Technical Paper: Drought Risk Management: The Towards Forecast-based Preparedness Action Approach (October 2020)


By Emmah Mwangi (Kenya Red Cross) and Emma Visman (King’s College London)

Executive summary

As climate change increases the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, there has been increased focus on strengthening the use of forecasts to support early actions that prevent, reduce or enable earlier effective response to potential impacts amongst those people most at risk. This technical paper documents a methodology designed to support drought forecast-based action approach to enhance drought risk management. This approach aims to support the climate risk management efforts of both operational agencies and climate-resilience building research initiatives.

The approach was developed within the Towards Forecast-based Preparedness and Action (ForPAc) consortium project which sought to strengthen drought and flood early warning in Kenya and the Greater Horn of Africa region. ForPAc builds on the Red Cross Red Crescent (RCRC) Movement’s Forecast-based Action (FbA) approach. This technical paper outlines how ForPAc adopted an approach they termed PIPA+ combined the Participatory Impact Pathways Analysis (PIPA) methodology and climate information training to: (i) identify where new and/or improved forecast products could strengthen the national and County drought early warning systems (DEWS); (ii) coproduce actionable prototype forecast products aligned with the DEWS’ existing sector-specific indicators and thresholds for action; and (iii) sought to ensure sustainability of the DEWS products and Forecast-based Action (FbA) methodology.

Enabling forecasts to strengthen an existing early warning system requires detailed understanding of the framing policies and operational realities that shape the system’s effectiveness at local, national, regional and international levels. ForPAc adapted established PIPA tools (including: problem tree analysis, stakeholder mapping through an adapted livelihood calendar, visioning and Outcome Logic Model) and developed a Forecast Preparedness Options Matrix. The Matrix was employed over the course of the project to consider how existing forecasts and a range of prototype project-initiated products could strengthen preparedness in drought management decision making, providing a basis for the potential development of Standard Operating Procedures.

Analysis from employing the PIPA+ approach highlighted that climate forecasts were not aligned with or systematically informing the DEWS. Based on this understanding, partners and key stakeholders co-developed and trialed a series of new and enhanced forecast products, including an early October-November-December (OND) seasonal forecast tailored to support key elements of the DEWS process, as well as Standardised Precipitation Index (SPI), Vegetation Condition Index (VCI) and TAMSAT-ALERT soil moisture forecasts tailored to support the indicators currently employed within the DEWS.

ForPAc’s approach explicitly recognised the need to create the ‘common ground’ required for codeveloping decision-relevant climate information (encompassing both weather and climate forecasts, or short and longer term respectively). Insufficiently addressed in many climate-resilience building initiatives, ForPAc’s Climate Information Training sought to strengthen decision-makers’ understanding of key climate concepts and confidence in using climate information through a dedicated workshop as well as the integration of capacity-building exercises alongside the introduction of new forecast products.

Learning from ForPAc and related initiatives suggest there are important opportunities to enhance Forecast-based Action (FbA) through enabling forecasts to systematically inform drought early warning systems. ForPAc has, at the same time, strengthened decision-makers’ understanding and confidence to make decisions based on evolving forecasts across time frames even in the absence of standardised operating procedures for FbA. Nevertheless, there remains a recognised need to further develop methodologies that support more inclusive identification of relevant early actions and sustainable, resource-efficient approaches to cost-benefit analysis.

Key words: Early Action, Forecast-based action, Forecast-based financing, Forecast skill, False alarm/hit rate