FATHUM: Forecasts for AnTicipatory HUManitarian action

Lead Research Organisation: University of Reading
Department Name: Geography and Environmental Sciences

Abstract

Disaster managers and development planners from around the world have realized that their skills and expertise could be put into action well before an extreme event happens, to enormously reduce suffering and avoid catastrophe. While this type of action was historically not possible, new "Forecast-based Financing" systems are now being piloted in more than 15 countries. These pilots automatically trigger preparedness actions based on a forecast of an extreme event, providing financing before a potential disaster actually happens.

However, in many flood-prone locations in sub Saharan Africa, the dynamics of flooding are not well understood, nor is there clarity on what should be done if certain types of flooding are forecasted. What is driving the flooding, and the flood forecasts? What preparedness actions build resilience, and which ones undermine local capacities?

The FATHUM team proposes to bring together a group of interdisciplinary researchers who will work with the existing pilots to analyze and research how this new type of Forecast-based Financing system can quickly respond to forecasts of extreme events, while still contributing to long-term resilience goals and reducing the need for disaster response.

The first group of researchers will tackle flooding itself. A mixed group of hydrologists and climate scientists will explore the causes of different types of floods, and identify what atmospheric patterns could allow the most important types of floods to be predicted. Opening two positions for "Applied Forecasting Impact Fellows", much of the research will be carried out by scientists from the African regions that are being studied, and will culminate in recommendations and maps for predictability in other regions that could also implement such Forecast-based Financing systems.

The second group of researchers, will explore further the "why" of flooding. They will investigate the reasons behind the fact that certain floods are more impactful than others, and identify patterns of resilience stemming from local and indigenous knowledge. This will be grounded in an understanding of the rapidly changing environment in sub-Saharan Africa, ultimately helping identify what forecast-based actions can contribute to long-term meaningful change. While there is a good deal of research on both resilience building and disaster response, disaster managers in the existing 15 pilots are struggling to understand what types of action can meaningfully fit in this "forecast-based" middle ground. FATHUM researchers will work directly with the practitioners to explore these answers.

The third research group builds on the first two, examining more concretely how humanitarian systems are currently structured, and where Forecast-based Financing can fit in. Why do humanitarians not already make use of the many types of flood forecasts around the world? FATHUM will map the science-policy-practice interface to identify what promotes or inhibits the use of forecast information, and what "successful" use of such information really looks like.

Lastly, the fourth research stream is an interdisciplinary group of researchers that will explore the potential and constraints for scaling up the concept of Forecast-based Financing. Integration with existing systems, such as safety nets and risk insurance schemes, will be explored collaboratively with the existing pilot projects.

Ultimately, FATHUM is a novel combination: expertise from academia that is integrated seamlessly into existing disaster risk management projects, allowing practitioners to work with scientists to self-examine and reflect on a game-changing new way of working in the humanitarian sector. Critical scrutiny of the hydrometeorological aspects as well as the socioeconomic implications of taking action based on a forecast will provide a foundation for humanitarians and development practitioners worldwide to build on in their own applications of this concept.

Planned Impact

The research proposed in FATHUM has been designed to both strengthen the significant investment in 'Forecast-based Financing' pilot studies from several governmental donors and to inform policy within UN initiatives which feature FbF, such as 'Anticipate, Absorb, Reshape' (A2R), launched at COP21. FATHUM will combine research excellence with development and capacity-building impact. These joint considerations are embedded in the programme of work from the outset.
The intended beneficiaries of the research are spread across a variety of scales.
FATHUM will enable national Red Cross Societies and the World Food Programme to reach local communities with targeted and appropriate humanitarian action in advance of a disaster occurring, thereby reducing the impact of disasters on lives and livelihoods
FATHUM will strengthen the national capacity of the Mozambique Red Cross Society and Uganda Red Cross Society to implement and evaluate ongoing Forecast-based Financing pilot studies, as well as linking with similar pilot projects in Tanzania, Ethiopia and Togo through the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre. It will also help to develop operational forecasting capabilities and influence national policymakers to strengthen early warning systems in these countries.
FATHUM will grow the capabilities of international actors such as Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, the World Food Programme, the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and others to integrate the best scientific-expertise into their Forecast-based Financing operations.
FATHUM will make a timely contribution to international disaster risk reduction and resilience frameworks and policy development, including the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and A2R. It will produce findings that will influence policies around early-warning, preparedness and anticipation within organisations such as the UK Department for International Development, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, Food and Agriculture Organisation and World Food Programme.
The research findings are intended to inform the future development and implementation of international development and humanitarian policies and mechanisms, and to provide current and potential FbF donors with recommendations and tools to better understand and engage with mechanisms for science-based decision-making to help apply uncertain forecasts for early and informed action before a disaster, thereby benefitting those people most vulnerable to climate-related disasters.

