Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Building Partnerships to Travel the Last Mile

Credit: Village Reach
Anthony Mills is the CEO of C4Eco Solutions- a climate change consultancy  focused on providing solutions for adapting to climate change. Anthony attended our past workshop in Kampala and provided the following contribution to the blog on the next steps that the CIRDA Programme and its partners need to embark to travel the last mile.

UNDP's CIRDA project recently hosted a workshop in Kampala, Uganda to assist its 11 partner countries to modernize their weather and climate services by finding opportunities to engage with the private sector. The objective of the workshop was simplified by several delegates into the sound bite "how to get the information across the last mile" -in other words to the users of the information, including many of which are currently unable to receive it in a timely and reliable manner.

However, unlike many sound bites, this particular one was kept at the forefront of the workshop and referred to continuously for the simple reason that answering this question is an essential element of actions plans to generate and disseminate weather and climate information to the populations of countries as diverse as Uganda, Burkina Faso and Ethiopia.

In many cases, the information needing to be distributed is available but the person potentially benefitting from it is not aware. For example, meteorologist  and hydrologist may be aware that a certain district is likely to experience extreme flash flooding on a particular day but they do not have the means to get that information across to the people that will likely be exposed to the flooding. In other cases, the information is not available or needs to be packaged in a way that users understand. This may be the case of a rural farmer that may need guidance on what crops should or should not be planted based on the details of a seasonal climate outlook. The farmer may also need to know what the likely price of different crops will be in several month's time when ready to go to market or further information regarding possible crop yields. Most of the CIRDA partner countries are currently not in a position to provide farmers with this sort of seasonal agriculture and market advice.

Delegates in the CIRDA workshop quickly reached the conclusion that to finance the generation and dissemination of information across the last mile will require the building of partnerships amongst a wide variety of sectors. These sectors include (amongst others): meteorological services, mobile phone networks, banking, insurance, aviation and agriculture. More than 70 delegates from across these sectors attended the three-day workshop and many embryonic partnerships were borne out of the enthusiasm that pervaded the conference hall.

Now that the delegates have left Kampala and dispersed across the African continent, how will momentum on building the partnerships and following through on the action plans be maintained? Most countries took the view that further information needed to be collected to nourish the building of further relationships and that round tables needed to be held regularly to keep the discussions alive among all stakeholders. More information, for example, is needed on how meteorological agencies can commercialize part of their operations and on how  met agencies can add value to their existing information so that it can be sold. Questions also exist regarding the use of potential income streams and on whether these would be enough to help agencies maintain and expand their operations. Hundreds of further questions emerged from the lively workshop discussions: Can mechanisms enabling the flow of funds from the aviation sector to met agencies form a useful precedent? Could mobile phone companies perhaps pay met agencies for valuable and highly tailored information that could then be distributed to their users? The result led to a more pressing question on finding ways on how to focus CIRDA efforts.

On the last day of the workshop, four main focal areas were identified that would enable CIRDA's efforts to be coordinated and steered towards traversing the last mile:

  1. Firstly, project teams in each CIRDA country will determine what data is required based on who will be using the resulting information, how the data will be converted and applied in local decision making and what the ultimate objective of disseminating the information will be. 
  2. Secondly, once it is clear what data is required, the teams will determine what equipment and technology is needed to obtain and analyse it and then convert it to decision support information so that  it is packaged in language comprehensible to the end user, and finally disseminate it.
  3. Thirdly, the teams will need to develop a plan for integrating the chose equipment and technology into the existing systems being used  by the met agencies and private sector entities such as mobile phone companies, banks and insurance companies.
  4. Finally,  the teams will need to establish how the new services that they will be providing can generate revenue streams for the long-term maintenance of the new as well as the existing met equipment and technology. 
There will of course be tremendous value for society at large if- for example- flood warning go out on time to vulnerable communities or if agricultural advice based on the latest climate outlook is given to small scale farmers across a country. Monetizing the value is of the utmost important for ensuring that systems are developed and maintained for generating and the disseminating this sort of information for years to come.

The CIRDA team members and advisors are now back in their home countries hard at work on these four focal areas. Watch this space for further news on CIRDA's progress across the last mile.

For more information on the workshop including summary, presentations, country action plans and press release click here.

CIRDA is the Multi Country Programme to Strengthen Climate Information for Resilient Development and Adaptation to Climate Change in Africa. Funded by the GEF and implemented by UNDP, CIRDA is working with 11 countries in Africa (Benin, Burkina Faso, Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Sao Tome and Principe, Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia) to support national climate services in their efforts to collect, analyse and disseminate climate information as a key tool in long term planning and adaptation. For more information, see: www.

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