Goziline, a Zambian farmer, checks a rain gauge metre which he monitors daily to provide data for R4 weather index insurance © David Orr/WFP
Data-driven climate information is enabling pastoralist farmers in Ethiopia to make informed and timely decisions about where to graze their livestock. Satellite-Assisted Pastoral Resource Management (SAPARM) digitises maps of traditional grazing areas, drawn up by local communities, and overlays them with up-to-date satellite vegetation data. SAPARM’s maps could aid over 200 million pastoralists in Africa, who currently seek pasture for their herds using indigenous knowledge, scouts and verbal exchange – methods which are fast becoming unreliable due to climate change.
SAPARM, led by Project Concern International (PCI), prints the digitised maps every 10 days and distributes them to local farmers. Almost 80% of pastoralists in the community that first trialled SAPARM used the maps for migration decision-making, and many stated it was one of their most important resources. George Guimaraes, who recently stepped down as president and CEO of PCI, explained that in the context of feed and water shortages caused by El Niño, “As climate change ravages arable land in East Africa, herd deaths have been cut in half when pastoralists use these satellite maps to find green pasture for their animals.”
Another initiative supporting farmers to prepare for climate-related risks is the R4 Rural Resilience Initiative which enables them to access weather index insurance through Insurance-for-Assets (IFA) schemes. In exchange for weather insurance, farmers participating in R4’s IFA schemes work on disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation activities in their communities. The financial protection offered by R4 encourages farmers to invest in more remunerative enterprises and inputs to increase productivity and, when a bad season hits, compensation for weather-related losses prevents farmers from selling these productive assets, stimulating faster recovery. Since it was launched by the World Food Programme and Oxfam America in 2011, R4 has grown its participation from 200 farmers to nearly 40,000 in Ethiopia, Malawi, Senegal and Zambia.
A recently launched bi-annual report, The Global Report on Food Crises 2017, published by the Food Security Information Network, provides a global analysis of the causes and effects of food crises. Access to such information will aid regional institutions and governments to make informed decisions and coordinated plans to deal with climate change disasters and mitigate food crises.