In 2016, El Niño-driven weather patterns significantly contributed to causing an intensification of global food insecurity. An analysis of the 2016 El Niño event, which affected more than 60 million people worldwide, revealed that a major part of the exposed population was uninformed and unprepared for the pronounced climate anomalies. According to the World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Risks Report 2018, extreme weather events and temperatures are among the most pressing global challenges in terms of impact and likelihood. As a result, a single event can push vulnerable people further into poverty and destroy hard-won development gains.
Enhanced understanding and access to weather and climate information is a critical component for reducing climate risks and increasing societal resilience and preparedness for climate variability and change. However, even where relevant weather and climate forecasts are available, often this information is not meaningful, accessible or understood by most user groups, especially smallholder farmers in remote rural areas (Carr and Onzere, 2017).There is a need for user-tailored information about the past, current and future climate to enable smarter decision-making. To coordinate and guide these initiatives, heads of state, governments and scientists worked together on the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS) at the Third World Climate Conference (WCC-3) in 2009. When the GFCS launched in 2012, it introduced the User Interface Platform (UIP) as one of the basic components for developing climate services. The UIP promotes interaction between users and providers of climate services to improve the messaging and delivery of climate services to fit users’ needs.
Climate services support the achievement of the recently established landmark global agendas, including the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 (UNISDR, 2015), the Paris Agreement of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC, 2015) and Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (UN, 2015). Weather and climate information on a broad range of spatial and temporal scales are vital for the promoted National Adaption Plans (NAPs), climate risk assessments and achieving the climate-sensitive sustainable development goals. Such information provides for multi-hazard early-warning systems that enable proper disaster preparedness and help safeguard lives and livelihoods. The Climandes project in Peru offers an example of successful implementation of such vital climate services.
The Climandes Project: Climate services for the Andes
The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) launched Climandes (Servicios climáticos para el desarrollo) in 2012 under the Global Programme Climate Change and Environment. It is one of the eight prioritized projects of WMO for the implementation of the GFCS. This partnership between the Peruvian National Meteorological and Hydrological Service (SENAMHI) and the Swiss Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology (MeteoSwiss) aimed to develop and provide climate services for the agricultural sector of the Andean highlands with an emphasis on food security in subsistence farming. After two three-year project phases, Climandes has successfully translated the GFCS into practical solutions at the local level, increasing the resilience of agricultural communities in the Peruvian Andes.
Puno, located about 4 000 metres above sea level in the southern Andes highlands, is one of four Peruvian regions with a very high food insecurity (INEI, 2013), and one of the two focus regions for the Climandes pilot. Puno’s 1.4 million inhabitants account for 5% of Peru’s total population. Some 43% of the population work in the agricultural sector – a majority in small-scale subsistence farms (INEI/MINAM, 2013). These smallholder farmers are especially exposed to the impacts of adverse weather and climate events due to high inter-annual climate variability and weak adaptive and rebuilding capacities.
A prototype for user engagement
The specific activities for setting up a UIP have not yet been well-defined or specified in an implementation-ready manner. In fact, a recent review of the GFCS concluded that "the purpose and functioning of a UIP is not well understood by many climate service producers and users" (Mid-term Review of the Global Framework for Climate Services, WMO, 2017, www.wmo.int/gfcs//ibcs-5). To address this issue, the Climandes project developed a prototype UIP designed for strong engagement with key stakeholders. These include information providers, intermediary users, such as sectoral experts and representatives as well as local communities and small-scale farmers.
Two-stage approach for evidence-based action2
SENAMHI and MeteoSwiss implemented the pilot UIP in a structured two-stage approach in order to co-develop climate services and tailor them to specific users and user groups.
