African policymakers get new, reliable climate data

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  • Researchers have created factsheets on climate change for African policymakers
  • The factsheets focus on African regions and nations such as Malawi and Zambia
  • An expert says that reliable climate change data could aid agriculture in Africa

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[NAIROBI]  Climate change in Africa is least-researched and poorly understood, but a new report could help decision-makers get reliable scientific information about it to aid planning.
The report, from Future Climate for Africa (FCFA), has new information that could be used in decision-making, leading to great potential benefits for millions of Africans affected by climate change.
Julio Araujo, FCFA research officer based in South Africa, says that scientific literature on climate change in Africa is significantly low.

“Working with decision-makers to produce appropriate information that is usable will lead towards positive changes in the policies and investments.”

Julio Araujo, Future Climate for Africa (FCFA)


The FCFA, a five-year, £20 million (almost $25 million) programme with funding from the UK Department for International Development and the UK’s Natural Environment Resource Council, began in 2014 and has groups of researchers creating climate change data to aid policymaking in Africa.
A statement released by the FCFA on the report this month (9 November) says: “Climate modelling indicates that east Africa is expected to warm in the next five to 40 years, although changes in rainfall are much less certain,” adding that extreme events such floods and droughts could increase in the future.
However, lack of scientific data makes the region to be severely understudied.   
According to the report, Southern African economies are exposed to weather and climate vulnerabilities, and sectors such as agriculture, energy, and water management are most effected.

Essential resources, therefore, are at great risk but most government departments still depend on planning based on a three-to five-year time horizons, ignoring that climate projections are based on decades-longer timeframes.
The report explains that past data being applied by ministries could be inaccurate because of wrong assumptions, noting that climate change could negatively impact African economies, especially in the future if it is not addressed.
The report  has 15 factsheets covering specific regions including East Africa, Southern Africa, Central Africa and West Africa and six countries — Malawi, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.
“In order to effectively influence relevant policies in a country or region, you will need to engage with the relevant decision makers at that scale,” Araujo tells SciDev.Net. “Working with decision-makers to produce appropriate information that is usable will lead towards positive changes in the policies and investments, which will in turn benefit the smallholder farmers who are adversely impacted by climate change.”
Daniel Olago, an environmental geoscientist at the Institute for Climate Change and Adaptation, University of Nairobi, Kenya, concurs and attributes  low research on Africa’s climate change to challenges such as widely spaced weather stations and missing data, few meteorological scientists in research and a more "chaotic" climate system.

According to Olago, there is a need for reliable scientific information about the continent’s changing climate because sectors such as agriculture and pastoral livestock depend largely on rainfall and support the livelihoods of many people.
“The changing climate is … resulting in changes in the timing, distribution, intensity, and amounts of rainfall during the seasons relied upon for planting or natural replenishment of pasture,” he tells SciDev.Net.
This has resulted in major crop and livestock losses, depressed and variable productivity, with concomitant adverse impacts on people’s livelihoods and well-being, Olago adds.
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.