Photo: LandInfo App training in Nakuru, the fourth-largest city in Kenya after Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu. Credit: ATPS. - Photo: 2018

African Experts Decry Information Gap on Climate Change

By Justus Wanzala

NAIROBI (IDN) – Climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts in Africa are being undermined by lack of information on climate issues among the public, policy-makers and leaders in Africa, leading to poor and delayed decision making as well as untimely undertaking of remedial actions.

This emerged during a Regional Climate Change Dialogue and Training Workshop organised by the African Technology Policy Studies Network (ATPS) held on June 25-27, 2018 in Nairobi.

ATPS is a trans-disciplinary network of researchers, policy-makers, private sector actors and the civil society that promotes the generation, dissemination, use and mastery of science technology in Africa.

Under the title of ‘Bridging Climate Information Gaps to Strengthen Capacities for Climate Informed Decision-making’, the workshop sought to improve the capacity of policy-makers, scientists, extension agents and farmers to use climate information and technology tools for adaptation planning and decision-making, among others.

Participants stressed the need for Africa to build human resource capacity and facilities for climate information gathering such as weather stations and enhance accurate data collection.

They also agreed that climate issues should be integrated in all sectors in the continent to speed up achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Noting that action on climate change should be a participatory process and not just led by experts, participants called for improved education, awareness, early warning systems, human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation and adaptation to make this possible.

Sam Onuigbo, chair of the Committee on Climate Change in Nigeria’s House of Representatives, told IDN that African leaders must make sacrifices by allocating sufficient resources, besides setting clear goals and understanding the issues, in order to combat the negative impacts of climate change.

Onuigbo also said that the Boko Haram insurgency tormenting several states in Nigeria could be attributed in part to the ravages of climate change.

He explained that due to the receding of Lake Chad and the drying up of grazing lands that have been supporting livestock, herdsmen are encroaching on farmlands in central zones of the county leading to deadly clashes with farmers. “Youth from regions hard hit by drought who have been migrating to urban centres without skills to seek elusive employment and capital to start businesses are easily recruited as fighters into the ranks of the Boko Haram jihadist militant group,” he said.

According to Onuigbo, had the problem been identified a decade earlier and right measures taken, the insurgency would have been nipped in the bud. “Currently it is not only a national problem but a regional one that has engulfed several riparian countries bordering Lake Chad,” he noted.

With huge challenges of funding climate change mitigation and adaptation projects facing the continent, participants argued that regional bodies and the African Union (AU) should provide funds through the African Development Bank (AfDB) and other institutions.

The workshop also discussed the utility of foresight studies which anticipate scenarios and prescription of viable solutions for tackling climate challenges. Chidi Onuoha Magnus, national president of the Sustainable Energy Practitioners Association of Nigeria (SEPAN) argued that such studies are a key tool in long-term development planning.

While pitching for quality and relevant, accurate, recent, comparable and complete information, participants called for the “packaging” of climate and other relevant and actionable information in a simple clear precise way, including translation into local languages besides official languages.

Chidi remarked that the challenges affecting communicating of climate change information mainly stem from the poor quality of information products, unavailability of data at appropriate levels and difficulties in communicating information.

Ralph Von Kaufamann of the African Agribusiness Incubators’ Network (AAIN) said that foresight studies minimise duplication and increase efficiency. Furthermore, “doing away with extension services led to a vacuum in agriculture information provision, thus the need for foresight studies to identify unforeseen challenges,” he noted.

According to Ernest Acheampong, a senior researcher at ATPS, one of the barriers to accessing to information by members of the public in many African countries is the cost of information. “Members of the public who ask for weather information are usually asked by meteorological agencies to pay for it,” he said.

Acheampong added that the information from weather experts that reaches end users is also technical and at times vague, making it hard for recipients to understand.

Workshop participants called for the integration of weather information into national food systems and providing farmers with information that goes beyond weather aspects. Such information, they said, should include market opportunities along the value chains, and disaster management through use of ICT tools such as mobile phones and Internet.  

Tinni Seydou from AGRHYMET, drought monitoring and capacity building center in the West Africa Region, said there is a challenge in understanding climate communication and linking it to development. “Issues such as poor quality of information, unavailability of appropriate data and difficulty in interpreting information undermine effective communication of climate change information to masses in Africa,” he said.

Seydou called for the harnessing of indigenous knowledge to communicate science information. At the same time he noted that climate change information is usually written in languages such as English and French which most farmers in Africa understand poorly. “There is a need to get people from the community to acts as interpreters and also publish the information in key local languages,” he said.

His views were echoed by Alice Kaudia, Environment Secretary in Kenya’s Ministry of Environment and Mineral Resources, who said communities are losing knowledge systems that had enabled them to predict weather patterns. “Traditional climate and weather prediction knowledge skills is a gem that we are alarmingly losing.”

She said African countries should increase the number of weather stations and expand existing ones. “Currently only South Africa has an advanced weather information and data gathering system,” she pointed out.

In an interview with IDN, Kaudia said her ministry has decentralised climate information services to enhance the access of farmers and the public to such information. “Despite various limitations we have county meteorological directors who collect weather information, synthesise it and give to farmers,” she explained.

To ensure wider reach to Kenyan farmers and the public, Kaudia said her ministry runs an Agro-Met information delivery programme that releases information regularly. It also runs radio broadcasts using local languages in areas prone to floods for surveillance purposes.

Nicholas Ozor, ATPS Executive Director, said his organisation is involved in enhancing climate resilience and agriculture production on the continent through development of innovative technologies “Working with our partners we have developed an innovative mobile app called LandInfo that allows farmers to determine land potentials at any specific location.

It provides knowledge and information on soil and climate through a mobile phone app enabling farmers to decide suitable crops for their land under prevailing climatic conditions,” he said. [IDN-InDepthNews – 27 July 2018]

Photo: LandInfo App training in Nakuru, the fourth-largest city in Kenya after Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu. Credit: ATPS.

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate. –

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