Improving Preparedness to Agro-Climatic Extremes in Malawi (IPACE-Malawi)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: School of Earth and Environment

Abstract

IPACE-Malawi will investigate the impacts of extreme weather events on agricultural systems and contribute to improving the forecasting and delivery of agriculture-specific weather information to improve preparedness of farmers' and humanitarian/disaster response organisations. Through a stakeholder-led process, the project will address some of the gaps in weather forecasting, information and preparedness that compound the vulnerability of small-scale farmers and rural communities in Malawi.

Specifically, IPACE-Malawi aims to: (1) identify critical agro-climatic drought and flood indicators in three districts of central and southern Malawi; (2) test the skill of short term to seasonal forecast tools in simulating these indicators; and (3) co-design agricultural climate services based on these indicators/forecast tools.

Intrinsic to the design and implementation of the project is a commitment to cross-institutional capacity building. As well as being embedded in the cross-stakeholder dialogues that will take place throughout the project, specific capacity building activities will be incorporated into the work, including a contribution to a Met Services training workshop, co-supervised Masters research projects, and a post-doctoral secondment from Leeds to the Malawi Red Cross Society and 510 Initiative.

The work is centred around a participatory process of identifying agro-climatic indices that describe critical weather events (such as two week dry spells after planting) based on recent experiences of drought and floods in Malawi. The skill of existing short-term to seasonal scale tools in accurately forecasting these events at appropriate resolutions will be tested, and on the basis of this understanding of forecasting capabilities and uncertainty, climate services for farmers and responding communities (e.g. humanitarian relief organisations) will be co-developed.

This work builds on existing work on climate impacts and adaptation in Malawi and will feed into both new climate service innovations and the improvement of existing work on forecast-based financing.

The proposal has been developed by an experienced cross-disciplinary team, with expertise in farming systems research, climate science and forecast modelling, climate services, and risk, vulnerability and humanitarian response. The team represents a partnership between the Sustainability Research Institute (SRI) at the University of Leeds, the UK Met Office, the Red Cross 510 Initiative, the Malawi Red Cross Society, and the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANR), Malawi.

Planned Impact

IPACE-Malawi focuses on establishing the science basis and contextual understanding to enhance humanitarian early warning early action systems and develop effective climate services for informing agricultural responses to extreme weather events. In doing so it will contribute to improving drought and flood preparedness and avoiding crop losses in systems that are dependent on humanitarian aid to meet their food needs in such circumstances.

Within the project we will begin the process of co-designing climate services for farming households and early warning early action systems as a foundation for future work. The stakeholder-led and participatory nature of this process is intended to maximise the usability and uptake of the research outputs amongst the target beneficiaries (both vulnerable farming communities and humanitarian aid organisations). If successful, subsequent funding will be sought to further develop and disseminate climate services and to upscale the process of agro-climatic indicator development and forecasting beyond the three districts of this initial study.

By feeding into the work of 510 on forecast-based financing and the GCRF-AFRICAP programme of the University of Leeds and Met Office, the project has two clear routes into research uptake and impact.

The results of this catalyst project will directly input into the ongoing development of the Forecast-based financing pilot funded under the ECHO 2 Enhancing Resilience programme in Malawi. The agro-climatic indicators derived from the project will be used to widen the scope of the danger/trigger levels of the current Forecast-based financing implementation mechanism. 510 has an ongoing partnership with the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre (RCCC) to develop composite index modelling of impacts towards more advanced statistical modelling for impact-based forecasting, within this project. The Red Cross movement is piloting and rolling out FbF in over 10 countries in Africa, Asia and South America. 510 has a partnership with the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre to roll out forecast-based financing in Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda, with the German Red Cross and RCCC in Peru/Ecuador and will start work in the Philippines. Through this work, there is potential to upscale the methodology of the catalyst project to these different countries, with the ultimate objective of putting in place an "agricultural Early Waring-Early Action" system in which Red Cross National Societies (NS) in partnership with governments and other key stakeholders deliver cost-efficient, well-targeted and timely action to the most vulnerable subsistence farmers.

GCRF-AFRICAP is a new £9.2 million research-into-capacity building programme led by the University of Leeds (involving SW, AD and Met Office from the project team), which, in Malawi is focusing on feeding into the development of a National Resilience Policy. Within the programme, there is a planned programme of regional policy dialogue events across sub-Saharan Africa that provide a platform for the presentation and discussion of new research with key agricultural policy stakeholders,. A Malawi dialogue is scheduled to take place in Lilongwe in 2020, coinciding well with the timings of the IPACE-Malawi, and will involve a variety of international research organisations, humanitarian relief organisations, state organisations such as the Malawi Department for Climate Change and Meteorological Services (DCCMS) and the Malawi Ministry of Agriculture, and civil society groups. These dialogues will provide a valuable means to raising the policy profile of IPACE-Malawi work and to explore opportunities for its broader application across sub-Saharan Africa.

