughly a third of the cost of traditional surveys, but it can also be collected when people are on the move. This is necessary in a place like Myanmar where people are increasingly mobile – often seeking temporary work in cities and abroad. Crucially, it means that we have an easier (and less intrusive) way of contacting people after disasters, when gaining access to communities can be slow and high riskThis could be especially useful in instances where people have relocated after a disaster, which would not be possible through normal survey methods.

So far, these methods have allowed the RRR survey to retain 96 percent of the original survey respondents after four separate rounds of surveying. That’s a number that has far exceeded expectations!

The second innovation trials new ways of judging subjective measures of resilience. Resilience has traditionally been measured via objective means – where resilience ‘experts’ come together and decide on a list of indicators that they think make people resilient. This typically includes things that we can see and observe such as household income, education, access to social safety nets, etc.

While methods like these are no doubt useful, they struggle to capture many of the intangible aspects of resilience, such as social networks. Subjective tools, like the ones the RRR effort is trialling, take a very different approach. They start from the position that people have valuable knowledge about what they think makes them resilient.

What have we found so far? Subjective views of resilience are strongly associated with education, poverty, number of household occupants and so on. While traditional assessments reflect many of these, a number of interesting differences exist with objective assessments of resilience.

For example, female-headed households in Hpa-An think of themselves as better able to deal with disasters compared to households headed by men. This flies in the face of many objective surveys that tend to find male-headed households more resilient.

Could it be that female-headed households are able to leverage better social support networks, or tend to have more diverse sources of livelihood pursuits? Could it instead be that there is a psychological difference in how women and men rate themselves? These are questions that the RRR will delve into in the months ahead.

The RRR effort continues to collect large swathes of data. To make this information accessible to all we’ve launched the Resilience Dashboard. This site allows anyone to look in real time at the relationships and trends for themselves.

We hope to learn from those making use of the site to see what potential this new technology and method has, as well as what new ideas it can spark. Above all, we want RRR to generate enthusiasm about innovating and experimenting with different ways of collecting resilience information to help further our understanding of the drivers of resilience.

Only then will we be able to answer the important question: How do we best prioritise limited resources for supporting resilience?

Lindsey Jones is a researcher working on issues of climate change, adaptation and development for the Overseas Development Institute. 

This article was originally published on, access the original by clicking here. Please credit Zilient, an initiative of The Rockefeller Foundation, the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Blue State Digital and OnFrontiers. All rights reserved.

Cover photo by Dinis Bazgutdinov on Unsplash
United Nations led partnership with Green Climate Fund to support nearly 1 million farmers in Zambia

United Nations led partnership with Green Climate Fund to support nearly 1 million farmers in Zambia

US$137 million, 7-year project supported through UNDP in partnership with FAO and WFP works toward global goals for food security and poverty reduction.

The UN in Zambia (specifically the United Nations Development Programme, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and World Food Programme) have joined forces together with the Green Climate Fund (GCF) to assist the Government of Zambia in tackling serious climate change induced risks facing smallholder farmers.

The GCF Board approved US$32 million of climate finance in its board meeting this week, which together with US$125 million of co-financing leveraged by UNDP will support the Government of Zambia in building climate-resilient food security and poverty reduction measures for approximately 940,000 people.

Implemented by the Zambian Ministry of Agriculture, the US$137 of financing will strengthen the capacity of farmers to plan for climate risks that threaten to derail development gains, promote climate resilient agricultural production and diversification practices to improve food security and income generation, improve access to markets, and foster the commercialization of climate-resilient agricultural commodities.

In all, the Government of Zambia anticipates reaching over 3 million indirect beneficiaries through the project – approximately 18 percent of the total population – which will work in 16 districts within the Agro-Economical Regions of Mambwe, Nyimba, Chongwe, Luangwa, Chirundu, Rufunsa, Chama, Mafinga, Kazungula, Siavonga, Gwembe, Namwala, Shangombo, Senanga, Sesheke and Mulobezi.

