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[DOUALA, CAMEROON] Farmers from different communities in Senegal will meet climate scientists at a major meeting in Dakar, the country's capital, later in the year to improve communication between them and help boost local disaster preparedness.

Arame Tall, a policy fellow at the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre at Cheikh Anta Diop University (UCAD) in Senegal said, that preparatory meetings between scientists and some of the communities are already proving to be a crucial link in cushioning people from the impacts of climate-related disasters like floods, which swept away hundreds of homes in 2008.

The project, dubbed 'Talking Science, Talking Sense', is run by the UK's Humanitarian Futures Program (HFP), Senegal's National Meteorological Office and the local Red Cross branch. It brings together climate scientists, humanitarian organisations, donors, policymakers and community leaders in regions affected by disasters.

It will enable localised weather forecasting and early warning of impending floods at intervals from three days to three hours to village heads in three target communities in Senegal's Kaffrine region via the Red Cross.

"Communities vulnerable to climate variability, as well as those responsible for supporting them, rarely have direct access to meteorological [data] and climate scientists and institutions," Emma Visman, a manager at the HFP told SciDev.Net.

Monitoring and dissemination of localised weather patterns and forecasts will close a gap, as most forecasting is based on large geographical areas and time scales.

"There are gaps between providers and users of climate information. It is only through sustained and collaborative partnership that humanitarian and development policymakers and community decision-takers will be able to understand how climate data can better inform decision-making," Visman said.

Climate data should be made easily accessible and also simplified, explained and translated into local languages and dialects so that ordinary people can understand, she said.

The year-long pilot phase received £120,000 (around US$194,000) in funding from the Climate and Development Knowledge Network, in South Africa. Other partners include the UK's National Environment and Research Council (NERC) and the Australian government's overseas aid programme, AusAID.

Other donor agencies, scientists and humanitarian aid bodies are interested in the approach, Visman said. While HFP was instrumental in initiating the pilot phase, it will be up to national partners to take the lead in securing longer term funding and in sustaining the momentum of the exchanges, she said.

See below for a HFP video on 'Talking science, Talking Sense':

 

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