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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Description Understanding the climate services landscape in Malawi 
Organisation Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services Malawi
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