The 6th National Climate Outlook Forum (NCOF) in Kenya brought together climate scientists, researchers, governmental officials, development partners, decision-makers, and media representatives from 27th Feb to 1st March to discuss the performance and impacts of the National October to December (OND) 2022 season and present the consolidated objective National climate outlook for the March-May (MAM) 2023 season.
The meeting, which was preceded by co-production workshops at ICPAC on the 14th -18th Feb and from the 20th -21st of February with key sectors such as agriculture, water, energy, health, livestock, and disaster risk management, aimed to provide a national interaction platform for decision-makers, climate scientists, research scientists, users of climate information, and development partners.
During the opening remarks, Madam Monica Orero, the Head of Training and Capacity Building on behalf of the Secretary-General – KRCS, highlighted the need for early warning systems to be complemented with resources and support to ensure effective crisis response. She noted that the KRCS has been working to build the capacity of local communities to respond to disasters by providing training on emergency response, disaster preparedness, and first aid, as well as distributing essential supplies such as food, water, and shelter materials.
In his remarks, the Director of the Kenya Meteorological Department, Dr. Gikungu, emphasized the need to move from a theoretical approach to a more practical approach of the forecast by placing more emphasis on Early Warning systems. He stressed the importance of continued collaboration and partnerships to help mitigate against climate change and unpredictable weather patterns, particularly in the wake of five failed rainfall seasons.
Representatives of various sectors such as KRCS, NDMU, NDMA, NDOC, Ministry of Water and Energy, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Energy, and Health were present at the meeting, which was held at the Boma Hotel in Nairobi.
The main objectives of the forum included reflection on the performance and impacts of the National October to December (OND) 2022 season, presenting the consolidated objective National climate outlook for the MAM 2023 season, discussing the implications of the MAM 2023 climate forecast and management strategies, providing a national interaction platform for decision-makers, climate scientists, research scientists, users of climate information, and development partners, and releasing the outcomes of the forum and the NCOF6 statement.
The forum’s outcomes and the MAM2023 long rain season forecast were announced during the press briefing. The meeting was an opportunity for stakeholders to come together and work towards building more resilient communities that are better equipped to face the challenges of the future.
By : Misiani Zachary*, Linet Onyango, Paul Anywayo
The current heavy rainfall being experienced in Kenya has led to significant damage to properties and loss of lives. The country is still recovering from the effects of the drought, which has had a devastating impact on the livelihoods of millions of people. The Kenya Meteorological Department had earlier predicted that the “Long Rains” season would begin on the weekend of March 11th, 2023, with light to moderate rainfall in some areas. However, the rainfall intensified and spread to various regions of the country from March 13th, 2023, causing significant destruction. The “Long Rains” season is a crucial period for Kenya’s agricultural sector, particularly in the Western, Rift Valley, and Central regions, as it provides the much-needed moisture for planting and growing crops. However, the current heavy rainfall has led to flash floods, landslides, and other related disasters, which had disrupted transportation networks, and displaced communities. (REF. No: KMD/FCST/4-2023/SR/01)
Humanitarianism originates from noble efforts to “alleviate the suffering of distant strangers, save lives and enable those suffering to maintain their human dignity during or after a natural disaster or man-made crisis”. The principles of independence, impartiality, and neutrality pioneered by the International Committee of the Red Cross are still being alluded to by International Organizations and NGOs in justifying short-term material distribution to meet basic needs and actions requiring legal and physical protection. Humanitarian assistance has become unique from a national social protection policy and development assistance programs initiated by States and International Organizations after 1945.
Five years after the adoption of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015 2030, the concept of building resilience amongst communities to flooding is still a major concern in developing countries. This is evident from the ever-increasing flood events across Kenya and the inability of communities affected by floods to act appropriately prior to a flood event. Kwale County, in Kenya, the example of this study typifies this situation. Kenya Red Cross Society implemented a project whose goal was to strengthen institutional and community capacity in anticipatory flood risk management. The project employed the early warning services (EWS) model in understanding knowledge of flood risks. To investigate flood risk in Kwale County, openly available geo-information tools were used in the systematic collection of information to understand areas exposed to floods, the communities affected and the impacts they experience. These tools include; the Height Above Nearest Drainage (HAND) that identified flood-prone areas and dwellings at risk of flooding from satellite imagery analysis.
