Forecasts help farmers fight Ethiopia’s climate extremes

Elias Gebreselassie –

Armed with a spear and undeterred by the intense sunlight, Tarekegn Kareto meticulously plucks weeds in his maize field in Argoba village, in southern Ethiopia.
“With both dry weather and unusually heavy rains hitting us in the past year, I’ve lost over half of my harvest of maize and sorghum,” he said. Prolonged drought and erratic rainfall across the country have hit harvests and livestock, eating into farmers’ and herders’ income and meals, experts say. In the second half of 2017, 8.5 million Ethiopians needed urgent food aid, up from 5.6 million in January, according to an August report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.
To remedy this, a project hopes to help Ethiopian herders and farmers access weather information to make more informed decisions and better absorb climate shocks.
It has set up 25 automatic weather stations across Ethiopia’s Afar, Somali, and Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ (SNNP) regions, which supply weather data to government agencies and local communities. The initiative, led by aid agencies Farm Africa and Mercy Corps, is part of the Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED) programme, funded by the UK Department for International Development.
The data helps herders and farmers predict the availability of water and grass for grazing, and allows government agencies to predict and track extreme weather events.
“Although Ethiopia already has automated weather stations, populations in these remote regions have little to no access to climate information,” explained Dereje Agize, programme coordinator at Mercy Corps. Tsegaye Ketema, head of developmental meteorology at Ethiopia’s National Meteorological Agency, said that “with millions of Ethiopians in need of food aid due to very dry weather, access to reliable climate information can literally be a life saver”.
Setting up weather stations in rural areas is part of the government’s Climate Resilient Green Economy strategy, which aims to achieve self-sufficiency in food by 2025.
The BRACED project aims to provide communities with regular and reliable climate information. The Ethiopian met agency, which runs the weather stations, uses the data to share local information on air temperature, rainfall and wind direction, and produce regular climate reports. The forecasts are then broadcast on community radios in local languages. Guleya hopes timely weather information will “reduce the need for pastoralists to migrate or raid neighbouring communities in search of food and pastures”. — Thomas Reuters Foundation