Publications

10 25 50
publication icon
Alfieri L (2018) A global network for operational flood risk reduction in Environmental Science & Policy

publication icon
Coughlan De Perez E (2017) Should seasonal rainfall forecasts be used for flood preparedness? in Hydrology and Earth System Sciences

 
Description Start Network
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact Tobias Pforr worked with the Start Network to understand decision-making processes and construct a guidance document to improve their approaches.
URL https://start-network.app.box.com/s/uh08qvmeqmbzk1z3ej5hqa64dkfatbk7
 
Description Weather and Climate Information Services for Africa (WISER) Programme
Amount £250,000 (GBP)
Organisation Government of the UK 
Department Department for International Development (DfID)
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start  
 
Description Zambia Water Resources and Management Authority (WARMA) 
Organisation Water Resources Management Authority Zambia
PI Contribution The FATHUM team are helping WARMA to use the Global Flood Awareness Systems to support monitoring of river levels and building flood early warning capabilities in Zambia.
Collaborator Contribution WARMA are supporting the assessment of Global Flood Awareness System forecast skill, and research into the role of teleconnections in driving flood hazard in Zambia.
Impact WARMA are now including Global Flood Awareness System forecasts in their hydrological outlook reports.
Start Year 2017
 
Description 14th November 2017: RCCC meeting with Water Resources Management Authority 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact 14th November 2017: Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre meeting with Water Resources Management Authority to discuss FATHUM and engagement of Zambia
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description 22nd November 2017 - Meeting with FbF German Red Cross Project Delegate for Mozambique 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Initial meeting with the Mozambique Forecast-based Financing Project Delegate from the German Red Cross.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description 3 August 2017 - discussion with the South African Weather Services officials in Cape Town 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact 3 August 2017 - discussion on WP2 in FATHUM, specifically on research planned in the Langeberg, and on Impact-based forecasting, with the South African Weather Services officials in Cape Town
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description 9th July 2017 - Discussion on WP2 in FATHUM to the Langeberg Municipality's Disaster Management official, and Cape Winelands Disaster Management officials 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact 19th July 2017 - Discussion on WP2 in FATHUM to the Langeberg Municipality's Disaster Management official, and Cape Winelands Disaster Management officials, to get their buy-in for the project - presented by Joy Waddell and Carinus de Kock
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description BRACED / SHEAR Seasonal Forecast Learning Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Engagement with practitioners towards co-creating a guidance document about seasonal forecasting.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Dialogue Platform for Forecast based Financing, Berlin 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Several members of the FATHUM project team joined in the Dialogue Platform event. As well as telling practitioners and donors about the FATHUM research, the team listened to the experiences of practitioners about Forecast-based Financing and heard about the latest developments in the Forecast-based Financing initiative which will help guide the direction of FATHUM research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.drk.de/en/forecast-based-financing/
 
Description ECMWF Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Andrea Ficchi, Presentation at ECMWF, Environmental Forecasts Team meeting, 24 October 2018, Reading - "Mapping the impacts of ENSO and IOD on floods timing and frequency in sub-Saharan Africa".
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description FATHUM Annual Meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact At the FATHUM annual progress meeting a number of additional organisations attended as participants:

World Vision UK
Zambia Red Cross Society
Kenya Red Cross Society
South Africa Met Agency
Cape Winelands Disaster Management Centre
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Global Flood Partnership 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Andrea Ficchì, Oral presentation at the Global Flood Partnership conference, Delft (Deltares), the Netherlands, 25-27 June 2018 - Abstract: Andrea Ficchì, Liz Stephens and Hannah Cloke, "Mapping the impacts of large-scale climate patterns on flood timing and frequency over Sub-Saharan Africa using GloFAS".
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Presentation to Steering Committee (DFID, USAID, German Government, OECD, FAO and WB) of DFID Scoping and Design project 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Presentation to Steering Committee (DFID, USAID, German Government, OECD, FAO and WB) of DFID Scoping and Design project on approaches to scaling up forecast-based early action, based on presentation developed for FATHUM WP4.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Visit to JRC, Ispra, Italy, 16th-17th November 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentations on FATHUM and WP1 research work, and dialogue on the coordination of the activities for FATHUM and GloFAS development.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017