Together with the Data for Children Collaborative at the University of Edinburgh, we sent out a call for individuals and organizations to join us in an impact collaboration to find answers to the question: “How can we bridge the disconnects between food security, climatic and natural disaster Early Warning Systems and the anticipatory actions that pastoral and agro-pastoral communities in the Horn of Africa can take to overcome recurring shocks and threats to their lives and livelihoods?”

Early warning (EW) and anticipatory action (AA) are fundamental to deliver the early actions that governments and communities can implement to prepare for, respond to, and recover from climatic shocks and droughts.

Improving the links between the two (so appropriate actions mitigate predicted impacts) is central to securing the livelihoods of pastoralist communities.

While countries in the region all have access to diverse early warning systems, there is a poor record of these warnings actually triggering timely anticipatory actions.

Recent efforts to overcome late responses to hazards increasingly link forecast data and information with pre-agreed actions and funding. However, the disconnects between early warnings and anticipatory actions results in ineffective drought responses – by the many organizations set up to address these issues as well as by dryland communities themselves.

The overall aim of this impact collaboration is to propose changes to the end-to-end processes linking the products of Early Warning Systems (their data, information, analysis and predictive impacts) with decision-making at community levels, so pastoral and agro-pastoral communities in the Horn of Africa can better manage seasonal variability and its effects on their food security, nutrition and livelihoods.

Update 1 (4 September 2023): The Challenge Owner, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO),  along with the observatory and several key stakeholders identified ten suitable organisations to bring forward to a series of co-creation sessions. These three design thinking online workshops sought to break down the challenge question, understand the core issues, and develop a project concept targeted at addressing the problem by leveraging the assembled diverse experiences and skills sets. The team are now developing a detailed work plan, aimed at better understanding the communication methods used within the ‘last mile’, to enable more effective anticipatory action from communities. The team will also explore the scale of issues further upstream, through a series of rapid literature reviews and problem scoping. The short reviews will explore the drivers behind anticipatory action decision making and the impact based forecast models used across east Africa.

Update 2 (5 April 2024): On 25 March 2024, the project team  finalised plans to implement a one-year challenge project on ‘enhancing community early warning systems in the Horn of Africa.’