Dr Anthony Anuforom is the director-general, Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NIMET). In this interview with Kingsley Alu, he discusses Weather Index Insurance, the agency’s latest initiative and how it could help Nigerian farmers protect their investments and reduce the effects of weather shocks.
How do want to go about increasing your internally generated revenue base?
Part of the NIMET Impact Plan is to do things differently, that is to be less dependent on government funding.
We want to boost our internally generated revenue (IGR) base from non-aeronautical sources. Our strategy is to increase the contribution from these non-aeronautical sources, specifically from the maritime, oil and gas sectors to 50 per cent. At the moment, it is just less than five per cent.
We have for some time, focused primarily on the supply of meteorological data for the aviation sector, but having upgraded our facilities to international standard and is now well positioned to take full advantage of the local content law in the industry, we decided to make inroads into these sectors of the Nigerian economy.
We are excited about that because, it has never been done before that a department of a MET agency is in the oil and gas arena.
We were at the recently concluded oil and gas industry exhibition and our outing was hugely successful, lots of contacts were made and are being followed up.
Just recently, the people in charge of the commercial department of the UKMET were here working with my commercial people. They have made contacts with potential customers in this arena.
They were in Lagos and Port Harcourt a week before last and some companies are actually showing proper interest. I am optimistic that the initiative will yield result; we just have to be patient, because business is slow even in the oil and gas industry. As part of the action plan, we have a technical services agreement with the UKMET; we are doing strategic partnership with them.
They have technology and are one of the most commercialised weather service providers in the world.
To what extent is your activities felt in the maritime sector of the economy?
Certainly, we have been discussing with the key actors in the maritime industry. We have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), and with the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), but there has been changes in the leadership of these organisations, and this has caused some delays.
Marine weather forecasting is one area the UKMET is so well advanced. In fact, there is right now, arrangement for some of our officers in the marine weather forecasting to go to UKMET in the United Kingdom to develop their capacity to provide that kind of service for Nigeria. We remain certain that in a couple of years from now, we will be less dependent on government for funding.
The other aspect am sure I have not made any public statement is what I called Weather Index Insurance. Weather risk is pervasive in agriculture. Weather shocks can trap farmers and households in poverty, but the risk of shocks also limits the willingness of farmers to invest in measures that might increase their productivity and improve their economic situation.
Weather Index Insurance is a class of insurance products that can allow weather-related risk to be insured where traditional agricultural insurance may not always be feasible
The advantage of this new initiative is that it will help farmers protect their investments and become part of a wider strategy to escape poverty. In addition to transferring the risk away from them.
Another one is that it will provide better access to high-value markets, modern technologies and inputs, agricultural information, and credit and other financial services.
We have already gone far with this initiative but I don’t want to mention the insurance company we are working with in this aspect of insurance.
Aside the farmer, the initiative will create some revenues for us. This is still part of the non-aeronautical sources of revenue.
What is the import of ISO 17025 certification on your agency and the economy in general?
Our ISO1009 is already well known. The certificate is already here. We have developed an instrument calibration laboratory and that laboratory has potentials because in Africa, only a few countries like Egypt, Kenya and South Africa have it so you can see that calibrating instruments for other countries even within Africa is a good business.
Ghana became the latest country to patronise our services late last year and we charged them a little money but for us to go international, we have to be internationally certified and that is the ISO 17025.
Our instrument calibration laboratory is undergoing extensive re-modelling. We are reconfiguring it completely right now.
We also have a consultant guiding us. In fact, he told us that if we want to go for this quality management system leading to certification, we need to do some things and that is what we are doing now. We are optimistic that when we finish, we will now invite quality management auditors to audit our calibration process and once they certify it, we can go anywhere in the world and prospect for business even to aid companies that use similar instruments.
We can go to companies and factories that use those instruments and do calibration for them and make some money. So this is still in pursuit of our non-aeronautical revenue generation initiative.
You see by the time we get our ISO 17025 certification, the commercial viability will be expanded and we will advertise it to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) so that anybody in the world; Germany, France, United States can come here knowing that this is an international centre.
What is the e-SRP all about?
It is using technology to monitor rainfall. What we did in March was the pilot scale of it. I have directed my ICT department to improve on it, probably, make it more graphical and they are already on it.
E-SRP (Seasonal Rainfall Prediction) holds promise of greatly alleviating our ecological stress through early warning mechanism and disaster risk management.
It is expected to transform every farmer and Nigerians in general.
To what extent have farmers been educated on the use of the e-SRP application?
I have held a discussion with my staff on a farmer interface called METAGRI.
The idea is that we can help in increasing food production through the dissemination of meteorological information to farmers across the country.
Under the METAGRI training programme, farmers would be taught how to make use of climate forecast for planning their farming activities. This would enable them to make good plans in producing enough foods.
You know that of all the sectors of the economy, agriculture is the one sector that is related to weather and climate which is one essential part of our economy
Our agro-met specialists are going to go out to the farmers and show them how to use the information on SRP. I like to work with numbers, so they have to show the farmers that this system works and can help them minimise their losses.
The objective is to raise the awareness of rural farmers about effective weather and climate risk management and the sustainable use of weather and climate information and services for agricultural production.
The farmers would be given rain gauges and shown how to read the trend of rainfall. When they are doing so, it now enables them to take decisions. What the commercial department of NIMET is doing now, is working with the relevant departments in the ministry of agriculture especially the extension workers.
We are going to go to states and work with the ministries of agriculture. We want farmers to take advantage of favourable windows in the rainfall pattern and minimise the risks when dry spells occur. This project is capital intensive, so occasionally, we may slow down.
METAGRI is actually an aid programme from the Spanish government through the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). I told my people that we must move from the level the donor is giving us, to a more elaborate scale of it.
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