WEATHER and climate information services are now fully established in the country, thanks to efforts by Tanzania Meteorological Authority (TMA).
The TMA was founded 18 years ago and was previously known as the Directorate of Meteorology.
Meteorological services have experienced a boost during the past four years, with the establishment of three projects by the Weather and Climate Information Services (WISER) programme.
The National-WISER, Highway and Multi-Hazard Early Warning System (MHEWS) projects were all funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID). The National-WISER project (ongoing) is concentrated in the central-zone and northeast regions, focused on enhancing weather and climate information services to drive better decision-making and combat poverty.
TMA’s Dr. Ladislaus Chang’a, a Principal Meteorologist and Director of Research and Applied Meteorology, highlights the project as being pivotal in developing Tanzania’s meteorological capabilities: “It is an important project for us [TMA]. It has been contributing towards the enhancement and provision of climate information, but also improving the dissemination and application of climate information.”
The WISER project had a notable impact on agriculture, the backbone of the country’s economy. Smallholder farmers now receive meaningful weather and climate information, including early warnings related to extreme weather events, such as an imminent storm or cyclone.
According to Experius Emmanuel, an expert from the Ministry of Agriculture, this critical work means that TMA information is being used on the ground to guide farmers’ decisions and achieve food security.
The Ministry of Agriculture, working with the President’s Office - Regional Administration and Local Government (TAMISEMI) and Disaster Management Department is now able to analyze warnings provided by the TMA, covering such hazards as low rainfall and strong winds, for the benefit of farmers and extension officers nationwide.
Furthermore, Carol Kilembe, Principal Agricultural Officer (Ministry of Agriculture) highlights that the Ministry of Agriculture customized bi-monthly and monthly reports (used by extension officers and regional agriculture officers) assist hugely in crop monitoring and early warning.
The ongoing Data Rescue Project by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), is yet another milestone scored by TMA. This project has revolutionized data management.
“Africa has a lot of historical climate data which is not digitized, so the project was focused on transforming large sets of climate data into digital formats. In Tanzania, we have dealt with only two parameters: rainfall and temperature data,” explains Dr Chang’a.
According to Dr Chang’a more than 80 per cent of the rainfall and temperature data to January 2019 has now been digitized.
As the authorized distributor of weather information products, TMA products have reached communities via an increasing number of media outlets whose personnel have been trained exhaustively by TMA and some community radios now broadcast weather forecast in vernacular format to reach wider audiences.
Meanwhile, audience feedback gained through a range of mechanisms, such as surveys, field trips, seminars, workshops, software and the TMA website, have enhanced the authority’s central forecasting competency. TMA’s Director-General, Dr Agnes Kijazi, has initiated school visits to domesticate weather and climate issues to youth across the nation, too.
During the past two months, TMA staff have reached over 6,000 students in three regions. The Centre for Community Initiatives’ (CCI) Developing Risk Awareness through Joint Action (DARAJA) project has been pivotal in familiarizing communities with weather and climate information and its use.
This is especially the case in primary schools in Dar es Salaam. Over 25 communitybased organizations, local leaders and disaster committees have been trained with CCI and TMA to introduce community members to the weather information available.
CCI has worked with TMA to enhance journalists’ capacities to understand and deliver weather and climate information effectively and accurately to their wide audiences across the country. Jimmy Baranyizigie is a producer and journalist, from Cloud Media Group.
He says the current wave of meteorological products provide a vibrant opportunity for the media: “Thanks to the overhaul in the way the TMA provides its information, I won’t be reporting or preparing weather reports as I used to do,” he says.
On the other hand, Mohamed Salim, a young TV weatherman, may be a TMA prodigy. He has become a symbol of success, showing how weather forecasts have been transformed at his television station. “TMA’s training has triggered my interest and enhanced my abilities in weather reporting.
They have helped me become a good weather reporter,” Mohammed says. CCI has been creative about promoting TMA’s information to community level, for example, via school programmes. One such programme involves teachers and students in delivering mock weather forecasts: an opportunity that students take seriously.
The information has trickled through to parents, who took more precautions during the recent rainy season in Dar es Salaam.
Community members now use weather information disseminated via public announcements, media channels (mainly radio), SMS services and school announcements to evacuate to safety during rainy seasons, adjust their business affairs and make carefully planned decisions about moving to safety, including schoolchildren’s safety.
Stella Steven, CCI’s Project Coordinator, finds TMA’s new approach to be effective in distributing meteorological products to local communities, who now ask for weather forecast updates, primarily during the rainy seasons.
“We have worked with TMA to come up with simplified terms to describe meteorological events to local communities,” she says. At present, over 11,500 students in eight schools use drama, songs, debates and exchange programmes to raise awareness among themselves and even among their elders.
CCI project officials have received praise from parents regarding students’ enthusiastic uptake of the weather and climate information. Many community members and small-scale farmers such as Safina Haruna Msemo, say they now have a fair comprehension of climate and weather information, thanks to CCI’s work to simplify the message.
There is still room, then, for even more tailored packages to be developed for community members. According to CCI, they have requested TMA to create a customized weather product to be aired via radio for Dar es Salaam’s Kigogo community.
The ward has over 7,000 long-standing flooding victims, the radio would provide an addition to existing SMS services. Two of Tanzania’s weather stations, Bukoba and Songea, have been recognized and certified by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) as stations with long-standing climatic data of over 100 years.
Dr Kijazi considers the long service of these stations to be an important milestone for Tanzania. “It was not an easy process for the two stations to be recognized by WMO,” she remarks.
She commended the authority’s efforts in mainstreaming climate information and weather services in Tanzania and gaining international recognition.
*Padili Mikomangwa is an environmentalist based in Dar es Salaam