“Farmers living in these districts are especially vulnerable to climate change risks, primarily increasing droughts, variability of rainfall and occasional floods. There is a high rate of poverty, meaning efforts to end hunger and poverty are at risk if we don’t take immediate action to adapt agricultural practices to changing climate conditions,” said Government of Zambia Permanent Secretary, National Development Planning Mr. Chola Chabala.

This intervention is a major contribution to meeting one of the key outcomes of the Seventh National Development Plan which deals with reducing poverty and vulnerability whilst contributing to economic diversification and job creation in Zambia.

The UN in Zambia, led by the United Nations Development Programme, and including FAO and WFP, working with national institutions like the Ministry of Agriculture and Zambia Meteorological Department, will deliver an integrated set of technical services that will help to advance key Sustainable Development Goal targets, especially in SDG2 and SDG13. The coalition will ensure that best practices from pilot climate resilience initiatives nurtured with the support of these organizations will be scaled-up to meet Government of Zambia’s targets on adapting its economy to climate change impacts.

Hunger and malnutrition are real and present risks in Zambia. Approximately 60 percent of people live below the poverty line, and 42 percent are considered extremely poor. According to WFP, over 350,000 people are considered food insecure, and roughly 40 percent of children experience stunted growth.  Climate change is expected to worsen these impacts by 30 percent by 2030, by 50 by 2050.

Given the unique role of women in agriculture and food provisioning, and their unique vulnerabilities to climate change, GCF resources will focus dedicated efforts on building climate resilience for female-headed houses and rural enterprises.

The project aligns with Zambia’s key development goals for poverty reduction and food security, as well as its goal to become a prosperous middle-income country by 2030.

Globally, efforts are underway to mobilize international finance for low-carbon climate-resilient development through climate finance mobilized through UNFCCC financing mechanisms such as the Green Climate Fund. This project signals an important step to mobilize these funds in Zambia, scale-up pilot climate resilience projects, and work toward achieving Zambia’s Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris Agreement.

In fulfilling its contribution to the Paris Agreement – and global goals to limit temperature increases to 2 degrees while ensuring no one is left behind in terms of economic and social development – the project will promote the conservation of water, improve the use of irrigation technologies, and strengthen climate information services.

“The UN in Zambia is delighted that this US$32 grant from the Green Climate Fund and the US$125 million of co-financing leveraged by UNDP will contribute to improving food security in the face of climate variations and introducing poverty reduction measures for approximately 940,000 people in Zambia,” said UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, Ms Janet Rogan.

For additional information please contact Lavender Degre, or visit

Cover photo by Sxfwaancr7/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Climate-related migration pressing but poorly regulated

Climate-related migration pressing but poorly regulated

By Fatima Arkin

Implementing climate change-related migration and human rights in the Pacific Small Island Developing States (SIDS), as mandated by the Paris Agreement, is challenging, partly because of legal complexities, says a new research paper released in November by the UN University’s Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS).

Communities in the Pacific largely make their decisions on migration based on their traditional beliefs and values which are embedded in the local customary law that often contradicts national laws. Furthermore, migration is not properly regulated at the domestic level or at the regional level — though this is a growing necessity for the world’s most climate-vulnerable states.

“Even at two degrees, the coastal areas will be flooded and most of the islands will probably disappear under water”

Cosmin Corendea, UN-EHS

According to the study, in 2005—2015, over 90 per cent of households in Kiribati and Tuvalu, and three-quarters of households in Nauru, were affected by climate-related hazards like flooding, saltwater intrusion and storms. In that period, environmental stress was cited as a key factor in migration. In Kiribati, 14 per cent of all recorded movements were environment-related, while in Tuvalu the figure was nine per cent. Without any option to move internationally, migrating populations are concentrating in urban centres like South Tarawa in Kiribati and Funafuti in Tuvalu.

The SIDS are implementing several adaptation measures, including building sea walls and planting flood-tolerant crops. But, about 30 per cent of people decide to migrate as soon as the first climate stress appears, according to Cosmin Corendea, senior legal expert at UNU-EHS and an author of the report.

If the key goal of the Paris Agreement — limiting global warming to well below two degrees Celsius — is not met, the SIDS will be among the first to be hit, Corendea says. “Even at two degrees, the coastal areas will be flooded and most of the islands will probably disappear under water — the problem will become even more tragic if you’re going to have people who do not belong to a state,” Corendea tells SciDev.Net.

