Climate services can be an instrumental agent in enabling locally-led adaptation
Beyond the alarming long term impacts of climate change, one of the most important factors affecting decision-makers is the increased yearly and seasonal climate variability that they need to adapt to, especially at the local level. Communities are at the forefront of bearing the consequences of climate impacts and yet hold very little decision-making power. It is crucial to empower the local communities to marshal their own resilience against climate vulnerability. Climate services can be an instrumental agent in enabling locally-led adaptation through providing local stakeholders with decision-making tools.
Climate services are climate information and products that aid end-users in decision-making processes through enhancing their knowledge about climate impacts. These end-users can be stakeholders engaged in sectors such as agriculture, aquaculture or health, whose livelihoods are affected by climate impacts such as heatwaves, cold-waves, flooding or droughts. For example, if farmers or fishers receive a forecast indicating a high risk of extreme rainfall or temperature, they can modify their decisions on when and how to plant crops or spawn fishes.
In the recent Gobeshona Global Conference-1 in January 2021, climate services and their implementation in different sectors and regions were featured as a major theme in 6 sessions. Different organizations like Columbia University’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI), Bangladesh Meteorological Department (BMD), International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), ICCCAD, the Bangladesh Academy for Climate Services (BACS), Oxfam, Concern Worldwide, WorldFish, to name a few, highlighted their use of Climate Services in locally-led adaptation across different countries.
The emergence of climate services in East Africa and Latin America
East Africa has seen an increased incorporation of climate services to its national policies in recent years. Enhancing National Climate Services (ENACTS), designed by IRI, is a dataset merging satellite and station data, developed with National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMOs) to improve availability, access, and use of climate information for local decision-making, across 17 countries of Africa, 1 in Asia (Bangladesh) and one in Latin America. The IGAD Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC) accredited by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), is in charge of delivering climate services to Eastern Africa, by strengthening the capacity of member states. ICPAC implements online interactive tools called ‘Maprooms’, such as the Meteo Rwanda Maproom, and trains institutions to use them. Participatory Integrated Climate Information Services for Agriculture (PICSA) is another unique approach of using participatory planning for local agricultural activities using locally-relevant climate information for capacity building of farmers and their decision-making.
In Latin America, a strong relationship exists between meteorological institutes and the agricultural sector. Agro-climatic committees, 41 of which have been formed throughout 10 Latin America countries with 450 participating institutions since 2014, strengthen communication networks and information exchange between different stakeholders including and not limited to ministries, NGOs, farmers, academia. In Guatemala, these committees support the Ministry of Agriculture Livestock and Food (MAGA) in delivering climate information acquired from the Central American Agricultural Council to farmers, regionally. Nationally, MAGA delivers climate information to municipality-level users through ministry representatives. The Agro-climatic Adaptation and Prevention Models project helped increase local knowledge on agro-climate risk through training technical assistants who in turn trained farmers.
The NextGen forecast approach, developed by IRI and implemented with Met Services across the world through IRI-led ACToday project, is an essential component to the development of climate services, which produces objective forecasts at decision-makers’ timescales (weeks to years) in a format tailored to be useful to decision making in specific sectors. For instance, it can help farmers prepare for extreme weather events by giving them an early warning.
Climate Services in Bangladesh
Bangladesh Agro-Meteorological Information Systems (BAMIS) is a portal that disseminates climate information to 30,000 lead farmers after being translated and validated by the Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) Agromet Technical Committee. This portal was developed by DAE under the Agro-Meteorological Information Systems Development Project.
Under the ACToday project, IRI and the BMD developed the ENACTS dataset and accompanied set of free online maprooms (http://datalibrary.bmd.gov.bd/maproom) in Bangladesh in 2019. NextGen seasonal forecasts using ENACTS data were developed with BMD in 2020. This information is tailored based on stakeholder needs for use by national users from different sectors with decision-making processes and ultimately support food security.
