The “Weather Info For All” Initiative
In 2008 Kofi Annan launched “Weather Info For All” (WIFA). Launched at the Global Humanitarian Forum, it brings public and private partners together to improve the meteorological information that is available to local communities, notably farmers and fishermen whose livelihoods and security are directly influenced by the weather. By deploying up to 5.000 automatic weather stations (AWSs) at wireless network sites across Africa, the Initiative is reinforcing the capacity of National Meteorological Services (NMSs) to provide accurate local weather forecasts and early warnings.
Climate change alters weather patterns and can cause extreme weather events that increase the vulnerability of local communities. Approximately 70% of Sub-Saharan Africans still rely on farming for their livelihoods. The region is particularly at risk of drought and flood and in some areas agricultural yields are expected to fall by half as early as 2020. Because changing weather patterns complicate sowing and harvesting decisions, and make traditional knowledge obsolete, the provision of accurate meteorological information and services is increasingly important. Fishermen are endangered too, notably by high-impact weather events such as squalls. Each year, some 5.000 people lose their lives on Lake Victoria alone due to storms and accidents.
Accurate weather forecasting is also an essential support for programmes that tackle climate-sensitive diseases such as malaria or dengue fever, for water and energy security, and for air and surface transport services. The WIFA Initiative increases the supply of useful data to all these areas.
The Kofi Annan Foundation recently launched a second project to improve the weather and climate information that farmers and fishermen receive in the Lake Victoria region. Supported by Svenska PostkodStiftelsen, and co-sponsored by the Health and Climate Foundation, the Aga Khan University, and the African Centre of Meteorological Applications for Development, the project is based in Rarieda Constituency in Siaya County, Kenya. Working directly with smallholder farmers and fishermen, it is assessing how well communities are able to use the weather information they receive, and asking whether additional climate services would help to meet their needs. This initiative will improve the lives and livelihoods of thousands of people in the Lake Victoria region.
The current project will be completed by August 2012. It will not only assist NMSs to tailor the services they provide to Lake Victoria’s fishing and farming communities. The survey tools the project has developed, and its approach to working with communities to assess their weather and climate needs, have been shared with National Meteorological and Hydrological Services and Disaster Management Authorities in several countries that face similar challenges, including Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and The Philippines.
The WIFA Initiative and its projects are helping to make reliable weather and climate forecasts relevant and more widely available to some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people, are training staff in National Meteorological and Hydrological Services in several developing countries, and building their capacity. The Initiative will continue to develop its considerable potential and will extend its activities to other regions and countries.