Sierra Leone Meteorological Dept. becomes an Agency. What does this mean for sustainable development and disaster risk management?

In Sierra Leone today, subsistence agriculture is currently the largest employer and primary source of income for 2/3 of the population. The links between food insecurity, climate change, and poverty are evident. Access to weather and climate information in this regard to guide decision-making is crucial to farmers and policy makers for disaster risk reduction, alleviating poverty and hunger. That is why the newly established Sierra Leone Meteorological Agency is a big deal for the country in her effort for sustainable development.

Photo: Inspecting Kailahun Town automatic weather station

A quick reflection on the history of Meteorological Services, many were set up to serve aviation, particularly military aviation in the First World War. However, as the contribution of meteorological services to national socio-economic development have become more apparent, National Meteorological Service/Agency have taken on different responsibilities servicing not only the aviation sector but agricultural sector, tourism, environment, insurances, etc. Inadequate infrastructure and limited human resources in Meteorological departments/services, especially in developing and least developed countries, are among the factors that limit the capacity of the govt to take advantage of the advances in science and technology for effective water resources management, agricultural productivity, health and disaster risk reduction, among others. All of which are heavily influenced by weather and climate.

It is against this background that the Minister of Transport and Aviation, Hon. Leonard Balogun Koroma has played a vital role in transforming the meteorological department to an Agency. He championed the Sierra Leone Meteorological Agency Act 2017 through parliament that will allow the Meteorological Department to now become the Sierra Leone Meteorological Agency with added responsibilities and duties. The Agency will undertake activities directed at monitoring, improving the understanding of the weather, climate, climate change and the hydrological cycle over both land and sea. The observations and data gathered by the agency will form the foundation for the monitoring and prediction of weather, climate, water and related environmental conditions as well as the issuance of warnings and alerts. The agency will work actively with community radio stations to broadcast weather updates to farmers who can tune in on their radio to receive daily updates such as heavy rainfall or windstorm to make more informed farming decisions.

In time, the agency will also work with Chiefdom Health Officers (CHO) who are experts at reaching women and other vulnerable populations, who are disadvantaged due to low literacy, low mobility, and low access to technology. Weather affects health, when there are floods, there is an increased risk of diarrhea disease or cholera. CHOs in the community provide preventative guidance regarding health issues, early warning, and climate forecasts could help improve the accuracy of such guidance. The Sierra Leone Meteorological Agency will, therefore, play a central role in the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS), United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Inter Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The agency will contribute immensely to the sustainable development goals (SDGs) at the national and regional levels and in some cases at the global level as well.

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Ph.D. Student, Environmental Air Sampling. University of Reading UK, in collaboration with Fourah Bay College, SL. Current acting Deputy Director Sierra Leone Meteorological Agency

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