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Reinforced cooperation to provide operational flood forecasting and alerts in West Africa

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - FANFAR (Reinforced cooperation to provide operational flood forecasting and alerts in West Africa)

Período documentado: 2019-07-01 hasta 2021-06-30

Flooding is a rapidly growing concern in West Africa. Several floods have occurred recently with severe consequences including loss of lives, crops, livestock, housing, infrastructure, ecosystems, and with millions affected (OCHA, 2020). This undermines societies and fuels migration. Flooding is also projected to increase with climate change. Hence, there is an urgent need for improved flood management in the region. Having access to accurate and up-to-date flood forecasts is essential to improve preparedness and response, and to minimize flood impacts. This contributes to safer societies better adapted to climate change (WMO, 2020).
In response, key West African and European organisations have co-designed and jointly developed the FANFAR pre-operational system ( providing updated information every day since September 2018. FANFAR is the result of 10 years of cooperation between West Africa and Europe. The FANFAR project was financed by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme (grant no. 780118), building on earlier financing from the EU Copernicus programme, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, and the European Space Agency.
The overall objective of FANFAR was to reinforce the cooperation between West African and European hydrological modellers, field observers, data managers, operative forecast analysts, emergency managers, developers of information and communication technologies (ICT), satellite experts, and decision analysts in order to provide a co-designed, co-developed, integrated, and co-operated hydrological forecasting and alert pilot system for West Africa. FANFAR provided key stakeholders with reliable and timely access to operational forecasts and alerts enabled by a robust forecast production system adapted to regional conditions and operated by West African institutions. Moreover, FANFAR enhanced the capacity of West African institutions to forecast, alert for and manage floods.
Key achievements:
Co-design & user experience
Four workshops were held, drawing participants from over 30 West African organisations (hydrological services, emergency management agencies, river basin organisations, regional expert agencies) across 17 countries. User needs and behavioural analyses highlighted the need for high accuracy, clear flood risk information, reliable access and timely production. The users prioritize having an up-to-date system higher than a system with many features, and prioritize a system design in which the West African agencies utilize FANFAR and in turn use their own means to communicate with their stakeholders.
Flood forecasting & alert system
FANFAR has developed a pre-operational system ( providing openly accessible forecasts & alerts updated every day since September 2018 at West African scale. The system integrates meteorological forecasts, hydrological models, gauge & satellite observations, flood hazard assessments, and several distribution channels (web, SMS, Email and API). The system is collaboratively developed and operated on the Hydrology-TEP cloud ICT environment.
Capacity development & support
Hands-on training has been carried out at each workshop. Moreover, in-depth courses and extended exchange visits have been held; and FANFAR has been integrated in parallel training events in the region (e.g. Masters courses at AGRHYMET and the PRESASS regional climate outlook forum). Open training material and support has been provided in English and French through an online Wiki-system, a chat group and video tutorials in social media, offline reports, and a Help Desk ticketing system.
Empirical evidence points to more and more frequent floods in the region. For example, Niamey in Niger has been flooded two times between 1971 and 2000, but eight times between 2000 and 2020. The economic impacts have been significant. Flood management is not generally well developed in West Africa, hence stakeholders are typically taken by surprise leading to a post-catastrophe crisis management. Several initiatives over the past years aimed at improving flood forecasting, alerts and management. In this context the FANFAR project was very timely, making several advancements beyond the state-of-the-art, for example: (1) providing daily updated flood forecasts, (2) mapping the flood risks for the entire West Africa, (3) assimilating local observations and EO data to improve forecast accuracy, (4) distributing of flood notifications through accessible technologies, and (5) operating using robust cloud-based ICT infrastructure. These technical advancements were framed by activities to reinforce human capacity to set up, operate, customize and improve the operational forecasting system, as well as to utilize the support channels.

Overall, the expected results until the end of the project were to provide a co-designed, co-developed, integrated, and co-operated hydrological forecasting and alert pilot system for West Africa; to analyze behavioural responses and understand technology adoption processes while introducing of the forecasting system in the region, and to pave the way for sustainable application and long-term operation of the system in the region.

The potential impacts of FANFAR are significant and far-reaching. FANFAR directly addresses the societal challenge of securing societies against flood hazards, which is an urgent challenge in West Africa.

Saved lives and property:
“In September [2020], we received an early warning from the FANFAR system which saved approximately 2,500 lives. The warning helped us evacuate five communities near the Jebba dam before more than 200 houses were destroyed by the flood,” says Aishatu Tani Ibrahim, Director of Engineering Hydrology at the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency in Abuja, Nigeria
One month later, a similar warning protected life and property in four communities when those responsible for the water management could release water from the Shiroro dam before the peak water flow occurred, thereby avoiding severe flooding.
All-in-all with better flood forecast and alert information, societies, NGOs, businesses and citizens in West Africa have begun to move from post-catastrophe crisis management to pre-event informed preparation and planned response. This in turn has enabled many positive effects on society such as less infrastructure damage, more efficient dam management, and lives saved.
Building on the achievements to date, hydrological services, emergency management agencies, and river basin organisations have expressed a keen desire to sustain the long-term operation and improvement of the system, and to extend the capacity development. One representative of these organisations expressed it as follows:
“FANFAR is very important because climate predictions for West Africa shows that there will be more rain and increased rainfall intensity that will cause floods. Hence there is a need for FANFAR to give early warning to people so that preventive measures can be adopted in time,” says a West African hydrological services agency.
FANFAR Interactive Visualisation Portal showing the situation on 16 September 2020
Road flooded in Ivory Coast, September 2018. Photo courtesy of Edouard Ouattara
Jebba flood in Kwara, Sept 2020, Source, with permission
FANFAR training workshop in Abuja during 2020
FANFAR workshop participants in Niamey (2018) and Abuja (2020)