As disaster occurrence continue to rise particularly in developing countries, cases of humanitarian crises have been growing. Thus, there is interest in paradigm shift to proactive response in anticipation of the disasters to save lives, livelihoods and save humanitarian actors from the enormous cost that they would otherwise incur in event of crises. This paper highlights the practical experience of developing an anticipatory action system that strengthened proactive response to disaster in Kenya, a country in which disaster occurrence has become a norm. It demonstrates practical challenges in pioneering this kind of a system that demands quality and appropriate data and expertise, while there is no central archive for all relevant data, gaps in coverage of early warning systems and limited capacity to access, interpret and use climate information for decision-making among risk management institutions. So far two anticipatory systems have been developed based on a data driven approach to predict and create anticipation of potential ravaging impacts of climate-related disasters; drought and floods. The systems are already attracting automatic funding allocation from donors to support vulnerable persons in the risky areas to take anticipatory actions to reduce risks and/or impacts of droughts and floods.
The Tana River and Athi River basins are the first and second largest basins in Kenya respectively. The two basins are known to experience flooding during the long (March- April-May) and short (October-November- December) rains and this causes great impact on vulnerable communities living in Garissa, Tana River and Kilifi counties. Some of the impact of the flooding includes; displacement, death, destruction of property, disruption of access to essential health care and related services, irrigation systems and farm equipment, road infrastructure, livelihoods and key installations such as water, sanitation and hygiene facilities. As if that is not enough, these impacts take back the development gains made.
The African continent has a very diverse climatic profile ranging from equatorial to desert with variable levels of rainfall and water flow. In the last 50 years, this variability has been increasingly exacerbated by effects of climate change. Indeed, flood-related impacts and associated economic losses have been on the rise in Africa2, and with the earth continuing to warm, these losses are likely to rise without effective and context-specific mitigation measures being put in place.
Kenya is mostly affected by mudslides and floods during two rainfall seasons, namely March-April-May (MAM) and October-November-December (OND). These landslides, floods and mudslides more often than not lead to loss of human lives, destruction of houses, displacement of people, livestock deaths, and loss of livelihoods among other impacts. This paper highlights the use of earth observation satellite imageries from the Airbus Foundation for post-disaster impact assessment during the 2019 OND rainfall season to support an effective response. On the 23rd of November 2019 during the OND rainfall season, mudslides and floods occurred in West Pokot, disrupting road accessibility, loss of human lives, loss of livelihoods, house destruction, and displacement of people.
This review article provides an analysis of cyclic variations in East Africa that indicate a catastrophic famine event. Using historical and contemporary data, we examine the cycles of drought and famine that have occurred in the region over the past centuries. Our analysis reveals that the frequency and severity of droughts and famines in East Africa have increased significantly in recent decades, with a clear cyclic pattern that suggests a looming catastrophic event in 2028-2035. We explore the underlying causes of these cycles, including climate change, population growth, and political instability, and consider the implications of our findings for future food security and humanitarian aid efforts in the region. Ultimately, this analysis highlights the urgent need for proactive measures to prevent and mitigate the impact of catastrophic famine events in East Africa.
Wajir county is one of the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL) of Kenya located in the North Eastern region of Kenya. The County experiences frequent drought episodes especially from June to September, which impact negatively livestock and crop farming, education, nutrition, and access to water and pasture. On the other hand, the county also experiences flash floods which damage infrastructure and destroys life. The frequency and intensity of extreme climatic events has been on the rise in the recent past disrupting the livelihood of the communities within the ASAL areas and increasing community vulnerability to subsequent disasters. For instance, since 2019, Kenya is among the countries in the greater horn of Africa that has experienced five consecutive failed rain seasons. According to World meteorological organization (WMO), the drought is the longest in 40 years1 disproportionally affecting the ASAL populations.
