Workshop participants

Risk Award 2023:
Holistic early warning in South Africa

The work has started
- project update

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    The Association for Water and Rural Development (AWARD), a non-profit organisation based in South Africa, won the 2023 RISK Award. The award recognises the development of an innovative early warning system in the Inkomati River Basin in southern Africa. This project aims to provide early warning against risks such as floods, droughts and health hazards from e-coli bacteria and arsenic in water.
    Inkomati River catchment area between South Africa, Swaziland and Mozambique

    Exchange and networking

    Since the project's launch in December 2023, AWARD has made significant progress, particularly in stakeholder engagement. The organisation has participated in forums, workshops and direct exchanges with experts, partner organisations and local authorities. Of particular note was AWARD's participation in the Mbombela City Environmental Management Forum, which provided valuable feedback on the early warning system and facilitated dialogue with key stakeholders such as the GiZ technical advisor and the senior manager of the city's environmental management unit.

    AWARD also networked with related regional and local projects and participated in workshops to create synergies by developing joint solutions. 

    Mr Tebogo Mathebula of AWARD (left) with stakeholders from the City of Mbombela.

    Advances in climate research and modelling

    In the course of the RISK Award project, AWARD also develops and improves climate models to predict outcomes related to climate change impacts within the basin. These efforts include enhancing existing models with advanced data sources such as satellite imagery and regional climate projections. Data sources incorporated into this research model include for example, historical and forward-looking climate data. This enables AWARD to analyse trends and prepare for future climate conditions. International data from the World Climate Research Programme that can be customized is used to reflect regional specificities, thereby broadening the scope and applicability of AWARD's research.

    These sources provide extensive data on key climate variables such as precipitation patterns, temperature ranges and evapotranspiration rates, which are essential for comprehensive water balance and agricultural impact studies.

    Example of a climate change projection, focusing on days hotter than 40 o C, against an historical reference period from 1986-2005.

    Impacts and adaptation strategies

    Using these improved models and detailed climate data, AWARD is able to support the development of robust adaptation strategies to preserve vital ecosystem services and secure the livelihoods of communities in the Inkomati River Basin. The strategies are specifically designed to anticipate and mitigate the potential negative impacts of changing rainfall patterns, temperature fluctuations and the occurrence of extreme weather events.

    AWARD's methodical and science-based approach has enabled the organisation to provide valuable insights into the specific impacts of climate change on biodiversity and agricultural productivity in the region. The findings not only inform local and regional planning efforts but also can contribute to the global understanding of effective climate adaptation practices.

    New agricultural areas highlighted in red (2015 – 2024) as identified by the trained model in the Inkomati Basin.

    Data integration and climate modelling

    A key component of AWARD’s efforts is integrating the data collected into its already developed Integrated Water Resources Management and Decision Support System (INWARDS). This system is designed to improve decision-making by providing a comprehensive view of water management challenges and potential solutions. INWARDS is critical in synthesising collected data, enabling AWARD to apply scientific knowledge directly to policy-making and practical management. The system supports the organisation's initiatives by improving response strategies to effectively manage and mitigate the impacts of climate variability and change.

    By combining these innovative research techniques, integrated data management and community-focused adaptation strategies, AWARD is making significant progress in safeguarding water resources and promoting resilience to climate change in the Inkomati River Basin.

    17 May 2024