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Setting up an early warning system for drought in Africa


A group of European and African scientists from the EU research project DEWFORA, including IES scientist Jürgen Vogt, recently visited South Africa’s Limpopo province to meet with local farmers in order to get an understanding of their needs. The aim of the three-year DEWFORA project is to help provide drought early warning and mitigation in Africa, thereby helping local farmers prepare for droughts.

Farmers in South Africa generally rely on short-term TV weather forecasts. Existing medium and long-term models, based on satellite and ground data, are too complicated to be assessable to the general public. Researchers are therefore proposing an early warning system that would make simple recommendations based on all the available data. Scientists, authorities and local people would work together to make such a drought alert system reliable and efficient.

This early warning system could be based on the European Drought Observatory (EDO), which was developed in-house by the IES in collaboration with DG Environment, the European Environment Agency and the Member States. EDO is a web-based platform that provides consistent and timely information on droughts in Europe at continental, regional and local scales. It carries out detailed risk assessment by engaging in long-term monitoring and analysis of drought hazard and social vulnerability, and helps develop efficient drought management plans. It includes a Map Server that presents daily updated information, a Metadata Catalogue that allows for the quick search of drought-relevant data, a Media Monitor that provides information on drought in the news, a suite of Analysis Tools, complemented by reports and links to other available information sources.

Jürgen Vogt, Leader of the JRC’s Drought Group in the IES, was filmed as part of the Euronews coverage of the DEWFORA visit to South Africa. He explains that from the European side we are able to provide different types of data (e.g. meteorological data, monitoring data, and meteorological forecasts), which, however, need to be translated into meaningful information for the farmer by using easily understandable indicators. One of the tasks of the Joint Research Centre, therefore, is to develop and test these indicators to be calculated at the continental, the regional, and possibly also the local level.


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