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WISER Pan-Africa reflects on strides made and plans for the future

12/21/2021 | 04:10am

The Weather and Climate Information Services for Africa (WISER) which was conceived and implemented from 2016 has now come to a close.

The curtains for the six-year WISER programme came down in a special "Closing Workshop" that took place in the second weekend of December 2021 at the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

All the major stakeholders and partners who have been involved in WISER from across the African continent and beyond were present at the Nairobi venue for the two-day hybrid reflective workshop including in-person and online participation that marked the auspicious historical moment.

The former UK Department for International Development (DFID), which later merged into the Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO), conceptualized WISER back in 2015 and provided financial support to roll it out in the continent. The heavy task of implementing and operationalizing WISER was entrusted upon the UK-Met Office and the African Climate Policy Centre (ACPC) of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). In making its case for WISER, the Met-Office noted: "Africa's increasingly variable weather and climate threatens development. Agriculture and food security, water, energy, infrastructure and health are already sensitive to weather related shocks. Rising temperatures, changing rainfall patterns and climate related disasters (especially floods and droughts) will erode gains in poverty reduction and set back economic development."

Other core WISER implementing partners included the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS), African Regional Climate Centres (RCCs) notably African Centre of Meteorological Application for Development (ACMAD), IGAD Climate Prediction and Application Centre (ICPAC), Southern African Development Community Climate Services Centre (SADC-CSC), Economic Community of Central African States, Climate Services Centre (ECCAS-CSC) and AGRHYMET Regional Centre for West Africa. Other partners included focal contacts from regional institutions that benefited from WISER Climate Information Services Training, the International Institute of Environment and Development (IIED), the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and the African Academy of Sciences (AAS). Climate Research for Development in Africa (CR4D) and its various organs were all represented in the workshop.

The two-days served as a think-pad to discuss outcomes emanating from all partners' implementation programmes; amalgamation of feedback from all partners; discussions on sustainability of WISER outcomes; collation of experiences from partners on WISER continental and regional activities and agreeing on a way-forward for a sustainable regional climate agenda.

"Climate Information Services are a powerful tool that assists countries and communities to prepare early and appropriately against climate impacts." Jean-Paul Adam the Director, Technology, Climate Change and Natural Resources Division within the ECA noted in his keynote address at the workshop. Adam also acknowledged the critical continental milestones achieved by WISER Pan-Africa. "Through the WISER-Pan African component a strong case has been made for more upfront investments in Climate Information Services by both public and private sectors to build resilience in the continent."

It is instructive to note that the WISER operational framework was anchored on two pillars identified as "components". The first component was hosted as the East African Programme pillar focusing on the Lake Victoria Basin region covering Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. The East African component, pursued the objective of improving the quality and relevance of weather and climate information as well as supporting its usage and uptake.

The Policy and Enabling Environment Component (PEEC) for weather and climate services was the second component of WISER and its outlook was broad as it was primed with a pillar advancing the Pan-African wide focus.

John Mungai, who was the UK-Met Office sub-regional representative of the WISER-East African component, shared success stories with the participants that included the High Impact Weather Lake System (HIGHWAY) Project on Lake Victoria, Developing Risk Awareness through Joint Action (Daraja) in urban areas and the Aircraft Meteorological Data Relay (AMDAR) for upper air observation implemented in partnership with Kenya Airways.

According to the head of the ACPC, James Murombedzi, the WISER project started with a pilot phase to test the concept. Success at the pilot phase subsequently ushered in the first phase.

As participants shared experiences and lessons learned, it was evident that the WISER project has now become a key enabler of prompting the continent to augment action on the climate crisis, and a boost for the attainment of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) in the continent and a key promise of realizing the African Agenda-2063.

Succeeding the pilot phase of WISER was an all-rounded First Phase. "The attainment of the primary objectives espoused during the pilot phase helped trigger the uptake of Climate Information Services by policy and decision makers in the continent." Murombedzi says. "That initial success was replicated in the first phase. WISER has become an essential feature of the nexus between climate variability and sustainable development discourse in the continent warranting continuity to build on the gains so far achieved."

