Provision of climatic information

Climate plays a significant role in agricultural production in Africa. Humanitarian organizations have highlighted this fact most vividly in the electronic media. In sub-Saharan Africa, research has shown clearly that critical gaps exist in the ability of climate information to be applied in the agricultural sector (IRI 2006). In southern Africa, agrometeorological activities are well organized through the sub-regional organization, Southern African Development Community (SADC). ttere is a continuous analysis of climate data, ttere is also a regular annual agro-meteorological meeting prior to commencement of the rainy season to discuss the implications of the most recent seasonal climate forecast, tte discussions cover the impact of the seasonal forecast on agricultural production, probabilities of the onset and cessation of rainfall, probabilities of dry spells and other challenges in the provision of agrometeorological information.

In Nov 2002, the SADC Regional Remote Sensing Unit (RRSU) convened an annual Agrometeorological Workshop in Harare, Zimbabwe entitled 'Application of climate information to sustain agricultural production and food security in the SADC region", tte workshop was attended by representatives of Agronomy, Agrometeorological and National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) active in the National Early Warning Units (NEWU's) of SADC Member States. As part of the workshop, stakeholders present were interviewed and requested to prepare detailed responses regarding their assessment as to the extent to which the climate information system currently served the agricultural sector in their respective countries. In all, 12 countries responded and these include: Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Specifically, NEWU participants were asked to answer four overarching questions:

• What are the specific forecast needs for agricultural decision-making, given the specific characteristics of your agricultural sector?

• To what extent are such forecast needs currently being accommodated in the country's forecast system?

• What are the specific gaps in the forecast system (as it serves the agricultural sector)?

• Identify three strategies to close these gaps?

tte following is a list of challenges that were identified by the representatives of the twelve Member States during the workshop.

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