By ESS team

Researchers from the Earth System Services (ESS) group at the Earth Sciences Department of the Barcelona Supercomputing Center-Centro Nacional de Supercomputación (BSC-CNS) have spent two weeks in Tanzania and Malawi as part of the FOCUS-Africa project. ESS leads the project case studies on Climate services for food security in these two countries. During the trip, the researchers are meeting the fellow-users of climate services developed in the project, namely local farmers and different meteorological and agricultural institutions, such as Tanzania Meteorological Agency (TMA) and National Smallholder Farmers Association in Malawi (NASFAM).

The aim of these encounters is to test and co-evaluate how developed climate services could support decision-making processes related to food security. For example, farmers are already receiving seasonal predictions related to the onset of the rainy season so they can decide when best to start planting the seeds. 

During the previous conversations with food security stakeholders, BSC researchers saw an increasing interest in receiving climate information at annual and multi-annual time scales, in addition to seasonal. Knowing what temperature and drought conditions are expected for the forthcoming years, for instance, can help stakeholders and local farmers implement adaptation measures to reduce risks and losses associated with climate variability and change. These adaptation measures include investment in new irrigation technologies, sustainable water management, selection of crop varieties, sustainable agricultural practices, agroforestry, post-harvest management planning, and pest preparedness. This information could also be of interest for perennial crop growers, including commercial crops of particular value in this part of the world: coffee and tea. 

Following up on this user requirement for information that could support planning decisions that have 1-5 years-span, such as climate change adaptation in agriculture, the ESS team developed a multi-annual forecast product sheet for the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The first demonstration of the preliminary product took place during the project stakeholder meeting in Mozambique, earlier this year. ESS showcased the product and collected useful feedback from NHMS from the whole region. This helped improve the producte.g. by selecting the highest quality source of information from the multi-model ensemble, climatological, and persistence forecastsand develop an updated product for Malawi and Tanzania. 

Apart from the product sheet, the ESS team has also prepared an online platform offering broader selection of multi-annual forecasts of climate variables and drought indicators. The forecast quality is also displayed on the website to inform stakeholders about the trustworthiness of the forecasts for each specific region, forecast period, and variable or indicator. During the interactions, users are providing feedback on which are the predictions most valuable for them, as well as how such information can continue improving (for example, what are the variables and seasons of interest). Lasting interaction and co-production with decision-makers are essential to developing climate services, as they enable continuous improvements of the climate information to provide usable and actionable information to support food security in the countries affected by the changing climate.

Dragana Bojovic, BSC's principal investigator involved in the FOCUS-Africa project, stated: “Previous interactions with stakeholders from SADC helped us detect the knowledge gap and interest in climate information at a multi-annual time scale. Using the co-development approach we could then create, test, and improve the multi-annual product for food security in Malawi and Tanzania. With the advanced multi-annual product sheet and the app, we are now in a position to present in a tangible way the benefits and constraints of decadal climate forecasts.” And she added: “We keep learning about possible usability of this relatively new type of climate information in the food security domain”.