Efforts to help Brazil be better prepared for drought are underway at a variety of scales, and experts associated with the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln have been involved in several of them.
Mike Hayes, climatologist and director of the NDMC, spent an intensive two days in the state of Pernambuco in August as a visiting expert. His host was Sebrae, an organization similar to the United States’ Small Business Administration that is working to expand the employment opportunities available in rural areas and among small entrepreneurs. Droughts have a tremendous impact on these groups and one of the objectives is to reduce the number of people displaced to urban areas during drought.
Mark Svoboda, climatologist and leader of the NDMC’s Monitoring program area, was in Ceara in August as part of an ongoing World Bank project to establish an operational drought monitoring product for northeast Brazil.
Sebrae has convened a multi-sector group whose name translates as the Permanent Forum for Drought Initiatives in Pernambuco, located in Brazil’s arid northeast. Hayes said he was very encouraged by the broad group of stakeholders coming together in the Forum to learn about and plan for drought, and by the fact that some of the participants were also involved in the parallel World Bank effort, adding, “For me, it’s extremely important to bring multiple efforts together.”
On the first day of his visit, Hayes provided a detailed description of the NDMC and its activities for a technical audience. The next day, he gave two talks on drought planning, one to the Permanent Forum for Drought Initiatives, and another to a more general audience that included academics, officials, and the general public.
Hayes’ trip came about in part through UNL’s activities as a host for the Brazilian Scientific Mobility program, which hosts Brazilian students and fosters exchange of scientific researchers. UNL had also hosted a visit from Sebrae in 2013.
A major focus of the World Bank project has been establishing drought monitoring and early warning for nine states in northeast Brazil. Svoboda, NDMC climatologist Brian Fuchs, and NDMC geospatial analyst Chris Poulsen have been working with their Brazilian counterparts since January to develop a drought monitoring process and product similar to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Brazilian scientists visited Lincoln, Nebraska, in March to learn more about how a U.S. team assembles the U.S. Drought Monitor map each week. In August, Svoboda traveled to Fortaleza, capital of Ceara, a state in northeastern Brazil, where he served as a consultant for a week-long, hands-on World Bank training. About two dozen scientists came together to focus on assimilating many different kinds of data into a single map. The Brazilian team plans to have an operational drought monitoring product in place by early 2015.
In May, Don Wilhite, a drought expert who founded the NDMC and served as its director until 2006, gave the keynote talk at a workshop on national drought policy in Fortaleza, Brazil, sponsored by the World Bank, Brazil’s National Ministry of Integration, and the Centro de Gastao e Estudo Estrategicos (Center for Strategic Studies).
Much of the Brazilian activity has been the direct or indirect result of the High Level Meeting on National Drought Policy, held in Geneva, Switzerland, in March 2013. One of a series of regional follow-up workshops was in Brazil in December 2013.
-- Kelly Helm Smith, National Drought Mitigation Center