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Sustainability of early warning systems

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This discussion paper synthesises the state of knowledge on the sustainability of early warning systems (EWS), how they are currently employed in Malawi, and challenges to, and opportunities for, their sustainability. The importance of EWS has been recognised in Malawi, and various policies and legislation are supportive of their existence. However, there are many lessons to be learned from elsewhere on sustainability.

women farmers in Malawi
maThe paper highlights that development of an effective and sustainable warning communication and dissemination process (principally for floods and drought/food insecurity) is recognised as a major challenge in Malawi. Many national policies and strategies relating to weather, climate variability, climate change, climate information and early warning systems (EWS) have been introduced or revised in recent years to create a more robust policy architecture for disaster risk management, including EWS.
women farmers in Malawi
Early warning systems are essential to reduce adverse impacts of climate shocks (courtesy of BRACC hub)


There are barriers that must be overcome to establish effective EWS that are sustainable over time. These include: limited financial resources, technological forecasting capacity; skills and staff shortages; and inefficient coordination of weather and climate information dissemination, including early warning preparedness and response. However there are also opportunities, with successful implementation of participatory approaches, experimentation with anticipatory action, and emerging public private partnerships to support the financial viability of EWS.

The paper concludes with suggestions for future research on EWS in Malawi to examine how sustainability principles and practices can be incorporated more thoroughly and effectively into EWS design and operation.