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Climate information communication is crucial to understand climate as a major influence, to recognize risks and to take informed responses



Communities and practitioners in Sub-Sahara Africa, who operate in risky and unpredictable environments, have to make decisions with very limited climate information available to them.

Even though several community-based adaptations (CBAs) are increasingly recognized as successful approach, the poor or absolute lack of access to climate information remains a major challenge in understanding and assessing climate risks in developing countries like Ethiopia. Climate information from scientific sources is often viewed as overly scientific and complex, whereas information from local knowledge is not widely appreciated.

This innovative project will be a community based approach and seeks to empower communities, local governments and service providers via harnessing relevant and simplified climate information.

The project will contribute to the process of reducing vulnerabilities of rural communities, households and individuals to climate variability by enabling them to understand and analyze the changes taking place and the threats posed to their livelihoods.

This initiative is based on the following basic assumptions;

- The language, style and channel through which climate information communication is done are important factors that make such information useable for adaptive/social learning and CBA.

- Climate change information should be easily accessible and available in a simplified and useable manner based on local priorities

- A well informed decision making is central for designing and implementing appropriate response at different levels

-Continued social learning is crucial for ‘bottom up’ approaches to succeed in a sustainable manner

Therefore, this project aims to foster understanding and trust between science and local knowledge, and to the build local capacity to understand, interpret and use available climate information.

Category of the action

Mitigation/Adaptation, Changing public attitudes about climate change

What actions do you propose?

Rationale for intervention

Poor communities that are highly vulnerable to climate variability and natural disasters are operating in a risky and changing environment. The challenge is further complicated as the vast majority people will have to make decisions with very limited climate information available to them.

This poor or absolute lack of access to simplified or ‘down scaled’ climate information is a major challenge in understanding and assessing climate risks particularly in developing countries.

Note: the word ‘down scaled climate information’ is used to mean climate information in a simplified, easily graspable and comprehensible form and format. 

Proposed action

Generating, incorporating and harnessing ‘downscaled’, user-friendly and useable climate information to build rural resilience.

Target population (Actors)

Rural communities, farmers

Practitioners (of agricultural extension, development, disaster risk reduction)


A strategic approach is required to address this information need which is vital for communities to understand climate change and respond in accordance with their interests and experiences.

This innovative project proposes adaptive learning based on tailored climate information and communication to bridge this gap. Tailored climate information from local and scientific sources in a form which can be used is the basis for decision making at a given time and spatial scales.

This information translation works best when it involves the climate affected communities, the different service and support providers who work with them (intermediaries) – such as in agriculture, water, livestock, natural resource management, etc. as well as local forecasters, meteorological services and disaster risk prevention agencies.

Therefore, a learning-by-doing approach will be employed to enable communities and practitioners identify their own priorities and to provide their knowledge and experiences in developing a comprehensible, relevant and accessible climate information.

Goals of the project

Long term Goals

·         To enhance actors’ ability to access, understand, interpret and respond to climate information with less difficulty.

·         To avail generated information and knowledge for continued social learning and for building resilience through various adaptation, disaster risk reduction and development actions

 Short term Goals:

·         To generate a relevant, useable and ‘down scaled’ climate information based on needs identified by the actors themselves

·         To develop mechanisms to establish and foster social learning and decision making based on climate information

Strategic Objectives

It is highly important to narrow the gap between local understanding and information on climate change and complex scientific data. This helps to foster understanding and trust between science and local knowledge, thus allowing a smoother transfer of information between professionals and communities. Also, this is essential for a common understanding and ultimately collective action.

 To achieve this, the following specific objectives are set;

-          To assess and combine local information/experience on climate change with scientific data

-          To ‘downscale’ or translate the combined information in a way that is comprehensible, accessible and relevant to local communities, interests and experiences

-          To identify gaps in climate information communication (access, analysis and dissemination)

-           To build local capacity to access,  understand  and interpret scientific climate information

-           To investigate practical ways in which climate information and communication can be utilized for adaptive learning and community based adaptation

To achieve these objectives, it is necessary to design and undertake clearly defined set of actions.


Analysis (Situation, needs, and gender analysis)

This will be used to collect baseline data; to determine communities’ vulnerability to climate variability; to identify climate information needs of farming communities and practitioners; to understand the current status and gaps in climate information management.

Multi- stakeholder consultation

Relevant tools will be used to engage stakeholders and to ensure participatory approach.

 Plat forms, discussion groups and different events will be used to gather valuable inputs, interests, insights, concerns etc from actors and stakeholders.

