2 December 2013
A media systems training workshop in Kenya has helped national weather services in developing countries to communicate weather and climate information.
Earlier this year, we ran a successful media systems training workshop in partnership with the Kenya Meteorological Department's Institute of Meteorological Training and Research (IMTR).
Participants from 15 developing country national weather services across Africa attended the workshop, organised through our UK Voluntary Cooperation Programme (VCP). The workshop was a two-week 'train-the-trainers' style course delivered by Dave Robinson from the Met Office Media and Communications team.
The Voluntary Cooperation Programme (VCP) is run by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in cooperation with donors across the world. The Met Office delivers the UK component of the VCP programme, working in partnership with national weather services in developing countries to build their capacity, ultimately enhancing the protection of life and property not just in the UK, but also overseas.
A key aspect of the UK VCP strategy is working in partnership with national weather services in developing countries to help effectively communicate weather and climate information to their government, stakeholders, and the public. In cooperation with WMO, we have supported the installation of TV studios, and associated training, in over 40 developing countries, mainly in Africa. The workshop complements our previous work, for example, earlier this year Met Office experts travelled to Ethiopia to upgrade the Ethiopia National Met. Agency (NMA) media studio (Forecasting for African skies).
Developing media capability
As, VCP Projects Manager at the Met Office, Cathy Moore, explains: "Weather forecast bulletins provide warnings of high-impact weather, often in local language, to a significant proportion of the population, helping to make communities safer. A key benefit of developing media capability is that the TV weather forecasts are very high-profile and therefore increase the visibility of national meteorological services among government and other key decision makers, with the potential to ultimately increase funding to the national meteorological services."
The workshop in Kenya focused on using a media graphics software package, Weather Eye, which we provide free-of-charge to developing countries. Participants could develop their skills to create noticeably improved presentations and will be able to train their colleagues when they return home. Practical training was also given in the setup and use of the studio equipment through hands-on work in the Kenya media studio.
Workshop participants came from a variety of African countries including Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea Conakry, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritania, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Swaziland, Tanzania and Zambia.
There was good feedback from the participants, for example, Kebba Jawo from The Gambia commented: "It was two weeks of real interaction, sharing of knowledge, skills and experience both in class and in the hostel. We should try to share with each other and apply all learnt during the training to make our work better."
Tuning in to radio
UK VCP also provided digital audio recording equipment to each of the participating countries. This means weather forecasts or warnings can be recorded as small electronic files, which can be easily distributed, for example by email to community radio stations. Potentially this can vastly increase the reach of the severe weather warnings so they are received by a much greater proportion of the population. The importance and reach of radio was also highlighted by invited guest speakers at the workshop from BBC Media Action, the BBC's International Development Charity, which is currently working on 'radio for resilience' projects in Kenya and Tanzania.
But development doesn't stop now the workshop has ended, as Cathy describes: "Expanding the pool of expert users through this workshop means that participants can help provide peer-to-peer support to other developing countries, either through contributions to our online support website and forums or even, through agreement with their national weather services, assisting directly in future VCP media projects."