Within the project, qualitative evidence about the value addition of agriculture-focused climate services and tools will be collected to support policy messages and proposals for future investment.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description We have analysed the skill of seasonal forecast models with regards to agricultural relevant variables, identified through participatory research with farmers in Malawi. This participatory research revealed the importance of information on rainfall onsets and cessation, and the timing and duration of dry spells within the growing season. Our analysis suggests that existing models have low skill in forecasting these variables directly. However, there is a statistically significant relationship between these variables and total rainfall, which can be predicted with some skill. We are therefore looking into the possibility of communicating some of this probabilistic relationship within seasonal forecast products.
Exploitation Route This will be taken forward through continued work with the Malawi Department for Climate Change and Meteorological Services, to input into and subsequently evaluate, seasonal forecast products. This will include an analysis of methods of different methods of communication, and the use and usefulness of the information in farmer decision making.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment

 
Description Integrating Lessons on Co-Production in Climate Science and Services (under the NERC SHEAR Integration and Impact call)
Amount £150,000 (GBP)
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2020 
End 05/2021
 
Title Climate forecast analysis manuals 
Description University of Leeds and UK Met Office, in collaboration with the Malawi Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services, the Zambia Meteorological Department, and the Tanzania Meteorology Agency, have developed three manuals for running analysis of agricultural variables within climate model data. These cover the following: o Reading in on-station observation data (for purposes of model skill testing) o Evaluating CORDEX data skill o Climate scenario analysis of agro-climatic varibales 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact These are being used to guide ongoing capacity building activities with the Met Agency partners in Zambia, Tanzania, and Malawi, which will include a training workshop in March 2020. 
 
Description Cross-country Met Agency partnership 
Organisation Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services Malawi
Country Malawi 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We have contributed to a training programme on the analysis of climate and weather forecast model skill, this has involved the co-development and running of scripts to analyse historical and forecast data.
Collaborator Contribution Each of the partnering agencies have participated in the identification of key climate variables for analysis, shared input data from their meteorological station networks, and run and adapted the scripts. We have co-organised a workshop that will take place in March 2020.
Impact We have developed three manuals for: (1) Reading in on-station observation data (for purposes of model skill testing); (2) Evaluating CORDEX data skill; and (3) Climate scenario analysis. These are listed under 'Research Tools and Methods'
Start Year 2019
 
Description Cross-country Met Agency partnership 
Organisation Government of Zambia
Department Zambian Meteorological Department
Country Zambia 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We have contributed to a training programme on the analysis of climate and weather forecast model skill, this has involved the co-development and running of scripts to analyse historical and forecast data.
Collaborator Contribution Each of the partnering agencies have participated in the identification of key climate variables for analysis, shared input data from their meteorological station networks, and run and adapted the scripts. We have co-organised a workshop that will take place in March 2020.
Impact We have developed three manuals for: (1) Reading in on-station observation data (for purposes of model skill testing); (2) Evaluating CORDEX data skill; and (3) Climate scenario analysis. These are listed under 'Research Tools and Methods'
Start Year 2019
 
Description Cross-country Met Agency partnership 
Organisation Tanzania Meteorology Agency
Country Tanzania, United Republic of 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We have contributed to a training programme on the analysis of climate and weather forecast model skill, this has involved the co-development and running of scripts to analyse historical and forecast data.
Collaborator Contribution Each of the partnering agencies have participated in the identification of key climate variables for analysis, shared input data from their meteorological station networks, and run and adapted the scripts. We have co-organised a workshop that will take place in March 2020.
Impact We have developed three manuals for: (1) Reading in on-station observation data (for purposes of model skill testing); (2) Evaluating CORDEX data skill; and (3) Climate scenario analysis. These are listed under 'Research Tools and Methods'
Start Year 2019
 
Description Integrating Lessons on Co-Production in Climate Science and Services 
Organisation International Research Institute for Climate and Society
Country United States 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution University of leads have led a proposal to, and secured a grant from, the NERC-SHEAR Integration and Impact call for a project on Integrating Lessons on Co-Production in Climate Science and Services. This is designed to bring together projects funded under NERC-SHEAR to synthesise findings.
Collaborator Contribution There are co-Is on the integration project from each of the listed partner organisations, and they are contributing to the development and delivery of a survey on experiences of co-production in climate services, and will participate in a workshop to be held in September 2020.
Impact Our only output so far is the successful project proposal. The project has been up and running for two months.
Start Year 2019
 