These threats are expected to intensify because of climate change. However, effective use of data in the development of early warning systems has the potential to reduce the negative impacts of disasters. In Wajir county, efforts are ongoing to strengthen county capacity in disaster preparedness, mitigation, and response. In one of the meetings, with the Wajir county stakeholders that aimed to strengthen their capacity in early disaster preparedness, lack of adequate data was outlined as a major shortcoming and posed a special request to be facilitated in acquiring granular data to support the development of disaster risk management (DRM) plans.
With funding from the HOTOSM-ESA hub, the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) commenced a project in June 2022 that makes use of open map data to understand community vulnerability and adaptive capacities.
To officially launch the project, all the stakeholders, including the HOTOSM ESA hub, KRCS, Wajir County Government officials, and Community representatives, met during the inception meeting in July 2022 to expound the project aims and objectives. The stakeholders were practically shown through demonstrations and field engagements the mapping process, its short-term and long-term objectives, and the importance of the project to the community and humanitarian partners, especially in terms of disaster preparedness and response.
In September 2022, KRCS through its International Center for Humanitarian Affairs (ICHA) (www.icha.net) successfully conducted the first-ever mapathon2 in Wajir county from the 16th to 18th of September 2022 focusing on two wards within the Wajir West sub-county: Ganyure Wagalla and Hadado Athbohol. The three-day mapping event attracted a diverse group of people including officials from Wajir County, geospatial experts, volunteers, and the local community who used OpenStreetMap (OSM), an open-source mapping platform, to create detailed maps of the area. Close to 6,878 building footprints were added to OSM during the event. Participants also gained knowledge of mobile mapping techniques to add point features to OSM. Some of the features added through organic maps included health facilities, pharmacies, water points/ facilities, and financial and learning institutions.
Speaking during the Wajir Mapathon held on 16th September 2022, Abdullahi Mohammed, Wajir North former MCA aspirant and County official said, “I think the maps will help NGOs and governments to make decisions in future or currently… And for easy navigation during disasters.”
This mapathon served as a kick-start to a series of other mapathons aimed at mapping out the entire county gradually.
In October 2022, KRCS-ICHA conducted the second mapathon in Nairobi at Boma Hotel. The event attracted 80 participants drawn from diverse backgrounds and with different skills. There was presence from the OSM Kenya community, youth mappers from the Technical University of Kenya (TUK) chapter, representatives from organizations such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Somalia, university students, and volunteers eager to map vulnerable communities located in Wajir, Tana River and Busia county who are at risk of climate-related hazards. A total of 39,262 buildings were mapped and added to OSM.
Speaking to one of the volunteers, Mary Muthee, a geospatial science student from Technical University of Kenya was elated about her newly acquired knowledge on mapping “… the whole aspect of being a mapper and being able to make an impact in the society through my skill has been the most fulfilling experience and especially being given a chance to map vulnerable areas in a bid to improve early action and response mechanisms in the humanitarian sector through the mapathon”.
Besides this, ICHA also carried out a three-day training from 1st to 3rd November 2022 on the HOT Tasking manager at Wajir North sub-county and Habaswein town. The three-day training saw county staff, community members and volunteers capacity built on data collection using the Kobo-ODK platform and how to use the ID editor on the HOT Tasking manager to map.
So far, the project has added over 52,000 building footprints, 517 km of road, and over 300 features of interest on the open data- OSM platform. The open-access nature of the data creates opportunities for all kinds of organisations, government agencies and not-for-profits to design interventions addressing community vulnerability to disasters.
By involving local stakeholders and volunteers in the mapping process, KRCS-ICHA has been able to create awareness and understanding of the importance of geospatial data and how it can be used in disasters. We have also been able to create a local network of trained individuals who can respond quickly in the event of a disaster. Mapathons are an important tool for disaster preparedness, as they help to create accurate and up-to-date maps, build local capacity, and promote collaboration between different organizations.
The project intends to expand its mapping efforts to cover the entire county, capacity-build local stakeholders on the use of open map data for decision-making, and capacity-build communities on disaster risk reduction approaches.
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