Because much of Ethiopian agriculture remains rain-fed and vulnerable to climate variability, enhancing climate information use in agriculture is among the top priority actions identified in Ethiopia’s Climate-Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) strategy. In support of the goals identified in this strategy, the Agro-Met project was designed by the ATA to fill the present gaps in integrating localized weather and climate information into smallholders’ agronomic practices. Developing climate-resilient agriculture in Ethiopia will help to strengthen food security and improve productivity in a sustainable manner.

The Agro-Met project is working to put in place a system that interprets the seasonal and short-term climate forecasts provided by the National Meteorology Agency (NMA) in the context of smallholders’ needs and translates them into a format that supports agronomic decision-making. Activities underway within this initiative include the capacity building of stakeholders engaged in generating, communicating, and utilizing agro-meteorological information and the procurement and installation of 50 Automatic Weather Stations (AWSs) in Farmers Training Centers (FTC). The installment of these AWSs (that allow meteorological data to be recorded in remote locations without manual input) will speed up the reporting and communication system so that locally-specific forecasts and early warning information reaches local users in a more timely way. Moreover, capacity building efforts will enhance the quality of extension services that provide climate advisory services to smallholders.

Preparations for installation of the 50 AWSs have been completed, including identifying woredas and FTCs that will serve as host sites; providing factory-level training for six technicians; and delivering onsite training to NMA regional branch technicians. All AWSs have been procured and delivered to the NMA for installation. At the time of reporting, the first AWS had been installed in Tulu Teje FTC in the South West Shoa zone of Oromia region.

At the same time, capacity building for extension service providers has taken place in the form of a series of trainings and familiarization workshops for regional, zonal, and woreda-level extension experts on the importance of agro-met advisory use. Furthermore, a study to assess the need for additional human resource capacity building for agro-meteorological information generation and use was completed and validated. Planning is now underway for capacity building initiatives to be implemented beginning in 2009 EC.

Specifications are being developed for the design and testing of an automated agro-met information, advisory communication, and feedback system to reach smallholder farmers. Additionally, a national Agro-Met Advisory Technical Taskforce composed of the MoANR, the Ethiopian Institute for Agricultural Research (EIAR), the NMA, and the ATA has been established. It has since been actively engaged in supplying periodic agro-meteorological advisories based on meteorological forecasts to the Regional Bureaus of Agriculture and Regional Institutes of Agricultural Research (RARIs).

The project has been very successful in supporting the agriculture sector in the face of last year’s El Niño phenomenon. The initiative has helped spread awareness on the importance of agro-met advisory services and strengthened the link between the NMA and other agricultural actors. This awareness in turn has created a sense of ownership among regional partners, as demonstrated by their move to establish regional agro-met taskforces and their proactive involvement in selecting sites for AWS installation.

Over the coming year, the Agro-Met project will finalize implementation of activities currently in progress and build on its achievements in a number of ways. This will entail:

Delivery of a user-tailored, location-specific agro-met advisory to smallholder farmers based on infrastructure installed in the 50 target woredas;

Building human resource capacity for agro-met advisory development, communication, and use by smallholders;

Refining agro-met advisory services to be more specific to major crops and agro-ecological conditions; and

Designing an effective agro-met information generation, communication, and feedback system.

Additionally, the ATA will explore the expansion of agro-met initiatives to moisture-stressed and pastoralist areas where the occurrence of extreme climatic events tends to be more frequent.