InsuResilience in conversation: Interview with Marie-Louise Rakotondrafara, National Meteorological Service of Madagascar

What role do meteorological services play in a world of changing climate?

Meteorological services in a changing world, in particular vis-à-vis climate change, are key for evaluation. They are critical for taking stock of the manifestations of climate change that a country is faced with. This means stocktaking of exposure profiles for different sectors with regard to climate impacts also at a national country level. Collecting and disseminating these data is one of the main roles of meteorological services. In addition, it is not simply about sharing these information but also raising awareness for the risks that they stand for. In a world of changing climate, we need to look beyond adaptation only and also raise awareness for the importance of mitigating the adverse effects of climate change and curbing global warming.

In how far can data help make the vulnerable population more resilient towards extreme weather events and extreme temperatures?

At the Direction Générale de la Météorologie (DGM), as the National Meteorological Service of Madagascar, we distinguish between meteorological data and meteorological information. We think that in order to help make the population less vulnerable to extreme weather events it is important to provide reliable but equally relevant information to the vulnerable population. In order to generate these information we need data of course. With the data that we collect, we have the vision to help produce the kind of information needed to help these people.

What kinds of challenges do you see with respect to the gathering, processing, assessment and user rights of climate risk-related data?

It is true that there are many challenges. At the level of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) we have the Resolution 40, which provides guidance on the exchange of meteorological data and which also advocates for exchange of hydro-meteorological data. But there are several challenges related to the way of collecting data. Madagascar is a developing country and observation stations and maintenance of observation networks are very expensive. Our hydro-meteorological networks are very loose and widely spread. So getting reliable information based on the data that we can collect is very difficult.

As just mentioned, meteorological stations and maintenance of the observation network are expensive. Madagascar has a surface of roughly 600,000 km² and we do not have enough data for creating good risk profiles for the country. The country is very hilly, making it difficult to have the climatic profiles at regional level. To overcome this problem, we have started to work in a public-private partnership with NGOs. They purchase and install the hydro-meteorological stations and work with the local authorities in collecting the data. We receive a copy of the data and enter them in the national database. We have about twenty climatological stations like this already that do not belong to the DGM but where we work with NGO partners like WWF.

When it comes to data exchange, we are seeing another, more recent problem: Many foreign service providers from outside of Madagascar request access to our data, which is a new situation for us. At the moment, we are not sure how to deal with these kinds of demands. We understand that data exchange is very important but at the same time we would like to know how they will be used and which information are derived. This is our role here at the Madagascar National Meteorological Service, as we are the national authority for climate data.

How can climate risk-related data be made accessible and understandable for decision-makers and the population concerned?

We have developed “MAPROOM”, a platform for data visualization. It enables people to access visualizations of data up to the district level. It focuses on temperature and precipitation, as this is what people need most. We are using a merging of satellite data with data from meteorological stations, enabling us to create maps with a real-time resolution of four kilometers. We have developed this together with the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) at the University of Columbia. In addition, we are also making seasonal forecasts that are available on our website.

We are also working with the WMO on the implementation of a national framework for climate services. For one part, this includes sharing information on so-called user platforms for agriculture, water, or health. This helps us to translate the data and information for decision-makers in specific sectors. This has been in place for 2-3 years already, but we are struggling with getting it off the ground because the sector representatives are not making use of the system.

Moreover, we would like to develop mobile applications for weather and climate data. At the moment, we send our information, for example related to a cyclone, to the national office for catastrophe risk management, which is responsible for emergency management. They use the information to send a cyclone alert via a mobile application to the population. However, we would like to develop our own mobile app for agrometeorological services that reaches out directly to the communities.

Could you tell us more about how the DGM contributes to the implementation of climate risk insurance projects in Madagascar?

In this project with Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)*, our role is primarily around the provision of data and information for risk analyses, which are the basis for designing insurance solutions. We are very interested in this project and in the future, we would also like to contribute our expertise around the design of the product itself instead of being only a data provider.

In addition, we are also involved in other insurance-related projects: Last week, we signed an MoU with the insurance company ARO and the Moroccan reinsurer MAMDA, in order to develop an agricultural insurance product for rice, which will be tested this year.

Our current concern is how to provide the right data to develop reliable and sustainable insurance products. We support the idea of insurance, but at the same time, how can we as DGM make sure that the product actually meets the needs of the population? As we are working with the private sector, we also need to make sure to protect the interests of our taxpayers.

I remember that a couple of years ago, the World Bank made an assessment on climate risk insurance in Madagascar. Back then, they found that the country was not ready for it, because insurance was too expensive for smallholder farmers. However, it is particularly the poor and vulnerable who need this protection the most. Therefore, I am very hopeful now that this project can make a change.

This interview was conducted by the InsuResilience Secretariat.

*Background

Implemented by GIZ in Madagascar, the project “Adaptation of agricultural value chains to climate change” (PrAda) aims to improve the performance of actors in selected agricultural value chains that are particularly vulnerable to climate change. The focus of PrAda’s work is on three regions in the southeast of Madagascar: Androy, Anosy and Atsimo-Atsinanana. In addition to the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock as the lead executing agency, PrAda works at the national level also closely together with the Meteorological Service and the Ministry of Finance.

The project is implementing measures in three complementary areas. In close cooperation with the Meteorological Service, value chain actors obtain improved access to agro-meteorological and agricultural extension services. The second area of intervention focuses on improving the structural frameworks of the value chains, such as the organization and cooperation of actors. Access to equipment is facilitated, and the production techniques are adapted. In the third area, access to climate risk insurance products for actors in agricultural value chains is improved. With this instrument, actors can insure themselves against income losses due to climate and weather-related events. The GIZ Global Project on microinsurance in contribution to InsuResilience supports the implementation of the third component.