In a look-back format that served as the itinerary for the day one, participants went through the work done on stimulating uptake of CIS. The ACPC's strong case for the social economic benefits (SEB) of investing in climate information services accomplishments were shared. The social economic benefit modelling for disaster risk reduction, as well as covering critical sectors of water, agriculture, and energy were also presented.

ACPC's all rounded approach of building an Africa-oriented CIS community of practice among legislators, diplomatic corps, women focus groups, agricultural cooperatives, civil society actors, private sector, academia, and the youth was also expounded upon with a view of increasing the current engagement to reach the critical mass status in the future. Mapping a CIS value chain, promoting collaboration between regional climate centres and establishing a regional CIS Knowledge Management Platform are some of the WISER milestones identified for CIS coordination in the region.

According to Murombedzi the two-day closing workshop facilitated a comprehensive interrogation of the WISER Project and created a conducive environment which drew up lessons learnt to inform future interventions. While successes were duly noted and acknowledged, the same also followed the challenges experienced.

Like all other facets of life, WISER was not spared the vicissitudes, of the harsh aftermath effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfazed however, WISER quickly realigned its approaches to accommodate the new reality posed by the pandemic.

The hallmark creation of the Climate Research for Development in Africa (CR4D) initiative to lead Africa's climate research agenda complete with the inaugural cohort of 21 post-doc climate researchers who undertook groundbreaking 18-month African focused research priorities was a highlight of the workshop. CR4D rapid institutionalization process with all-inclusive governance structures including a three-tiered management configuration consisting of the Oversight Board (OB), Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) and the Institutional Collaborative Platform (ICP) was duly recognized as a remarkable feat. Key members of CR4D's tripartite management model addressed the workshop and engaged participants in designing scenarios for the future. Yosef Amha of the CR4D Secretariat outlined its achievements and introduced several researchers who shared the findings of their research alongside the multiplier effects of their studies as well as scientific papers in the intensive workshop.

Frank Rutabingwa, coordinator of the WISER project at the ACPC, who presided over the closing workshop said that the main goal of the WISER programme was to "make a step change in the quality, accessibility and use of weather and climate information services at all levels of decision-making for sustainable development in Africa."

According to Mahamadou Nasirou Ba of ECA, through PEEC, the ACPC conducted technical analyses to make credible case for the socio-economic benefits (SEB) application to Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and key economic sectors that are sensitive to climate change impacts in order to encourage and sway investments in CIS, capacity development and advocacy for uptake and use of climate information.

Professor Olivier Nana-Nzepa a partner for the WISER initiative acknowledged that the project has helped build constituencies, enhanced outreach, generated awareness and fortified an enabling environment for CIS uptake which needs to be accelerated in future interventions. According to Linus Mofor, WISER had helped reshape the African CIS narrative by conducting Afro-centric research studies in multisector fields which broadly focused on knowledge management and communication platforms to ensure the messaging is best suited for policy makers and various relevant stakeholders along the entire climate information value chain.

Reflecting on the WISER-Pan African journey Rutabingwa acknowledged the successes so far achieved and called for more support, commitment, resources and rededication to the WISER ideals to build and shape up a continental critical mass acknowledging CIS principles.

On the lessons learnt, Rutabingwa noted that the current continental policy and legislative environment does not provide sufficient incentives for the uptake and use of CIS. "There are numerous fragmented and small scale initiatives, but weak or complete absence of coordination mechanisms"

Rutabingwa also noted that limited funding rendered programme objectives unsustainable. Echoing Rutabingwa's concerns, was the CR4D ICP chair, Mithika Mwenda, who also serves as the Executive Director of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) lamented on the project's short-time line hindering the achievement of desired impacts. Joseph Mukabana of the WMO Regional Office for Africa called for more collaboration on the continental research platform to facilitate co-designing, co-resourcing and co-production of demand driven, user-appropriate climate information services.

Acknowledging that WISER had made progress and laid the ground-work for CIS uptake, participants agreed that the project should be bolstered to reach the all-important critical mass composed largely of CIS "last-mile" users to fulfill WISER's core principles and objectives.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

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(C) 2021 M2 COMMUNICATIONS, source M2 PressWIRE

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