ABIDJAN, October 2018—Across West Africa’s buoyant cities, weather and climate variability are making a distinct impact on people, communities, and industries. From Dakar to Niamey, people directly face the impact of hydrological and meteorological hazards, as rising temperatures and sea levels impact their everyday lives and livelihoods. In Port-Bouët, a suburb of Abidjan where over half a million people reside, the coastline is shrinking, making way for the water from Atlantic Ocean to creep into living quarters. Rising temperatures cause city-dwellers to move to the coasts, which affects the demography and socio-economic challenges of rural and urban areas, as well as the local economy.

“Before, when the rains came well, there was plenty of fish,” says David Akapu, a fisherman from Ghana, 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.”

Akapu underscores why developing hydrological and meteorological—or hydromet—services is essential to improving lives and livelihoods. Hydromet services directly support water resource management for irrigation, hydropower, renewable energy and improved water supply for livelihood. They also provide early warnings, alerts and advisories, which can help communities adopt smarter agricultural practices, better resource management systems and improved disaster risk management strategies. Hydromet services also reduce the socio-economic impacts of floods, droughts and natural hazards, to enable food security, mitigate offshoots of fragility, and boost commerce, tourism, and trade—sectors that promote economic development and employment.

With the key aim of strengthening and sustaining regional and national hydromet, early warning, and disaster risk management services, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and development partners, along with the World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) launched the ECOWAS Hydromet Forum and Disaster Risk Reduction Platform.

David Akapu, chief of a fishing community in Port-Bouët, Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire (Credit: Zirra Banu/World Bank)

David Akapu, chief of a fishing community in Port-Bouët, Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire (Credit: Zirra Banu/World Bank)

For the first time, West African governments, academics, civil society organizations, international partners and the private sector are working together through the platform and forum to integrate regional disaster risk reduction initiatives and to fully implement the ECOWAS Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) policy and the ECOWAS DRR Plan of Action 2015 – 2030.

The event is organized in the frame of the Result Area 2 African Regional Economic Communities Program, which is part of the overall "Building Disaster Resilience to Natural Hazards in Sub-Saharan Africa Program," an initiative of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and funded by the European Union.

In partnership with organizations like 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), the forum offered the opportunity for knowledge exchange in collaboration 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.

The ECOWAS Hydromet Initiative was launched at the forum. The initiative works to strengthen the observation, transmission, interpretation and dissemination of hydromet data and information for various sectors from small-scale farming and fisheries, to large scale industries like aviation and transport, and for everyday West Africans. The initiative will strengthen hydromet, early warning and disaster risk management services, so that climate, weather, and water resources can serve, rather than hamper the growth and prosperity of people and communities in West Africa.

The initiative will be executed under the Africa Hydromet Program, which includes projects and initiatives in all sub-regions of Africa. The initiative and program work with global, regional, and national meteorological and hydrological services to offer effective, real-time weather, water and climate services, which can save lives and improve livelihoods. These services are critical to all sectors driving the economy, including disaster risk management, urban development, health services, marine, road and air transportation, education, infrastructure, hydro-power, renewable energy and even good governance.

Fishermen work together, making nets to catch fish in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire

Fishermen work together, making nets to catch fish in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire (Credit: Zirra Banu/World Bank)

“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,” stated 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.”

This makes a world of difference for the end users of hydromet services—from people like the fishermen and farmers of communes like Port-Bouët, to people living in bustling cities like Abidjan, and all over West Africa—so that sectors like agriculture, trade and tourism, which drive economic development can enable West Africans to thrive.