The first stage provided the evidence necessary to plan subsequent action in the second stage. It mapped out all the relevant stakeholders, integrating sectoral expertise and building strategic alliances. SENAMHI and MeteoSwiss also conducted a representative household survey assessing climate vulnerability of 726 small-scale farmers in fifteen districts of Puno. The investigation identified their major climate-related agricultural problems, evaluated their decision-making processes and helped to determine their weather and climate information needs. It revealed that the farmers frequently suffer from significant crop failures due to climate-induced hazards, especially frost and drought events. These harvest losses directly translate into food security problems as they have limited ability to recover. There was considerable potential for increased use of weather and climate information, but their integration into decision-making appeared to be hindered by four key constraints: accessibility to, comprehension and accuracy of the weather and climate information, and, not least, the lack of acceptance (or trust) of the provider and their products.
From the survey data, an economic model was able to estimate the potential value of improved access to frost warnings: a 10% increase of quinoa harvests, valued at US$ 2.7 million per year for the Puno region. Communication of such potential socio-economic benefits to policymakers could raise awareness and, hopefully, increase public investment in climate services.
The second stage, building on the data gathered in the first stage, put climate services into practice. Particular attention was paid to the development of user-tailored climate services through the involvement of end-users in two rural communities SENAMHI and MeteoSwiss held monthly climate field workshops to establish regular input and feedback. These workshops aimed to raise farmers’ awareness, help them overcome the factors affecting their use of this information and evaluate the impact and benefit of those services. It was found that co-developed climate services in Climandes had significantly increased the user communities’ trust in SENAMHI and improved the use of scientific information in agricultural decision-making (‘acceptance’) in order to fulfil their potential socio-economic benefits. Farmers also reported that the information provided coincided with reality – thus was accurate.
In response to the farmers’ preferred ways of receiving communications, SENAMHI established two distribution channels to better reach the target population – thus addressing accessibility. The regional SENAMHI office in Puno now delivers weekly text messages via SMS with forecasts and early warnings of frost and drought events. Two radio stations also provide daily weather predictions in the local languages Quechua and Aymara as well as in Spanish. However, the understanding of weather and climate information still remains a critical point in the user community and improved only slightly over the period of intervention – that is comprehension.
Empowering climate provider and user communities
The GFCS found that co-developed climate services are not well-resourced at the institutional level of many meteorological services, especially in developing countries and countries with emerging economies. Climandes chose the twinning approach as it enables capacity development in all GFCS areas through peer-to-peer training, provision of continuous support and coaching to both providers and end-users.
Capacity development through innovative education and training activities was another focus of the project. Through Climandes, e-learning has been implemented at SENAMHI, which now manages its own e-learning Moodle platform. SENAMHI hosted blended learning courses that combined online and classroom courses. This was a very effective means for providing information on specific climate service-related topics, spanning from data quality and seasonal forecasts to methodologies estimating the socio-economic benefits of climate services. The courses attracted international participation and encouraged information exchange between meteorological professionals in the region: for example, through monthly online briefings on seasonal forecasts. Student exchanges within the region as well as between Switzerland and Peru supported the development of the necessary capacities. Climandes also contributed to the WMO Regional Training Centre (RTC) in Peru and to the efforts of the WMO Regional Education and Training Programme. As a result of the training activities, WMO appointed SENAMHI in June 2018 as the second component of the RTC-Peru, in tandem with the National Agrarian University UNALM.
Filling gaps on the provider side
The early engagement of users revealed their requirements for climate services. These helped SENAMHI to develop their products and highlight the necessary scientific, technical and operational capacities needed to produce them. The limited availability of high-quality observations, a prerequisite for climate services, posed a major challenge in the study region. To tackle this issue, SENAMHI introduced homogenization (removal of non-climatic influences) of observational time series, quality control procedures and developed gridded daily datasets (merging station data and satellite datasets). Based on this improved data on temperature and precipitation, user-relevant indices were then monitored. These indices were derived from the user surveys and further refined with a combination of expert analyses of the meteorological and agronomic data. A climatological analysis was also conducted of indices such as consecutive days below certain plant-specific temperature thresholds during the growing season, and drought indices which capture the water requirements of crops. This enhanced information was of direct interest for various user groups in the agricultural sector and now strengthens SENAMHI’s advisory role, particularly for drought, frost monitoring and warning.
