The percentage of the planet affected by drought has more than doubled in the last 40 years, and drought has affected more people worldwide than any other natural hazard, according to FAO. Severe episodes of drought can have a devastating impact, leading to famine, migration, natural resource degradation and weak economic performance, or exacerbating social tensions and civil unrest.
While drought can’t be stopped, it can be forecasted and its impacts substantially reduced. DWFI and its international and regional partners, including the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC), University of Maryland, NASA, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS), Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) and International Water Management Institute (IWMI), with funding from United States Agency for International Development (USAID), are helping countries in the MENA region predict future drought and devise drought mitigation plans for implementation. The project delivers new insights, management plans and drought resilience strategies at the national and local levels to reduce drought impacts on the food supply and on the quantity and safety of the water supply in vulnerable communities.
In the last year, DWFI updated its GloDET spatial datasets with 2013–2017 data and continues to work toward its goal of real-time ET mapping. The GloDET portal provides free access to ET data calculated by the ALEXI two-source energy balance model. ET represents daily crop water use and can be used to determine the amount of plant stress. If remote sensing shows that a plant’s ET is decreasing while its temperature is increasing, it can be a sign that the plant is stressed by a lack of adequate water, and an early indicator of drought.
DWFI and NDMC, along with local partners, have already conducted needs-analysis in several countries in the MENA region, including Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia. Following the introduction of real-time data to GloDET, the two organizations will host technical workshops in those areas of the region to train decision makers to use the data with a composite drought index (CDI). Combined data from the two systems captures the nature and characteristics of current drought conditions at regional and country levels.
With a drought mitigation plan already in place and the capability for early detection of drought potential in a region, a community can be more resilient in the face of drought’s adverse ecological and humanitarian effects.