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Tackling climate change in Kenya

A typical family in rural Kenya is likely to have a smallholding of rain-fed crops alongside some livestock. Every day, they will need to make decisions based on the weather. Which livestock to keep and which to sell each season. When to migrate to new pastures. Which seed varieties are most likely to yield a good crop and which will demand the best prices at market. Whether directly or indirectly, each of these decisions is based on the weather. And each can be made easier with better forecasting.

Since 2013, the Met Office has been working with partners from the Adaptation (Ada) Consortium (see box) to deliver improved access to weather and climate information services for Kenya’s five most arid counties – Isiolo, Wajir, Garissa, Kitui and Makeuni. Populations in these areas especially – with their arid or semi-arid climates – have suffered the most from extreme climate variability within the country as a whole.

Working together

The Ada Consortium is funded by the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID) within the Strengthening Adaptation and Resilience to Climate Change in Kenya plus – (STARCK+) programme. By working closely with the Kenya Meteorological Services (KMS), the initiative aims to support communities through planning, finance and knowledge sharing.

As confidence in weather forecasting is still low throughout Kenya’s rural communities, the Ada consortium is adopting an approach where local decision making is informed by an approach that uses scientific forecasts but also recognises the value of traditional observations and knowledge. “The goal is to integrate the two sources of knowledge,” says Met Office’s International Development Manager Project Manager, Bill Leathes.

“Local and scientific knowledge should be valued equally. It’s only by evaluating both approaches together that we can have a dialogue, which we hope will result in usable climate information that is locally relevant and culturally valid.”

Forecasting and funding

The Consortium has developed a ‘combined approach’, for this project that focuses not only on better climate information services but also on funding to help communities adapt to changing weather patterns. To make sure this approach is implemented effectively, the project has worked closely with the Kenyan government to support them to make changes to the way climate change is managed at local levels.

“Through improved access to finance and information we want to support people and institutions at a county level to take an active role in adaptation and development planning activities,” says Bill.

The work of the Met Office will be primarily focused on improvements to existing regular weather and climate information produced by KMS – specifically on seasonal timescales. The Met Office will also closely monitor the initiative with the hope that successful elements can be rolled out among other counties within Kenya and elsewhere in the Greater Horn of Africa region.

The project is proving to be a great success in Kenya so far and has even led to the Met Office winning the Outstanding International Collaboration Award at the British Expertise International Awards 2015 (read more on page 3). By the end of 2017 the project expects that 3.3 million people across the five counties will be better equipped to cope with the effects of climate change. Of these, an estimated 800,000 will have benefited directly from the projects this programme has helped put in place. “Through improved access to finance and information we want people and institutions at a county level to take an active role in adaptation and development planning activities.”

The Ada Consortium

The Ada Consortium is led by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and consists of NGO partners (Christian Aid, Anglican Development Services (ADS), the Resources Advocacy Programme (RAP) and Womankind Kenya), Kenya Meteorological Services (KMS), and the Met Office (with King’s College London and the University of Sussex). The project secretariat is based within and works closely with Kenya’s National Drought Management Authority (NDMA).