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

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


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.


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