Prioritizing Drought Impacts: Where, When, and for Whom?

Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre Internship Program
by Sarah Posner

Sarah Posner is the 2019 Junior Researcher in the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre (RCRCCC) program. She is a graduate student in human geography at the University of Colorado Boulder. Her research interests are in food security, health, rural livelihoods, and vulnerability to climate change. In Nairobi, Sarah will support work on development of impact based forecasts in Kenya that will be used to trigger early action before extreme drought events that occur. 

View photos in the field by Sarah Posner

The time is flying by and I can’t believe I am already halfway through my placement at the Kenya Red Cross headquarters in Nairobi. Over the past two weeks, the office has been relatively quiet as most officers and interns were attending various workshops and meetings elsewhere in the country. While the solitude was a nice change of pace for the time being, I am happy that most of the office has returned this week. I missed sipping my morning chai in the company of my desk mates and spending lunch breaks sharing laughs over full plates of pilau at nearby tented restaurants. These small moments shared with my colleagues are the memories I will cherish most from my time working here at the Kenya Red Cross Society.

Over the past several weeks, I have worked closely with the data preparedness team on Forecast Based Financing (FbF), compiling various data sources of various drought impacts. We also conducted some preliminary analysis of the historical trends over time, with the aim of better informing an objective prioritization of which impacts are most significant, based upon data availability while addressing its limitations. Today marked a turning point in the project, as today I presented the findings of this research conducted thus far, along with my colleague Naomi, at the Technical Working Group (TWG) meeting. The TWG meets monthly and is comprised of technical experts who represent different disaster intervention institutions who are key stakeholders in the decision-making process. Some of the representatives in the room today included: the Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD), the National Disaster Management Unit (NDMU), and National Disaster Operations Center (NDOC), to name a few.

Prior to the meeting, each stakeholder ranked thirteen drought impacts in order of what they considered to be of most significance. The scores were averaged and ranked by the data team and presented at the TWG which were discussed further in small group discussions. The top five for drought in descending order of significance were: 1) food insecurity, 2) outbreak of water and vector-borne disease, 3) water scarcity, 4) malnutrition, and 5) resource-based conflict. Many of the stakeholders were surprised by this ranking, with many individuals expecting to see such impacts as livestock death or reduced crop yield, which relate to rural livelihoods, ranked higher on the list. This led to a reflective discussion about the prioritization process, which was based upon the knowledge base and personal experiences of participants mostly from urban areas. Hence, it would be of interest to repeat the exercise to include other participants dependent on rural livelihoods to see how the rankings would change. Read more …

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