Most governments in the Pacific are making “huge efforts” to harmonise the state and customary law from a human rights perspective, Corendea says. For example, the US$9.2 million Fiji Access to Justice project, funded by the EU and implemented by the UN Development Programme since last year, aims to strengthen Fiji’s Legal Aid Commission, the judicial department, and NGOs’ access to justice.

A special initiative launched at COP23 in Bonn is designed to protect people living in the SIDS from the health impacts of climate change. “This is crucially important because climate change is exacerbating existing health-related challenges in Pacific island countries,” Wesley Morgan, senior international relations expert at the University of the South Pacific, tells SciDev.Net. “Changes in climate can lead to changes in the distribution of vector-borne diseases like dengue and malaria and affect health-related infrastructure.”

Corendea says that important recommendations in the study include the acknowledgement that human rights, migration and climate change are becoming one big interlinked topic and that the governments of the Pacific islands should consider regional approaches with regards to migration. “Having migration regulated at the regional level will eventually, hopefully, avoid some humanitarian crisis,” he adds.

This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Asia & Pacific desk.  This article was originally published on SciDev.Net. Read the original article.

Cover photo by U.S. Air Force/Osakabe Yasuo: Louis Mangtau, Chief of Fais Island, sorts through supplies that were dropped during Operation Christmas Drop 2015, Dec. 8, 2015, at Fais Island, Federated States of Micronesia. Operation Christmas Drop is a humanitarian/disaster relief training event where C-130 crews provide critical supplies to 56 islands throughout the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, Federated States of Micronesia and Republic of Palau.

Climate services: Old weather forecasting infrastructure in Africa poses risk to development

Climate services: Old weather forecasting infrastructure in Africa poses risk to development

By Elisa Jiménez Alonso

Weather forecasts don’t just inform what clothes you put on in the morning but influence much bigger and important decisions in, for example, agriculture and engineering. From small instruments like water gauges to complex forecasting systems that produce cyclone warnings, they are essential for preventing losses and protecting communities. The African continent has the world’s least developed weather, water, and climate (“hydromet”) observation network according to the World Bank. As such, development gains could be at risk from extreme weather and slow onset events, especially with the influence of climate change affecting global weather patterns.

Out of date weather stations

Less than 300 of Africa’s weather stations meet the World Meteorological Organisation’s (WMO) observation standards. About 54 per cent of the continent’s surface weather stations, and 71 per cent of its upper-air weather stations, are out of date and do not deliver accurate data.

The cost of modernising African hydromet infrastructure runs very high at $1.5 billion. However, the benefits of the investment would offset it quickly. The World Bank estimates that updating the infrastructure could potentially save $13 billion in asset losses per year, as well as $22 billion in losses to well-being, and increase productivity leading to an additional $30 billion in savings.

Up until recently competing development needs led to a lack of resources for the hydromet infrastructure. Speaking to the Equal Times, Justus Kabyemera, coordinator of the Climate Development (ClimDev) Africa Special Fund at the African Development Bank (ADB) said “The main bottleneck is the lack of policy frameworks for hydromet services across the continent, which manifests itself into the lack of national budgetary allocations for the services.”

The results of this hydromet gap were discussed last year at the first African Ministerial Conference on Meteorology (AMCOMET) Africa Hydromet Forum. There, African leaders emphasised that weather and climate-related disasters were reversing development gains across the continent. Countries’ Gross Domestic Products can be reduced by 10-20 per cent due to such disasters, threatening their economic development.

Makhtar Diop, World Bank Vice President for Africa said “The increased frequency and intensity of natural disasters across Sub-Saharan Africa should serve as a wake-up call for governments and the international community to invest in hydromet services. Improving the accuracy of weather forecasts would not only save lives but also help African cities and communities build resilience against climate change.”

Improving the African hydromet infrastructure

Luckily, some African countries are already taking action. South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria, Kenya, and Morocco have started investing in the modernisation of their infrastructure. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, improved hydromet and early warning services are helping local communities better prepare for extreme weather events.

