Building Sustainability for Climate Information Services in Africa

Nov 30, 2017

Five-year US$50 million UNDP Programme assesses next steps for climate services in Africa

“Information is power. With improved weather and climate information, nations will be able make climate-smart decisions on everything from agriculture to energy to natural resource conservation; farmers will be able to improve crop productivity, no matter what weather comes their way, and vulnerable communities will be able to protect themselves when bad and unpredictable weather hits,” says Brian Mushimba, Zambia’s Minister of Transport and Communications.

He made the statement at the kick-off to a two-day workshop on the theme: “Towards Sustainability for Climate Information Services: Achievements, Impacts, Lessons Learned and Next Steps,” held in the Lusaka today. The workshop was facilitated by the UNDP’s Programme on Climate Information for Resilient Development in Africa (CIRDA), with representatives drawn from 11 Africa National HydroMeteorological Services, the World Bank, the African Development Bank, and leading experts from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

Mr. Mushimba said the Zambian government is addressing the country’s vulnerability to climate change through its Seventh National Development Plan, an integrated multi-sectoral development approach under the theme “accelerating development efforts towards the vision 2030 without leaving anyone behind.”


“Through its development plan, the government seeks to enhance decentralized climate information services for early warning and long-term projections on the effects of climate change to support sustainable management of the production systems, infrastructure development and public health,” he said. “The government’s partnership with UNDP in this regard is helping the country follow a climate-resilient development path, consistent with its poverty reduction and sustainable development objectives.”

Also speaking at the event, the United Nations Development Programme’s Deputy Country Director in Zambia, Sergio Valdini said the agency is committed to working with the Zambian government in advancing and charting a green and sustainable development pathway in the country through the regional programme.


“Across Africa, people die needlessly because of a lack of reliable, accurate and timely climate information services and early warning systems,” Mr. Valdini said, noting that UNDP’s support in developing national capacities along with facilitating technology, training, tools to develop hydro-meteorological data systems and integrated early warnings has provided an environment that will facilitate the sustainability of Zambia’s ongoing investments in improving the monitoring of fast-changing climate and weather.

The workshop marks an important milestone in establishing next steps and assessing project impact for the 11 nations supported through multi-national CIRDA programme, funded through the Global Environment Facility’s Least Developed Countries Fund.


“These end-to-end climate services leverage large networks of high-tech Automatic Weather Stations to monitor fast-acting storms that often take lives and destroy livelihoods. They will also serve to improve the climatological record for nations adversely affected by the impacts of climate change, and allow for improved climate change adaptation planning,” said CIRDA Programme Manager Bonizella Biagini. “With continued support, this means nations like Burkina Faso will have the information, technology and capacity they need to plan for climate change.”

Driven by large-scale changes in global and regional climate over the last four decades, floods, droughts, changing weather patterns, sporadic or increased rains, and other weather-related disasters are severely impacting economic and social progress in Africa. According to the World Meteorological Organization, bad weather, unpredicted weather and other natural disasters have caused over 1.9 million deaths over the past 40 years and US$2.4 trillion in economic losses worldwide. Recent droughts in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen put upwards of 20 million people at risk of starvation.


“The goal of the CIRDA programme is to go beyond simply buying more weather radars that fall apart, are hard to service and hard to maintain. Our country-driven approach is to provide end-to-end services and products that take advantage of cutting-edge technologies. It’s also about providing the training and resources to use and maintain these technologies, building capacity to analysis, package and distribute actionable hydro-meteorological information, and working to establish public-private partnerships that will ensure the long-term sustainability of these initiatives,” said the CIRDA Programme Manager Bonizella Biagini in her opening remarks.  


Over the past five years, the CIRDA Programme has deployed world-leading experts on hydrology, new technologies, meteorology and public-private partnerships to the 11 nations supported through the programme (Benin, Burkina Faso, Liberia, Sierra Leone, São Tomé and Príncipe, Ethiopia, the Gambia, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia).


With the support of CIRDA experts, Burkina Faso, the Gambia, Liberia and Sierra Leone have successfully procured and installed innovative and effective early warning systems and services. The Gambia, Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia have benefited from in-country training to enhance data-rescue capacities that favor better forecasting, and Benin successfully established an effective Standard Operating Procedure to communicate early warnings in the case of flooding. This early warning system provides over 800,000 people with access to flood warnings.

Next Steps

Much work remains to be done. Recent World Bank estimates from 2016 indicate that only 10 out of Africa’s 54 nations offer adequate meteorological services.

“Investing in climate services is smart business. For every dollar invested, we project four dollars in return. That means more money to protect the environment, send kids to school, build clinics and support achievement of the goals outlined through the Paris Agreement and 2030 agenda,” said Dr. John Snow, Chief Technical Advisor for Meteorology, UNDP CIRDA Programme.

Conservative estimates from the World Bank in 2015 indicate that it will cost upwards of US$1 billion to upgrade Africa’s hydromet services.

“These are important investments, and are essential toward long-term development, peace and prosperity in Africa,” the UNDP Deputy Country Director said. “Through donor funds like the Green Climate Fund and Global Environment Facility, developed countries throughout the globe are making good on commitments to support developing nations in gaining the necessary support they need to adapt to the impacts of climate change and work to sustainable development and low-emission growth.”

Working in concert with the World Bank, WMO and leaders from across Africa, UNDP is currently developing a large-scale proposal to support the scaling-up of climate information and early warning systems across Africa.


“In the end, climate services aren’t just about having better data or better crop reports,” said Biagini. “Climate services are about saving lives and supporting developing nations in breaking the cycle of poverty, building a brighter future for our children and protecting a greener planet for generations to come.”


Communications Officer

Moses Zangar, Jr.


Climate Information and Early Warning Systems(CIEWS) Project

United Nations Development Programme

Zambia Meteorological Department

Moses Zangar, Jr.

Communications Officer

Climate Information and Early Warning Systems(CIEWS) Project

United Nations Development Programme
Zambia Meteorological Department

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