Another significant achievement is the continuous verification of SENAMHI’s seasonal forecasts. This has led to prototype forecast products that include information on the forecast quality ("skill") in addition to their uncertainty. These prototypes are currently being tested on selected users in order to avoid any risk to their credibility. In Climandes, the SENAMHI statistical seasonal forecasts for seasonal mean values of temperature and precipitation have been complemented with dynamical European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) seasonal forecasts, which now include agro-specific indices.
SENAMHI’s increased scientific, technical and operational capacities permitted the Service to organize the first Data Management Workshop in the South American region, which attracted 150 participants from 15 countries. The event, an effective step towards spreading Climandes, permitted an exchange of information between meteorological service providers and professionals of the region.
Proof-of-concept – The two-stage approach was an important factor in the success of the project. Climandes demonstrates that evidence-based climate services need to be developed by a team that includes a variety of stakeholders – individual smallholder farmers, private and public partner institutions and national governmental institutions. Moreover, expertise from natural, economic and social sciences as well as traditional knowledge plays an important role in understanding the relevant decision-making processes. As a result, the two-stage approach for the pilot UIP involved a number of generic elements that can be applied to other sectors with quite different user profiles. Climandes provides a proof-of-concept that the GFCS User Interface Platform (UIP) is a suitable tool that can be scaled up geographically and into other contexts and sectors.
Early user engagement – The involvement of the user community from an early stage was crucial for implementing climate services and seeing the benefits. Through the user-participatory approach, Climandes managed to overcome to a great extent the four key constraints (lack of accessibility, comprehension, accuracy and acceptance) to the use of weather and climate information. The SENAMHI regional office played an important role in the effective provision of climate services as they have hands-on knowledge of the hazards to which local communities are exposed and the ability to reach out and engage with the local population. As such, decentralized resources of meteorological services in the implementation countries remains essential to establishing and maintaining the UIP.
The twinning approach – SENAMHI and MeteoSwiss found the twinning approach successful. Emphasis was put on a wide spectrum of capacity-development elements and less on infrastructure investments. All activities were developed in collaboration with the regional and national offices of SENAMHI and MeteoSwiss, which included peer-to-peer interaction, on-the-job training and building professional networks. As a result, SENAMHI has grown stronger technically and institutionally and now brings valuable expertise in user-driven climate services to the region.
Inclusive climate services – The Climandes project demonstrated that improved access to weather and climate information for the most vulnerable significantly enhances their disaster preparedness and contributes to protecting their livelihoods. Climandes strived for unrestricted and unlimited access to climate services for vulnerable groups, especially the poor, the under-educated and women. Climandes contributes to the GFCS and the global agendas by improving the climate adaptation capacities of agricultural communities in the Peruvian Andes. The estimated potential socio-economic benefit of enhanced use of climate and weather information is likely to exceed the costs of developing and maintaining the provision of that service.
The new MeteoSwiss and SENAMHI Report is available on: www.meteoswiss.admin.ch/content/dam/meteoswiss/de/Forschung-und-Zusammen...
Carr, E. R and Onzere, S. N., 2017. Really effective (for 15% of the men): Lessons in understanding and addressing user needs in climate service from Mali. Climate Risk Management.
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), World Food Programme (WFP) and World Health Organization (WHO), 2017. The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017. Building resilience for peace and food security. Rome, Food and Agriculture Organization.
INEI/ MINAM, 2013. Resultados Definitivos: IV Censo Nacional Agropecuario – 2012. Instituto Nacional de Estadística e Informática / Ministerio del Ambiente. Lima, INEI / MINAM.
World Meteorological Organization, 2017 (2017). Mid-term Review of the global framework for climate services. Gerlak, A. K., Zack, G. Knudson, C.
World Economic Forum, 2018. The Global Risks Report. 13th edition, WEF, Geneva, 2018.
2 A checklist for the proposed two-stage approach for designing user-driven climate services can be found in the report.