Collection and assessment of climate information

Local information, knowledge and observations will be collected from the actors to ensure   inclusion of local understanding and perceptions of climate variability and related hazards.

Scientific climate data will be collected from official primary sources on weather (for e.g.  temperature, rainfall, precipitation); changes in patterns (for e.g. rainfall timing) occurrence of extreme natural events (for e.g. droughts, floods).

Capacity building and creating enabling environment for climate information interpretation and communication

Discussion forums and trainings will be used to bring attention to issues around climate information communication and to build capacity of relevant stakeholders. 

Mechanisms and enabling environment for participatory interpretation and translation of the combined climate information will be identified and developed

Participatory learning, monitoring and evaluation

This process will be designed to be intensively reflexive, with community participants and facilitators involved in on-going reflection of the process itself. This will be undertaken to promote learning for social change in a way that allows knowledge exchange.

Appropriate monitoring and evaluation plan will be in place based on a standard logical framework. This will be used to track progress (or identify gaps or opportunities) and to evaluate anticipated changes and impacts based on a set of indicators.


This is to verify deliverables, to document lessons learned and reflections, as well as to archive (and make accessible ) generated climate data.

Expected outcomes/ results/ services

-          Enhanced understanding of climate change via usable, ‘downscaled ‘ and simplified climate information

-          Availability of tailored information suited for local priorities,  interest, context and understanding

-          Strengthened adaptive capacity and resilience of selected vulnerable communities

-          Improved planning and decision making by communities and practitioners through the use of easily accessible and comprehensible climate and weather information

-          Identification and development of local and sustainable approaches to mainstream climate-information into adaptation and disaster risk reduction actions

-           Provision of climate information communication platforms and services for community based learning, response and resilience

Who will take these actions?

The organization I am currently working at- Horn of Africa Regional Environmental Centre & Network (HoAREC/N) has a proven track record in initiating and successfully implementing similar projects both in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa region. We currently network over 40 organizations across six nations which work on environmental and sustainable development issues.

Therefore, since HoAREC/N has the experience, reach and capacity required, it will take the overall responsibility to implement the project and also the financial accountability.

The project will be undertaken in collaboration with actors, partners and stakeholders including civil societies and NGOs, farmers, farmer unions, community leaders, agricultural extension agents, and farmer training centers, meteorology services, disaster risk reduction & preparedness services.

The collaboration between HoaREC/N and selected local partners to implement the project will be both at strategic and operational level.

Where will these actions be taken?

The project will take place in the Central Rift Valley region, which is identified as one of the most vulnerable parts of rural Ethiopia.

Ethiopia is a developing country heavily dependent on natural resources. Agriculture remains by far the most important sector, contributing some 44% to the country’s GDP and about 84% of the national population is rural, deriving livelihoods from agriculture and natural resources (Adem and Bewket 2011)

 Although efforts are underway to diversify the economy and livelihoods, still droughts and rainfalls have a strong and direct impact on peoples’ lives as well as the national economy.  The increasing spatial and temporal weather variability witnessed in parts of the nation is seriously threatening rural resilience and constraining socioeconomic development.  

Description of the Ethiopian Central Rift Valley (CRV)

The CRV is part of the East African Rift, an active continental rift zone, which goes along East Africa from the Red Sea to Mozambique. The CRV covers an area of approximately 10,000 km2 and encompasses a chain of four large lakes and several streams.

The following facts about CRV were considered in selection the region for implementation of the project;

- CRV region is classified as one of the highly vulnerable areas in Ethiopia (Ayenew, 2007, Jansen et al., 2007)

- The CRV economy (67% of GDP) is dependent on subsistence agriculture 

 - A high portion (more than70%) of population rural dwellers with high rate of population growth

- CRVs’ population has the lowest GDP per capita compared to national average

In addition to the above reasons, studies show CRVs natural resources will be affected by climate change (Zeray et al., 2006).

Appropriate sampling tools and methodologies will be employed to select the specific sites and representative participants.

What are other key benefits?

Primary beneficiaries of this project will be vulnerable farmers, unions, rural communities, agricultural extension agents, Regional Agricultural & Rural Development Offices, NGOs and stakeholders/ organizations working on similar themes including social learning, climate change adaptation & disaster risk reduction.

Additional Key benefits would be;

·         Lessons learned from this community project will be leveraged to promote replication of successful community practices and adaptive learning mechanisms

·         The project will provide insights and basis for integration of tailored climate information into current and future adaptation, mitigation, disaster risk reduction and various development interventions.

What are the proposal’s costs?

Time line

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