ABIDJAN, December 4, 2018— In Port-Bouët, a suburb of Abidjan where over half a million people live, the coastline is shrinking, making way for the Atlantic Ocean to creep into homes. Rising temperatures cause city-dwellers to move to the coasts, affecting the demography of rural and urban areas, as well as the local economy.
“Before, when the rains came well, there was plenty of fish,” said David Akapu, a Ghanaian fisherman making a living in Port-Bouët. “Now, the climate has changed, and this has ceased. If we could know when weather changes are coming, it would be a great help to our lives.”
Across West Africa’s buoyant cities, weather and climate variability are making a distinct impact on people, communities, and industries. People from Dakar, Senegal to Niamey, Niger directly face the impact of hydrological and meteorological—hydromet—hazards, as rising temperatures and sea levels impact their everyday lives and livelihoods.
To address this challenge, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), recently launched its Hydromet Initiative to strengthen the observation, transmission, interpretation and dissemination of hydromet data and information for West African nations. The initiative will help West African governments provide services that reduce the impact of floods, droughts and natural hazards and protect their citizens and industries—from the small-scale farmer and fisher, to large-scale sectors such as aviation and transport. The initiative will be executed under the Africa Hydromet Program, a partnership between development organizations working to improve weather, water and climate services through projects and programs implemented throughout Sub-Saharan Africa.
Announced during the first ECOWAS Hydromet Forum, along with the new Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) platform, the initiative will allow West African governments, academics, civil society organizations, international partners and the private sector to work together to integrate regional disaster risk reduction initiatives, and to fully implement the ECOWAS DRR Policy and the accompanying Plan of Action 2015 – 2030. The forum and platform were instituted in partnership with a host of development partners, including the World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR).
“For West Africa, as for the rest of the world, hydromet services are critical for development. These services offer cross-cutting benefits that have a direct impact on people’s lives and property, and on the progress of countries and regions. Investing in hydromet services also protect government investments, so that resources are not lost when disasters strike,” said Pierre Laporte, World Bank Country Director for Côte d'Ivoire, Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea, and Togo. “Decisions from the ECOWAS Hydromet Forum and DRR Platform—the first of its kind in the region—are essential to ensuring that lives are saved, the most vulnerable people are protected during emergencies, and poverty is curtailed, so that people can live in prosperity.”
The forum also offers the opportunity to scale up partnerships and projects, with support from the African Center for Meteorological Applications for Development (ACMAD), the Permanent Interstate Committee for drought control in the Sahel (CILSS/AGRHYMET), and the West Africa Science Service Center on Climate Change and Adapted Land Use (WASCAL). It also presents opportunities for technical knowledge exchanges with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the African Ministerial Conference on Meteorology (AMCOMET) and the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS), the Africa Development Bank (AfDB), and key stakeholders.