Short feedback from the first round of the DriDanube national seminars
Summer 2017 has brought another severe drought event to the Danube region with unexpected intensity and impacts that overcame the previous ones. In June, with drought already in progress, DriDanube project partners organized their National Briefing Seminars trying to point out importance of tackling the drought issue and aiming to engage the relevant stakeholders on the national level in cooperation throughout the project.
Focus of the seminars
On one side, the focus of all seminars was to present the DriDanube project, its main outputs, results and on the other side, to share information on current status of the drought management and identify links with similar past or on-going projects or processes in the countries. During the discussions (in different forms: general discussions, roundtables, smaller groups, panels, etc.) partners were collecting inputs and comments for all five aspects on which DriDanube is focusing - drought monitoring, drought impact and risk assessment, drought management (response) and communication.
Seminars programmes differed from each other country by country but one common objective was to engage the stakeholders already at the beginning of the project, exchange their ideas and expectations, discuss with them the main challenges in their daily operations and involve them into further developments of the project outputs.
Some of the partners used the opportunity and organized their seminars in connection with some other events or initiatives in order to attract more stakeholders. In Austria the seminar was connected with national workshop focusing on using the data from Copernicus satellite – focus of the DriDanube seminars in their case was on drought monitoring. Slovenian Seminar used the opportunity of celebrating the World Day to Combat Desertification (June 17) and emphasized even more the importance of better drought management in order to protect land and water resources. In Slovakia, process of preparing National Drought Action Plan has started before the summer hence the seminar was organized just in time. DriDanube was presented and explained to the responsible institutions and assured that information and outputs produced within the project will serve as inputs for the preparation of the National Drought Action Plan.
Over 200 individuals participated at the seminars, representing all main project target groups (public authorities, sectoral agencies, NGOs, private sector, international organizations, etc.). All of them are playing different roles in DriDanube “process” – either they have access to the databases that project needs, or they will use the outputs of the project in their every-day work or can importantly influence drought policy processes. Most of them expressed their interest to be further involved and informed which is one of the ultimate goals of the project. Likely the DriDanube partners consider bottom up approach and involvement of all stakeholders as very important element for the “uptake” and usage of the project outputs once the project finishes.
With some concrete requests to the stakeholders (filling out the questionnaires about the current status of drought monitoring and management, reporting drought impacts from the field, etc.) partners managed to raise interest for the project even more and start building the ownership for the project outputs already at the beginning of the project.
Outcomes of the seminars
All the stakeholders pointed out that connection among different sectors is a crucial part towards establishment of the efficient drought management cycle (monitoring – response – assessment – preparedness). Romanian stakeholders emphasized that “the central part of the project should be communication and interaction between all stakeholders and target groups”. It was also important that all Associated Strategic Partners took active part in the seminar as “promotors” of the DriDanube project.
Among so many projects and activities, there is a high demand from the stakeholders for the practical and usable outputs that can support their everyday work. This is important especially in agricultural sector. In Bosnia and Herzegovina it was raised that the projects should “find a way to reach producers, farmers on the field and give them simple advices based on the drought forecast and warnings”. While so many similar works have already been done it is also important to “identify and discuss main shortcomings of already accepted strategies or policies or built on knowledge produced in previous projects, activities” which was emphasized at the Hungarian seminar.
When talking about drought in the Danube region we are still mainly focusing on agricultural sector but, as it was mentioned at the seminar in the Republic of Serbia, “droughts do not affect only agriculture but also hydro energy production, transport, tourism, etc.”, so all the sectors should join efforts in preparation and implementation of the drought management plan.
Drought is already one of the major topic for water management. In Croatia, they see drought “as one of the results of climate change that directly impacts efficient and sustainable water management.”
One of the main concerns pointed out at all seminars, is still the “out of sight - out of mind” approach of most of the stakeholders when it comes to drought. General awareness about drought risk and impacts is still on a very low level in the region. In Slovakia participants agreed that “much higher effort must be given to creative awareness raising campaigns". In Slovenia, they said that “communication on drought should have positive connotation and should be supported with concrete recommendations for effective drought management measures”.
Partners are now collecting all inputs from the seminars together with additional responses received through online questionnaires and will include them into the development of our main tools and the Strategy. In few weeks (4-6 October, 2017) all partners will meet again on the 2nd project meeting which will be held in Brno, Czech Republic where the first training for partners on use of the project developed tool (Drought User Service) will be held.