Empowering local communities to utilise climate data for effective adaptation: Reflections from Makueni and Wajir counties in Kenya.

September 4th, 2023

As the world grapples with the rapidly changing climate patterns and its attendant risks, the role of climate data has taken a center stage in mitigating and adapting to the impacts of a changing climate.

Successful adaptation to these weather changes requires local communities to have access to accurate and up-to-date climate information to monitor changes in climate.

Further, enabling local communities to use climate data for adaptation requires a multi-faceted approach that encompasses data accessibility, capacity building, partnerships, and community engagement. The demand for a data-driven response and strengthening of climate data ecosystems at national and sub-national levels is therefore imperative.

Recognising the challenge

Timely and accurate climate data is a prerequisite to managing household level climate risks.  Further, utilisation of climate data plays a pivotal role in enhancing community resilience and preparedness.

However, the gap between availability of such data and its practical utilisation by local communities remains a challenge.

It is against this background that Financial Sector Deepening Kenya (FSD Kenya) commissioned a study in Makueni and Wajir counties in Kenya. The study supported by ADA Consortium and the county governments of the two counties, aimed at understanding the status of climate data gaps and opportunities for bridging this gap. The outcome is intended to improve local level capability for generation, analysis, and application of climate-relevant data for effective decision making and access to climate financing in Kenya.

The study entailed an assessment of the status of the climate data ecosystem[1] at the national, sub national levels, developing systems for strengthened county climate data ecosystem; and fostering the usage of investment-relevant climate data for effective decision making at local levels. The study accentuated the role of private sector, civil society, and other stakeholders in enabling use of climate information at the local level.

The selection of Makueni and Wajir counties for the pilot study was deliberate, as they face distinct pressing climate risks often characterised by prolonged dry spells, sporadic floods, erratic rainfall patterns, and droughts, which exemplifies the diverse climate challenges experienced by local communities in Kenya. For the households in these counties, having access to accurate and timely climate data can mean the difference between effective preparedness and devastating loss. Further, the two counties were among the first to pilot devolved climate finance mechanism in Kenya which encompasses climate information services plans.

The study revealed that though there is existence of multitudes of data sources in Kenya, the climate data landscape is still complex, fragmented, and has limited ability to bring immediate coherence. Moreover, data collection and management are expensive often exposing respondents to data ‘fatigue’. The is a need for a more collaborative approach to address the data gaps from collection, analysis to consumption by relevant entities more critically local communities who are often at the frontline of climate related risks such as droughts and floods, necessitating the need for a user centric approach in climate information dissemination.

On the positive side, the findings present practical successful instances where grassroot solutions by the local communities of Makueni and Wajir, have effectively used climate data for adaptation and tangible community resilience. These examples underscore the potential for replicable approaches in similar contexts.

Africa Climate Summit 2023: Connecting the dots

The 2023 Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi is a crucial platform to underscore the importance of using climate data to empower and protect vulnerable communities across the continent and the significance of building local capacity to interpret and utilise data effectively.

The convergence of global leaders, scientists, policy makers and local community representatives provides the opportunity to discuss climate challenges specific to Africa grounded on data.

Connecting the dots on climate data to discussions at the Africa Climate Summit is crucial as climate data plays a significant role in bridging the gap between global climate trends and their impact on local communities.

Key findings and lessons from Makueni, Wajir counties

  • Local relevance and user centricity approach: Africa is a continent of immense climatic diversity; from Sahel to Serengeti, each region faces distinct challenges. By recognising the local nuances through data, solutions can be tailored to maximise impact.
  • Climate data generation, accessibility, and interpretation: Local communities need accurate and timely climate data that is easily accessible and tailored to the community specific needs. Localized climate projections enhance the community’s ability to make informed decisions.
  • Community engagement: Involving communities at every stage of climate data collection, analysis and feedback empower communities to proactively address the impacts of climate change and further appreciate the link between their indigenous knowledge and scientific climate data, hence fosters ownership and sustainability.
  • Integrating capacity building: Building capacity of community members and stakeholders is crucial for harnessing the potential of climate data usage and empowers communities to make choices that align to their unique climate circumstances, further ensuring that adaptation strategies are culturally appropriate and locally accepted.
  • Local knowledge integration: Indigenous knowledge held by local communities in Makueni and Wajir is a valuable resource. Blending traditional climate knowledge with scientific climate data can be cultivated to mitigate risks and build a more secure, sustainable future for these regions and integrated into modern strategies.
  • Enhancing livelihoods and ecosystem resilience: Access to climate data and early warning systems can inform diversified livelihood options such as water harvesting, drought-resistant crops, agroforestry, preserving traditional food systems and alternative income generating activities. These strategies can be tailored to address unique climate challenges faced by each county.
  • Addressing community challenges: Several challenges exist, these include limited technical capacity, varied data and information overload often siloed and uncoordinated strategies complicating the already resource constraints. Promoting open data initiatives and technical support can resolve the challenges and facilitate effective use of climate data at local level.
  • Coordinated Partnerships: Effective adaptation often requires collaboration among various entities, local government, Non-Governmental Organisations, researchers, and the private sector. By establishing such partnerships, communities can tap into the broader pool of expertise, resources, and funding opportunities.
  • Policy and legislative framework Governance: to maximize the impact of climate data utilization, supportive policies at the national and subnational levels are crucial and ensure policy making is grounded on data. Integrating climate data indicators into County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP) enables resource allocation and mainstreaming shock responsive initiatives at the county. Collaboration between counties and national departments such as Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD) is key to enhance climate data generation and dissemination.

The Africa Climate Summit  offers an opportunity to weave the narrative of climate data into the fabric of local communities’ resilience efforts. The power of data is not just about statistics. Climate data allows researchers, policy makers and local communities comprehend how the climate is changing and predict future trends, but more critically climate data tells a story of the Earth’s evolving climate narrative.

By empowering communities to leverage climate data effectively, we can enhance their resilience, reduce vulnerabilities, and promote sustainable development in the face of changing climate. Without accurate, timely climate information, these efforts are akin to navigating a stormy sea without a compass.



Envisioning a Climate Change Data Ecosystem-Paris 21

[1] A data ecosystem refers to a systems and infrastructure and applications that is utilized to aggregate and analyze information.



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