From the far South of Africa to the edges of Eastern Europe, many parts of the planet are experiencing severe, in some cases exceptional, droughts right now. These extreme conditions are impacting vulnerable communities the hardest. But how is drought risk measured, both at a global and a local level, and what can be done to better understand national needs so as to ensure that existing drought management efforts are strengthened?
This is the aim of the EvIDENz (Earth observation-based information products for drought risk on a national basis) project, a new initiative coordinated by the Center for Remote Sensing of the Land Surfaces (ZFL) at the University of Bonn with thematic contributions from the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Security (UNU-EHS) and the UN-SPIDER office in Bonn. The project, which is funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi), is geared towards simultaneously developing methods and products on drought risk assessment that respond to national needs and defined indicators of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR). The project was launched in September and UNU-EHS experts and their partners have already conducted two stakeholder workshops, each in regions currently affected by high levels of drought.
In November, a farm in the Eastern Cape of South Africa – one of the most diverse and drought affected regions in the whole of the country – welcomed a multidisciplinary team of experts for the inaugural EvIDENz workshop. This workshop was facilitated by Prof. Jordaan from the Disaster Management Training and Education Center for Africa (DiMTEC), University of the Free State, together with representatives from ministries as well as practitioners. UNU-EHS experts led discussions relating to the varying aspects of vulnerability and risk assessment to be conducted in the EvIDENz project.
The talks revealed the high importance for improving the national drought classification schemes and, equally as important, for providing scientific evidence to define the thresholds between classes of drought severity. The current existing classification framework combines a number of bio-physical indicators, however, further socio-economic indicators regarding the different vulnerabilities of communal and commercial farmers still need to be integrated to better define the drought severity level based on which political decisions are made and safety nets are activated to support the most vulnerable and affected farmers.
A similar workshop was held in Kiev in December. Focus of this event were three-folded, namely which are the most affected regions, what are the key criteria of vulnerable communities and farmers in Ukraine, and which drought management mechanisms are in place and can be further strengthened through the effective use of satellite monitoring technology. For this reason, Prof. Nataliia Kussul from the Space Research Institute of Ukraine being the key counterpart for EvIDENz in Ukraine brought together a range of state, public and private stakeholders, and other key Ukrainian actors.
Bringing together a diverse range of actors is a major objective of the EvIDENz project. Moreover, as the workshops in South Africa and the Ukraine highlighted, understanding the needs and seeking the support and input of those individuals who are already seeing first-hand the effects of drought is of paramount importance. Moving forward, the EvIDENz research team, including experts from UNU-EHS, will develop a value-adding-chain from satellite remote sensing data, to information, to knowledge, and finally to informed decision making and implementation in the field of agricultural drought risk with the overall aim to support the national reporting for the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR).
Find out more about the EvIDENz project