Guyana benefits from Finnish initiative to boost early warning, hydromet services

The Ministry of Agriculture is participating in a project being undertaken by Finland aimed at developing Multi-Hazard Early Warning Sys-tems (MHEWS) and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) in the Caribbean to mitigate the effects of climate change.

According to a Govern-ment Information Agency (GINA) press release, Finland is spearheading the programme titled Strengthening Hydro-Meteorological Operations and Services in the Caribbean within Small Island and Developing States (SIDS) to develop MHEWS and Disaster Risk Reduction.

The programme started in September 2010 and is being funded by the Finnish Foreign Affairs Ministry to the value of 0.5 Million Euros. The programme is expected to conclude in December. Represen-tatives were given a tour of SIDS to assess capacities for the MHEWS and DRR in Trinidad and Tobago, Barba-dos, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Belize, Haiti, Antigua and Barbuda, Guyana, Suriname and The Bahamas, GINA said.

At a two-day seminar held at the Ministry of Agriculture boardroom, SHOCS Project Coordinator Dr Martti Heikinheimo noted that while preparation for natural disasters is at a high level in Guyana and other SIDS, there is room for improvement. “Every country has their own disasters to cover, as such [the programme] does not have a regional approach in solving all the problems… we are going from country to country and trying to find out the local features and the preparedness settings that exist…through training workshops with stakeholders involved in Disaster Risk Reduction we offer the technical capacity to guide capacity-building to improve the systems that are in place,” he said. Heikinheimo added that the team analysed investments made by countries and found that significant investments made on early warning systems save society in the long-run.

Minister of Agriculture Dr Leslie Ramsammy said governments have recognised the need to address climate change realities and are ensuring that the mechanisms are in place for early warning systems and disaster response.

“We certainly now need to re-examine our attitude of developing an effective hydro-meteorological service which is imperative as it is more than predicting what the weather will be …it is also about looking at climate change over the years and looking at longer term forecasting so that we can be able to respond to weather patterns and ensure that any negative impact of weather will not be experienced to its fullest extent as we will be more prepared,” he said.

Ramsammy noted that in the past developing countries did not invest in early warning systems nor did they focus on hydro-meteorological services. However, over the last few years Guyana has made headway in putting hydro-meteorological services high on the development agenda and it has benefited from several partnerships to develop it.

“Finland has been cooperating with SIDS on various environmental and climate change projects in recent years,” he said, adding that this partnership and engagement in the SHOCS project is important because it allows Guyana to improve its meteorological service which is critical to the agriculture, a sector important to the economy.

“Agriculture today accounts for more than 33% of direct overall employment in Guyana…it is likely that agriculture will retain its significance in our development trajectory even with oil on the horizon,” Ramsammy said.

According to GINA, the seminar is also expected to discuss themes such as observation, hazard detection, monitoring and forecasting; incorporating risk information in emergency planning and warning messages; dissemination and communication of risk information and early warnings and national and community level response to early warnings.

The SHOCS project is supported by the Association of Caribbean States, and aims to strengthen regional cooperation and integration with a view to creating an enhanced economic space in the region; preserve the environmental integrity of the Caribbean Sea which is regarded as the common patrimony of the peoples of the region and, promote the sustainable development of the Caribbean.

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