Date of this Version
Effective drought early warning systems are an integral part of efforts worldwide to improve drought preparedness. Timely and reliable data and information must be the cornerstone of effective drought policies and plans. In pursuit of the goal of improving the effectiveness of drought early warning systems, participants of the experts meeting were asked to address three fundamental questions:
1. What is your assessment of the current status of drought early warning systems?
2. What are the shortcomings, limitations, and needs for drought early warning systems?
3. How can drought early warning systems be improved to better support drought preparedness and mitigation efforts at the local, national, and international level?
Participants identified the primary users of data and information derived from drought early warning systems as a first step in evaluating the status of early warning systems. Users were diverse, including government agencies, farmers, extension services, insurance companies, media, donors, NGOs, and the general public. Leadership for drought early warning systems is provided principally by meteorological or agricultural services. In general, where meteorological services were the lead agency, the information tended to be more meteorologically based. In contrast, leadership for drought early warning systems that were more agriculturally based tended to take a more multidisciplinary or integrated approach to monitoring. An integrated approach is considered preferable because information from all elements of the hydrologic system must be considered to obtain a comprehensive assessment of climate and water supply conditions. Although forecasting and monitoring are considered critical components of all early warning systems, there appeared to be little evidence of the beneficial use of that information by farmers.
It was noted that few countries currently have a national drought policy in place. Australia is an exception and progress in South Africa and the United States was noted. It was apparent that other countries were moving in the direction of a national drought policy. In some instances, subnational policies were in existence. Comprehensive early warning systems should be the foundation on which national drought policies and plans are constructed. Although many countries have some type of drought early warning system in place, these systems are not comprehensive and have very limited financial and human resource inputs.