Description Integrating Lessons on Co-Production in Climate Science and Services 
Organisation University of Reading
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution University of leads have led a proposal to, and secured a grant from, the NERC-SHEAR Integration and Impact call for a project on Integrating Lessons on Co-Production in Climate Science and Services. This is designed to bring together projects funded under NERC-SHEAR to synthesise findings.
Collaborator Contribution There are co-Is on the integration project from each of the listed partner organisations, and they are contributing to the development and delivery of a survey on experiences of co-production in climate services, and will participate in a workshop to be held in September 2020.
Impact Our only output so far is the successful project proposal. The project has been up and running for two months.
Start Year 2019
 
Description Integrating Lessons on Co-Production in Climate Science and Services 
Organisation University of Sussex
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution University of leads have led a proposal to, and secured a grant from, the NERC-SHEAR Integration and Impact call for a project on Integrating Lessons on Co-Production in Climate Science and Services. This is designed to bring together projects funded under NERC-SHEAR to synthesise findings.
Collaborator Contribution There are co-Is on the integration project from each of the listed partner organisations, and they are contributing to the development and delivery of a survey on experiences of co-production in climate services, and will participate in a workshop to be held in September 2020.
Impact Our only output so far is the successful project proposal. The project has been up and running for two months.
Start Year 2019
 
Description MSc projects 
Organisation Delft University of Technology (TU Delft)
Country Netherlands 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The 510 Initiative of the Red Cross has partnered with the University of Delft to host two MSc students undertaking research projects linked to the IPACE Malawi project (these are listed under Other Outputs)
Collaborator Contribution Two MSc students (Ileen Streefkerk and Marijke Panis) undertaking projects on seasonal forecast communication and skill in Malawi.
Impact 2 MSc thesis: - Linking Drought Forecast Information to Smallholder Farmer's Agricultural Strategies and Local Knowledge in Southern Malawi - Assessing the forecast skill of agricultural drought forecast from satellite-derived products in the Lower Shire River Basin
Start Year 2018
 
Description Understanding the climate services landscape in Malawi 
Organisation Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services Malawi
Country Malawi 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services (DCCMS) has been involved in the project from its inception. This has helped them better understand the objectives of the IPACE-Malawi project which align well with their efforts to improve and provide sector specific climate services. To further support collaborative research and capacity building, we plan to formalise the partnership by providing financial support and relevant training (through University of Leeds funding) to improve the understanding and usage of state-of-the-art climate science available for Africa to improve their capacity in providing relevant climate services.
Collaborator Contribution Since DCCMS has been involved in the project from its inception, it provided us valuable information about ongoing climate services projects in Malawi and helped us identify the gaps to define the research direction that would compliments the efforts and improve climate information provision. DCCMS has also provided long-term weather observations for multiple stations in the identified districts to improve the skill of the weather forecast model to capture the local climatology of the region fairly well. DCCMS has helped us in establishing contacts with the relevant climate information provision agencies in Malawi including the Farm Radio Trust.
Impact No impact yet
Start Year 2018
 
Description Catalyst Grant Kick-Off Meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Presentation of the project plans at the NERC SHEAR catalyst Grant Kick-Off meeting to other grant holders (PIs and Co-Is) from across the UK. This has generated discussion about potential Integration and Impact projects that synthesize and disseminate learning across the SHEAR projects.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description IPACE-Malawi Inception Meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact IPACE-Malawi Inception Meeting organised in Lilongwe, Malawi by the University of Leeds, UK. It was attended by the project partners from the Malawi Red Cross Society, 510 global and in-country collaborators from the Department for Climate Change and Meteorological Services. It helped in understanding the common goals, agreement on support that could be offered by project partners and collaborators to each other during the course of the project, and exploring possible link to other agencies/stakeholders including World Food Program, Farm Radio Trust, United Nations Development Programme, the National Smallholder Farmers' Association of Malawi for further collaborations.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Open day presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact The project was presented as a showcase of research undertaken in the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds to prospective students.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Participation in Malawi Department for Climate Change and Meteorological Services workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A report on seasonal forecast skill, produced by the UK UK Met Office, was presented to DCCMS as part of their seasonal forecast planning workshop, and as a consequence of this we are in discussion about inputting some additional information (about probabilistic impacts) into the agriculture seasonal forecast for 2020.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019