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A framework for co-producing decision-relevant climate information services at county level

Virtually every country or sub-region is increasingly becoming prone to floods, droughts and food shortages. There has been a resurgence of diseases in some countries; which were eradicated over fifty years ago. In addition, our farmers, who mainly rely on rainfall, are now confused about what and when to plant as climate change and variability impacts upon the effectiveness of the traditional agricultural and crop-weather calendars.

The climate is changing and the past is no longer a reliable indicator of the future. It is becoming increasingly clear that weather and climate services have a strategic role to play in our countries and region. It is important that the leadership of National Meteorological Services (NMSs) change the way of providing services so that they are able to address societal and developmental concerns.

It is clear that there are gaps to be filled, for example, the weather observation stations networks, in most countries do not have adequate densities, to deliver services to inform research, policy solutions and make actionable decisions, at the detail that policy-makers require. The solution lies in weather forecasts and climate predictions that can be improved to meet the increasing demand from almost every socio-economic sector. It is up to us to guide our respective National Meteorological Services to make a meaningful contribution in meeting the needs of users.

Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD) is improving service delivery following the demand by the Constitution of Kenya 2010 (COK-2010) to devolve services to county level. KMD is not a devolved function but its services have always been decentralised although not to the lowest levels. At the moment there are County Directors of Meteorological Services (CDMs) in all the 47 counties in Kenya.

The challenge has been that the demands for climate information services were higher than the capacity of CDMs both in numbers and skills.It is at this point that KMD partnered with other organizations to form the Adaptation Consortium Project (ADA Consortium), a project under a DfID programme of Strengthening Adaptation and Resilience of Climate Change in Kenya Plus (STARCK+).

The Ada Consortium has supported KMD to develop an approach to improve decentralised service delivery in the counties. The Consortium and KMD agreed on five key principles, which aimed at clarifying key issues around CIS and provide focus to the development of the programme.

The principles are as follows:-

  • Production of reliable probabilistic information (ignoring probabilistic nature of information will lead to a po­tential loss of trust);
  • Understanding and using probabilistic and uncertain information (ensuring good understanding of forecast un­certainty by users);
  • Relevant information (timely CIS delivery, tailored to specific users);
  • Appropriate access to CIS and two way dialogue (increasing access using current dissemination channels, or developing new ones);
  • Trust (gained through combining all of the above while working together to share knowledge with local commu­nities in a participatory manner) and
  • Building the capacity of the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services NMHS and ‘CIS intermediaries’ (and others).

This approach was piloted in five arid and Semi-Arid Lands of Eastern and North-eastern Kenya counties, namely Makueni, Kitui, Isiolo, Garissa, and Wajir.

The approach is based around supporting County Meteorological Offices managed by CDMs to engage with County Administrations and CIS intermediaries, with the view to develop County Climate Information Service Plans, complete with its new ways of communicating climate information, particularly through networks of climate intermediaries, mobile technology and local radio stations.

This approach also involves developing a Strategic Plan for Decentralisation of services as well as Operations Manual for CDMs, to institutionalise the principles of CIS. Significant progress has been made in designing the strategy and developing the key areas of focus.

However, further support is needed to ensure that the climate services set out in the County CIS plans are made operational in all Ada focus Counties and that the approaches are embedded within KMS and County systems.

By Ayub Shaka