By Laura Reeves and Nerea Ferrando Jorge
DARAJA means bridge in Swahili which is fitting as this project aims to bridge the gap between urban communities and weather agencies, in order to make 1 billion people safer from climate disasters by 2025.
DARAJA stands for Developing Risk Awareness through Joint Action and is a project under the WISER (Weather and Climate Information Services for Africa) Programme. The project is a forecasting service that connects people in urban areas to weather information, allowing them to take pre-emptive action against the impact of climate disasters, as well as forecasts for day-to-day life. Currently, the project has been piloted in Nairobi (Kenya) and Dar es Salaam (Tanzania). Mark Harvey, the CEO of Resurgence, a social enterprise involved in its development, stated that DARAJA "has acknowledged communities and given them a space at the table”. Weather agencies have previously focused on information for aviation, agriculture and fisheries, but not urban communities. This makes local groups less able to take pre-emptive action for extreme weather events. With the world’s urban population predicted to double by 2050 and an increased severity and frequency of extreme weather, it is vital to have up to date, accessible and clear forecasts for urban users.
DARAJA is a multi-hazard platform that detects extreme weather events such as flooding, storms and extreme heat. To make it accessible to the local community, the information is communicated using multiple methods including social media, SMS, newspapers, television, radio and face-to-face communication. DARAJA co-designed this project which “downscales and almost democratises early warnings to put them into the hands of the communities” according to Mark Harvey. Different types of weather are represented by icons so they can easily be understood, empowering the local community. Mark explained that “93% of surveyed residents now have access to weather information and 98% of surveyed residents take action in preparation for these events”. The weather warnings are also tailored to local vulnerability, for example, a location next to a river or with more tarmac, may have a lower threshold for a flood warning.
The early warning system has been a success in both pilot cities, with a 20:1 benefit to cost ratio, so for every $1 put into the DARAJA project $20 is gained from avoiding property loss and damage. This is much higher than the average 9:1 ratio stated by the World Meteorological Organisation, (2019).
The global plan for the Early Warning System was announced at COP27, which intends to reach everyone on Earth with early warnings against increasingly extreme and dangerous weather within the next 5 years. In light of this, Resurgent’s plan of reaching 1 billion vulnerable people by 2025 is closer than ever.