This project has ended |
2011 - 2013

Improved Drought Early Warning and Forecasting to strengthen preparedness and adaptation to droughts in Africa (DEWFORA)

The principal aim of the DEWFORA proposal is to develop a framework for the provision of early warning and response to mitigate the impact of droughts in Africa. The proposal has been built to achieve three key targets:

  1. Improved monitoring: by improving knowledge on drought forecasting, warning and mitigation, and advancing the understanding of climate related vulnerability to drought, both in the current and in the projected future climate.

  2. Prototype operational forecasting: by bringing advances made in the project to the pre-operational stage through development of prototype systems and piloting methods in operational drought monitoring and forecasting agencies.

  3. Knowledge dissemination: through a stakeholders' platform that includes national and regional drought monitoring and forecasting agencies, as well as NGOs and IGOs, and through capacity building programmes to help embed the knowledge gained in the community of African practitioners and researchers.

To achieve these targets, the DEWFORA consortium brings together leading research institutes and universities; institutes that excel in application of state-of-the-art science in the operational domain; operational agencies responsible for meteorological forecasting, drought monitoring and famine warning; and established knowledge networks in Africa. The consortium provides an excellent regional balance, and the skilled coordinator and several partners have worked together in (European) research projects, implementation projects and capacity building programmes, thus building efficiently on previous and ongoing projects in Europe and Africa.

The main impact of DEWFORA will be to increase the effectiveness of drought forecasting, warning and response. DEWFORA will provide guidance on how and where drought preparedness and adaptation should be targeted to contribute to increased resilience and improved effectiveness of drought mitigation measures. More information can be found on the DEWFORA website.

Drought Early warning and Forecasting to strengthen preparedness and adaptation in Africa

Project summary

This collaborative project ran from 2011 to 2013. It met its main aim of developing a framework to help institutions in African countries reduce vulnerability and strengthen preparedness to droughts. The framework addresses monitoring, predicting, timely warning and response to droughts at the seasonal time scale. The project has improved methods for identifying vulnerable regions, considering the increased hazard due to climate change, and proposed feasible adaptation measures.

Key achievements

  • Developing a framework to help institutions in African countries to monitor and predict droughts at the seasonal timescale, and to give timely warnings and respond appropriately
  • Improving methods for identifying vulnerable regions, considering the increased hazard due to climate change, and proposing feasible adaptation measures
  • Developing a protocol for drought forecasting and warning, which includes the science of monitoring and forecasting and can give information on how different groups can use the forecasts to support their decision making
  • Developing a near-real time monitoring and forecasting system based on probabilistic medium-range forecasts and seasonal forecasts
  • Assessing vulnerability and identifying limits in the social capacities to set up early warning systems, which provides crucial information to policy makers
  • Increasing awareness of the potential use of forecast products from numerical weather prediction for sectorial applications, and user-oriented validations by different communities

Approach and results

Assessing effectiveness of drought forecasting

The DEWFORA project has developed a protocol for drought forecasting and warning that includes the science of monitoring and forecasting and can give information on how different groups can use the forecast to support their decision making. Advances in the skill of seasonal meteorological and hydrological forecasts are promising, and DEWFORA has made an important contribution. High-resolution simulations of the projected future climate in Africa show considerable variation in the expected change across the continent. Drought forecasting and early warning remain an effective drought management tool in the future climate. Key limitations to planning for drought are the social capacities to implement early warning systems. Assessing vulnerability helps stakeholders to identify these limitations and provides crucial information to policy makers.

Use and verification of seasonal forecasts for drought applications

In DEWFORA there was extensive use and verification of seasonal forecasts for drought applications in different regions in Africa, and also for the continent as a whole. On the continental level, the project developed a near-real time monitoring and forecasting system based on the Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI), based on the probabilistic medium-range forecasts and seasonal forecasts. These monitoring and forecasting products are available in a test map server developed by the JRC.

Case studies

In different case studies, medium, monthly and seasonal forecasts were tested for their capability to detect drought spells, and to provide input to hydrological models and to statistical downscaling models for crop production, among others. An important outcome was the increased awareness of the potential use of numerical weather prediction forecast products for sectorial applications, and their target validation by different communities.

Need for greater understanding and investment

Realising the full potential of the available science in forecasting and warning needs additional effort. Understanding of the spatial and temporal patterns of drought impacts and socioeconomic trends needs to progress further to increase the use of forecasts. Across all regions, considerable investments in drought monitoring systems, data and (institutional) infrastructure are necessary. Drought forecasting and warning contributes to the effectiveness of development policies on access to water and food security by ensuring that investments will not fail under drought conditions. For example, responses to drought such as increased efficiency in water use or recommendations on the type of crops to cultivate also contribute to environmental conservation, rural development, and climate adaptation.

Further reading

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Framework Programme under grant agreement number 265454.