East African Regional Capacity Building Workshop on Drought Monitoring and Forecasting

Participants at the training workshop on drought monitoring and forecasting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia ©UNESCO

Under the auspices of UNESCO and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, selected national practitioners in Eastern Africa met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 8th to 10th October 2019 to receive training on the application of state-of-the-art methods for drought monitoring and forecasting. The workshop also promoted broader learning on drought risk management and development of knowledge sharing networks.

Drought is a recurring natural hazard across East Africa and reducing its impacts requires a range of actions, including the development and use of early warning systems as part of an integrated drought mitigation plan. This workshop was therefore organized from 8th to 10th October, 2019 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to bring together national representative practitioners from across the region to learn and apply state-of-the-art methods for drought monitoring and forecasting.

Opening Ceremony

Several dignitaries including Mr. Frank Rutabingwa, Senior Natural Resources Expert of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), Addis Ababa; Mr. Samba Harouna Thiam, Head of UN Environment Liaison Office to the African Union Commission (AUC), UNECA and Representative to Ethiopia; Ms. Ana Elisa Santana Afonso, Director of UNESCO, Addis Ababa Liaison Office to AU and EAC, and UNESCO Representative to Ethiopia; Mr. Linus Mofor, Senior Environmental Affairs Officer at the African Climate Policy Centre (ACPC)  gave speeches reiterating the need to capacitate African institutions and experts to address challenges posed by Climate change manifestations such as drought.

Knowledge exchange on drought monitoring and management in the region

After the Opening Ceremony, participants were:

-       briefed on the objectives of the workshop by UNESCO’s Senior Programme Specialist and Regional Hydrologist for Eastern Africa.

-       introduced to the EN-FDM (East Nile Flood and Drought Monitoring) and PCA research including the web portal, navigating the system and examples of applications by PCA. They received a lecture on high-resolution EN-FDM (Overview, data and methods, products, introduction to the EN-FDM interface) and had a practical session working with EN-FDM (navigating the system, selecting datasets, map animations, time series, forecasts, data access and integration with GIS/Excel)

-       introduced to regional hydro-meteorological monitoring activities by the Eastern Nile Technical Regional Office (ENTRO) and ACPC. Presentations given were related to hydrological, flood and drought monitoring. For example: hydro-meteorological monitoring networks, crop monitoring, flood and drought monitoring, use of short-term and seasonal forecasts, data sources, etc. What data are used for monitoring? What long-term climate data exist? How are they collected and how are they used?

-       introduced to Soil Moisture (SM) Remote Sensing (RS) through a lecture covering definitions, sensors, retrieval methods, data products and uses, limitations] and practical (Working with remote sensing soil moisture data [Downloading and processing SM data, basic analyses].

Training in the early warning methods and the AFDM tool

-       Participants received training on the African Flood and Drought Monitor (AFDM). The AFDM is a powerful and versatile web-based tool that can monitor and predict periods of flooding and drought by providing up-to-date data for more than 20 different meteorological and hydrological variables, as well as allowing the user to visualize and download region-specific data.

-       Participants were introduced to Water Balance (WB) Application through a lecture covering: definitions, WB calculations with RS, uncertainties; and practical on estimating the water balance (Simple analyses of the water balance, estimating potential recharge, comparing dry and wet years)

-       Participants received a lecture on Drought Analysis (covering concepts and methods, drought terminology, characteristics, indices, drought risk, drought monitoring) and went through a practical session on conducting drought analysis with the EN-FDM (i.e. drought identification, working with multiple data products and indices, estimating impact on agriculture).

-       Participants worked in groups implementing workshop learning for case study catchment (i.e. extract EN-FDM time series for catchments, drought analysis in Excel, compare with spatial data).

Applied exercises focused on participant country needs, and discussion of ways forward. 

-       Participants continued to work in groups implementing workshop learning for case study catchment (i.e. extract EN-FDM time series for catchments, drought analysis in Excel, compare with spatial data).

-       There were discussions on the utility and appropriateness of the system to water resources management and early warning in the region. Can it be used to provide useful warning on drought conditions? How does it interface with existing methods? Quick survey of expectations before the workshop started, and whether these were met afterwards.

-       Participants discussed what improvements were needed to be made to the system (upgrades, missing processes, data sources, forecasting)?

▪             Possible development of new products and training for future editions.

▪             System updates on site or at PCA?

▪             How do monitor users wish to communicate with Princeton?

▪             Approaches for incorporating validation/observations in the system?

▪             Needs and challenges of adding new forecasting components?

-       Participants also discussed potential collaborative networks based on lessons learnt What would be the objective of the network, how would it be set up and maintained?