‘Agvisely’ is another Climate Services tool developed by CIMMYT using data from BMD and DAE through the USAID supported Climate Services for Resilient Development project. It integrates real-time numerical weather forecast model outputs with crop or fish advisories and automatically provides localized fish and crop species-specific advice to farmers and extension agents in Bangladesh's 491 sub-districts.
Index Based Flood Insurance (IBFI) is a type of insurance that triggers a pay-out using a predetermined threshold based on climate variables. For example, an insurance policy to protect farmers against drought might payout if rainfall levels are below a predetermined threshold within a certain window of time in the growing cycle. In Bangladesh, a number of index insurance pilots are focusing on floods with its first satellite-based agricultural flood index being piloted in 2019 jointly by Oxfam, International Water Management Institute (IWMI), the CGIAR Research Programs CCAFS and WLE, Green Delta Insurance Company (GDIC), Swiss Re, and SKS Foundation. BDT 2,617,200 (USD $30,850) and BDT 55,200 (USD $650) were paid after calculation as compensation to households in the two participants sub-districts Fulchari(Upazilla in Gaibandha) and Sughatta (Upazilla in Gaibandha) respectively, for flood damage to crops incurred between August and October 2019. IRI is also conducting complementary research to identify the most promising satellite datasets for flood insurance.
BACS, founded by ICCCAD, IRI, CIMMYT and BMD, works to create and strengthen a trans-disciplinary network of professionals on climate services and contributed to capacity building through interactive training on Climate Services for Food Security (2018), Climate Services for Aquaculture (2019), and Index Insurance (2020). These trainings have helped communicate to the stakeholders the climate impacts affecting decisions, needs for climate information and processes to improve information integration into decision-making processes. BACS is the very first national climate services academy, with other countries trying to replicate this model to sustain the networks and communications around the issue of climate services.
Lessons Going Forward for Bangladesh
Bangladesh can take inspiration from the successful and exciting examples of integration of climate services into adaptation strategies in East Africa and Latin America. While Bangladesh has Agromet technical committees to validate climate information, regional agro-technical committees are yet to materialize. But they are worth replication with their success in including members from all sectors are yet to materialize and bridging the gap between the stakeholders.
While climate services tools like BAMIS and Agvisely can play instrumental roles in reducing climate vulnerability, it is imperative to ensure that they are available and comprehensible to poorest and the most vulnerable stakeholders (farmers, fishers, pastoralists, etc.) with a stronger focus on climate services through sectoral awareness and capacity building, policy integration, and funding allocated to the improvement, translation, communication and use of climate information. Moreover, even the best climate forecasts cannot predict future climate conditions with certainty, so it is crucial to increase users’ ability to understand uncertainty and make the best possible decisions based on the applicability and the accuracy of the forecasts.
While tools like Index Insurance can help reduce the losses associated with the most severe climate hazards, a fraction of the poorest and most vulnerable people will be excluded from the safety net of insurance because it carries the burden of paying a premium regardless of how small the amount. As a result, insurance products should be considered in association with social safety nets and as part of a broader package of complementary strategies rather than stand-alone products.
While BACS has taken some important steps in capacity-building of farmers and local communities, it aims to keep raising awareness among local stakeholders and policy-makers about the importance of using climate services; and support the strengthening of the link between the producer of the information like BMD and the different sectoral users of climate services. As the same climate information can be adapted for use in different sectors to inform their decision-making process and reduce climate impacts, a strong network between all stakeholders is crucial. Only with collaboration and support of all actors can a strong climate services ecosystem be developed to enable locally-led adaptation in Bangladesh.
Towrin Zaman works at the International Centre for Climate Change and Development as a Research Associate, primarily focusing on Climate Finance.
Mélody Braun works as Senior Staff Associate at International Research Institute(IRI) for Climate and Society specializing in Finance Risk Manager and Bangladesh country lead for IRI Adapting Agriculture to Climate Today for Tomorrow (ACToday).