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FEATURE: Effective climate services involve more than meteorologists – to reach their full potential

Katharine Vincent, Jemimah Maina, Fiona Percy, Emma Visman and Calistus Wachana describe a range of projects and approaches that are bringing weather and climate information to people – so that they can make more informed decisions in their daily lives, in what’s called ‘co-production’ of climate services.

In July 2019, over 60 participants from across the greater horn of Africa (Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, Djibouti, Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda, Somalia, Ethiopia) came together for the latest in a series of peer-to-peer learning workshops hosted by IGAD’s Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC) * through support from the Weather and Climate Information Services for Africa (WISER) programme.

WISER support to ICPAC is concerned with improving climate services, and in particular supporting user engagement and co-production of climate services at regional level. While initially targeting producers of climate information from national meteorological agencies across the region, this peer-to-peer learning event aimed to bring together a range of government and non-government organisations (NGOs) involved in producing and using climate information, in connecting these two, and in co-producing climate services.

With a focus on hands-on, interactive sessions, participants drew on their collective experience to unpack and map out co-production processes, highlighting who needs to be involved, and in what ways, and how the involvement of multiple actors can be enabled. Through a series of exercises, participants collectively developed a set of building blocks for and principles of co-production, derived from their own activities and experiences in the Greater Horn of Africa region. By comparing these with similar coproduction process and principles, collated within a forthcoming Manual on Coproduction of African weather and climate services and developed within the WISER TRANSFORM project, participants gained confidence in what they had produced together. They also became more aware of the range of actors that need to be involved in successful climate services and went further to elaborate the skills each would need.

Experiences of navigating this process of multi-partner co-production to generate decision-relevant climate services was shared from a variety of contexts. These included:

In addition, experts Patrick Luganda from the Network of Climate Journalists of the Greater Horn of Africa and Diana Njeru from BBC Climate Media Action shared their extensive experience of communicating climate information and how it can ensure co-production is inclusive. Through role play exercises, workshop participants were able to put themselves in the position of various stakeholders and consider the type of weather and climate information they need, and what communication media would be the best way to get it to them.

The workshop also included a session on communicating key climate and weather concepts and working with probabilistic forecast information, as is the format of seasonal forecasts. Understanding how to work with probabilities and discern the reliability of forecasts, and being able to communicate that to others, was recognised by many participants as vital and an area in which they welcomed much greater focus.

Throughout the week, participants jointly developed understanding of the co-production process and what it entails. Many participants realised that they had been practicing co-production, even if unknowingly, whilst also realising how they can better coordinate with a range of actors to generate more useful and useable information, and develop and implement the climate service systems by which the information can reach where it is needed . Before leaving, each country outlined their future plans and how they would be bringing together various actors since, as one participant noted, “Co-producing climate services involves more than just meteorologists.” The peer learning event demonstrated the value of facilitating interactive exchange and learning from across the range of WISER-funded and other projects engaged in climate services from different angles, and how this in itself can be a coproduction process.

Webinar on co-production of climate services

Register here for a webinar by WISER on 4 September at 14:00 Johannesburg time, which will share Ten Principles of Co-Production of Climate Services.

*The project, called the W2SIP project, is led by ICPAC and implemented with a consortium of CARE International, the UK Met Office, Columbia University International Research Institute for Climate & Society (IRI) and North Carolina State University. W2SIP is explained in more detail here on the WISER website

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