Guleid Artan is the director of the Climate Prediction and Applications Centre, which is part of the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (Igad).
He spoke to Leopold Obi on the region’s changing climate outlook and how farmers can overcome the emerging challenges
Farmers are increasingly blaming the weatherman for not giving accurate predictions. Has climate change made it harder to accurately predict the weather?
Most people have a hard time understanding probabilities. When we release a forecast, it comes with probabilities. If there is a 60 per cent chance of an event happening, there is still a 40 per cent chance of it not happening.
When an event that the national meteorological department had forecasted doesn’t happen, people mistrust the forecast.
Although we will never be certain with a 100 per cent probability whether a climate event will happen, taking early mitigation actions can only be beneficial.
If the event doesn’t happen, and it was a false alarm, an early action would still help us to build long-term resilience.
What should farmers do to minimise the impact of the erratic weather?
Farmers should trust and make use of climate information and early warnings issued by their national institutions including ministries of agriculture and organisations that provide them with localised advisories on crops, farming techniques, seed varieties, post-harvest technologies or access to markets.
This can help them mitigate the impacts of climate change on their production.
What are the notable changes in the regional weather outlook?
The climate is changing and it is affecting our seasons. Temperatures are increasing everywhere in the greater Horn of Africa and this will continue in the future.
Globally, July was the hottest month since we began taking weather records. Besides, analysis of trends from 1981 to 2010 shows that the durations of the three seasons are getting shorter due to late onset and early withdrawal of the rains.
The decline in the length of the seasons has been found in observations and model simulations. The decreasing trend is larger for June-July-August-September than for October-November-December.
Climate change is already affecting every corner of our region and these trends need to be considered in any intervention.
What do these weather changes mean for farmers?
Increasing temperatures, shorter seasons, unpredictable rainfall, an increasing intensity and frequency of extreme weather are directly affecting the livelihoods of millions of smallholder farmers and pastoralists in the region.
Our latest report in partnership with the Food Security Information Network shows that 27 million people are food insecure in the Igad region.
Among them, 11.9 million are food insecure due to climatic shocks. Climate change is likely to increase the vulnerability of small-scale farmers.
Countries and organisations need to increase investments in resilience and climate change adaptation.
What should be done to ensure smallholder farmers access early warning and climate change information?
In our case, we support member countries’ meteorological departments to improve the way they disseminate their alerts.
Special focus should now be put on working better with FM stations, the true mass communication media in our region.
Research shows that smallholder farmers, pastoralists and fishermen want to receive information through radio because it is their favourite channel and the one they trust the most.
In terms of the weather, what should farmers look forward to in coming months?
The rains are going to be above average for most of the region. The seasonal forecast predicts some relief for some areas that were under drought stress in the past few months.
However, we want to remind users to update the seasonal forecast with information from their national meteorological departments.