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This e-learning course is based on the results developed within the DEWFORA project, and aims to provide the participant with an in depth understanding of drought early warning and forecasting.

DEWFORA (Improving Drought Early Warning and Forecasting to strengtnen preparedness and adaptation to droughts in Africa, is an EU Seventh Framework Research project focusing on improved drought early warning and forecasting to strengthen preparedness and adaptation to droughts in Africa.


This course e-learning is based on three courses organized by DEWFORA project; (i) "Drought forecasting and its use in informed decision making" (Zaragoza, Spain, 23-27 September 2013),: (ii) "Implementation of drought early warning systems and developing the institutional framework for effective response in Africa" (Johannesburg, South Africa, 27-30 August 2013), and (iii) “Drought hazards, vulnerability and risk analysis tools in Africa? (Nairobi, Kenya, 7th-11th October, 2013). The approach to this e-learning course is based on three main concepts;

  • Risk and vulnerability assessment (scarcity diagnostic: who and what is at risk, at what level and why)
  • Monitoring, prediction and early warning (Drought indices and indicators, drought forecasts and monitoring)
  • Mitigation and response (Pro-active programs and actions to reduce risks)

Drought is a major natural hazard and its management is becoming increasingly important. Forecasting and warning is widely recognised as a valuable aid in managing natural hazards. Drought forecasting offers great potential in extending current drought monitoring and can enhance drought management practice. However, drought forecasting is a major challenge due to the complexity of the spatial and temporal variability of meteorological and hydrological processes. Additionally there is a need to improve the uptake of forecasts in support of decision making when responding to drought events. Finally, for reaching the final objective (which is that forecast and early warning benefits society), drought forecasting and monitoring products and drought early warning have to be inserted in a wide strategy of drought management which has to be adapted to the socio-economic and institutional context and to the vulnerability levels of society.

DEWFORA is a 3 year (2011-2013) research project supported by the European Union 7th Framework Programme (FP7), aiming to reduce vulnerability and strengthen preparedness to droughts in Africa by advancing drought forecasting, early warning and mitigation practices. DEWFORA has yielded for technical and scientific advances in drought forecasting in Africa, and has proposed a framework for the development of drought early warning systems adapted to the continent’s physical and socio-economic conditions, integrating forecasts, drought indicators and monitoring, impacts and vulnerability assessment and operational planning. Furthermore, different case studies have been developed in four river basins (Limpopo, Niger, Nile, and Oum Er Rbia in Morocco) to test different elements of the drought early warning tools provided by the project on the ground, and a continental drought forecasting system prototype has been produced.

Overall learning objectives

The course is centred on the following four key questions that DEWFORA proposes as a protocol for the design and the implementation of drought forecasting and early warning:


The e-learning is structured into 7 modules with a total of 17 lectures (see programme), that present the following topics


- Introduction to drought and drought management process (module 1)
- Social vulnerability and impacts of drought (module 1)
- Drought forecasting – description and methods for meteorological, hydrological and agricultural forecasting.
(modules 2, 3, 4 and 5)
- The interpretation and the evaluation of the quality and uncertainties of drought forecast products for supporting decision making for drought risk management (module 6)
- Some case studies and applications (module 7)

At the end of the course it is expected that the student will:

- be able to describe and understand the drought forecasting and early warning process and how this process fits into the drought management cycle,
- understand and be familiar with the different types of drought forecasting methods,
- identify what are the available forecasting methods and products and who are the main sources providing these,
- understand how the available forecasts can be used in supporting decisions by trying to fit user needs with forecast products and by analysing the quality and the confidentiality of forecasts.

The course contains both theoretical lessons as well as practical exercises and presentations of real world applications. These materials are presented in a didactical format and are interactive. Simple self-asessment questionnaires for the evaluation of the level of comprehension, as well as open questions inviting the participant to reflect on knowledge gained are also available.

The DEWFORA project and the present course focus on research and experiences developed within the African context. However, the framework developed for drought management planning and the scientific tools presented are applicable and adaptable to other parts of the world where the implementation of drought forecasting and early warning systems is relevant.