Regarding African countries, most of them have meteorological services that provide weather forecast, but few are able to forecast drought episodes. In addition, when there are systems of early warning, a poor answer has been observed, mainly due to a lack of education, funds and political influence at local level. In opposition, proverbs, adages or observation from the local knowledge are being commonly used for drought early warning.
To tackle this issue, several research European research institutions have been working together to reduce the impact of droughts in Africa by an integrated approach. “Improved Drought Early Warning Forecasting for Strengthen preparedness and adaptation in Africa” (DEWFORA) consortium involved several European institutions and was led by the Stichting Deltares, an independent institute for applied research in the field of water, subsurface and infrastructure which is located in the Netherlands. Some African countries collaborate also in networking activities. The project is funded under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7_ENV), and started in 2011.
The project has been intended to cover the whole chain of natural disaster management, from monitoring and vulnerability assessment to forecasting and warning. Moreover,
dissemination of information has an important place within the project. Moreover, all the studies and developed methodologies have been applied to several case studies, which have been considered representative of different African zones: Limpopo River Basin (Southern Africa), Oum basin (Sahara), Rbia basin (Mediterranean North Africa) and Blue Nile basin (East Africa). A case study regarding the whole African continent has also been considered.
Initially, an assessment of existing drought monitoring, forecasting, mitigation and adaptation capacities, including those based on traditional knowledge (e.g. proverbs) was carried out. Then, different methods for defining drought vulnerability across Africa (indicators) were discussed, gathering the main conclusions in a white paper. The obtained indicators were used to map drought vulnerability at country and lower levels (regional and local); some projections of future climate change were applied to vulnerability assessment tools for predicting future conditions in Africa. Results have shown that Sahara (Oum basin), Mediterranean North Africa (Rbia basin) and southern Africa (Limpolo River Basin) were expected to increase their drought risks, whereas East Africa (Blue Nile) was expected to get wetter.
Since the project is expected to be finished by the end of 2013, several activities have not started yet. The scientific development of a forecasting framework for meteorological, hydrological and agricultural droughts has not been fully developed, although some progresses have been made. Furthermore, the development of an early warning mechanism has been only outlined, highlighting the main aspects that should be taken into account for an efficient risk management. The implementation of improved methodologies in comparative case studies is also pending. In conclusion, the project reaches a level 3 in the TRL scale. With respect to knowledge dissemination, a web-based knowledge sharing platform has been implemented, and several workshops and training courses have been organised within the project. The main outcomes of the project could be used for strategic planning purposes by different stakeholders apart from scientific community, like climate service centres, trade communities, and African weather services.