On a much larger scale, the Trans-African Hydrometeorological Observatory (TAHMO) project is aiming to build a dense network of 20,000 low-cost, high-tech weather stations across Africa, each 30 kilometres apart. The stations are being placed at schools and worked into their educational programmes to help raise awareness and foster the interest among students. All data produced by TAHMO stations shall be free and openly available to scientific research and the public sector. The project, thus, aims to not just focus on infrastructure alone, but takes a holistic approach that also has the potential to influence the social, economic, and political spheres.

New initiatives like these are being implemented all around the African continent. As climate change threatens development gains, the importance of hydromet information grows.

Cover photo by TAHMO Initiative/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0): Wanyange Girls Secondary School Wildlife Club in Uganda hosts a TAHMO weather station.
Climate services for resilience: New report traces how NGO roles are changing

Climate services for resilience: New report traces how NGO roles are changing

A new report by BRACED looks at how non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are contributing to climate information systems in Ethiopia.

As climate change progresses, its impacts increasingly affect development activities. The ‘resilience agenda’, whereby actors seek to reduce vulnerability and strengthen resilience as a means to mitigate climatic challenges, has gained more and more attention. By focusing more on climate resilience, more diverse relationships have emerged due to the interrelations between climate, health, poverty and wellbeing; this has made the work of development partners, like NGOs, more complex.

One major change has been the increased emphasis on climate information services. Emergency response programmes are supported by forecasting, and early warning data is used to adjust the implementation of safety nets. NGOs all over the world have diversified their skillsets and relationships to strengthen climate information service capacities under the banner of the resilience agenda.

To understand this shift better, BRACED has traced the changes that have occurred in Ethiopia since 2002 to explore how the climate services landscape has evolved and how NGO engagement has led to wider shifts.

The report concludes:

  • NGOs have played, and will continue to play, a critical role in expanding climate information services in Ethiopia. To date, national agencies have expanded their physical capacity and ability to produce climate information. One of the key challenges is communicating information in effective, relevant and appropriate ways to smallholder farmers and pastoralists.
  • There are a wide range of governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations engaging with climate services. Coordination efforts to date are important first steps, but much more activity of this nature is required.
  • Donor and NGO activity have expanded government capacity and the provision of climate services, but these developments remain limited to specific geographic areas and pose long-term risks of sustainability.
  • The new modalities of working and changes to activities of engagement are neither apolitical nor value-neutral. We need to better understand and acknowledge the politically sensitive nature of the operational environments and partnerships as well as the activities and data.
  • Given the influence of the ‘resilience agenda’ on donor and NGO priorities, and the challenges of sustainability of activities within climate information services in Ethiopia, more research is required to understand the extent to which climate services are being integrated into programming and decision-making

Download the full report by clicking here.

Visit the BRACED website.

Cover photo by Hervé Clootens/Pixabay.
Caribbean Community to create world’s first climate resilient region

Caribbean Community to create world’s first climate resilient region

By Elisa Jiménez Alonso

Just before the end of 2017, chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Haiti’s president Jovenel Moïse announced that in 2018 the group is moving towards the creation of the world’s first climate resilient region.

After hurricanes Irma and Maria left widespread devastation in the region, the Caribbean is now in the process of rebuilding and they want to do so in a resilient way. Moïse said “the absolute necessity to create a climate smart region is clear given the effects of climate change, which have brought us droughts, mega hurricanes, heavy floods and unusual weather patterns, all of which adversely affect our development.”

CARICOM’s resilience building efforts will be implemented against the backdrop of its Caribbean Community’s Strategic Plan for 2015-19 period, which also includes making the most out of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME). CSME, Moïse explained, remains the “best vehicle for creating the economic resilience [the region needs].”

The chairman emphasised “The solidity and efficiency of that partnership will be tested as never before given the magnitude of the rebuilding task ahead of us. We have to rebuild with resilience now to forestall damage in the future, in other words, to build back better.”

Watch Jovenel Moïse’s message below:

Cover photo by Augustin de Montesquiou on Unsplash: Streetscaep of Havana, Cuba.