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Cycle 5 (2015 Deadline)

Strengthening resilience to extreme weather related events in Indonesia through improving the predictability of drought risk within the Drought Cycle Management Model

PI: Heri Kuswanto (, Institut Teknologi Sepuluh Nopember (ITS)
U.S. Partner: Justin Sheffield, Princeton University
Project Dates: December 2016 - August 2020

Project Overview

This project focuses on drought as one of the major natural hazards in Indonesia. The primary aim is to improve the predictability of drought events as part of disaster risk reduction within the framework of the Drought Cycle Management (DCM) model. The DCM has proven to be a robust and practical approach for drought management in Africa for more than 30 years, but it has never been implemented in Indonesia. Differences in drought characteristics and community profiles between Indonesia and Africa will introduce interesting challenges for formulating novel strategies towards DCM implementation. One of the challenges will be how to predict future drought events under Indonesia’s unique tropical climate variability. This project will develop a Drought Monitoring and Forecasting System (DMFS) and formulate scenarios to reduce drought risk, based on approaches previously applied by U.S. partner Dr. Sheffield and colleagues. The DMFS will be developed by drawing from methods developed by the Terrestrial Hydrology Group of Princeton University, integrated with seasonal drought forecasting derived from downscaled climate forecasts from the North America Multi-Model Ensemble (NMME)-II for predicting drought events in Indonesia.

Specifically, the goals of the project are (1) to improve the predictability of drought by developing a reliable monitoring and forecasting system; (2) to formulate a best framework for implementing a DCM model in Indonesia that incorporates local drought characteristics and community profiles; and (3) to test the effectiveness of the DCM model to reduce drought risk. To answer these questions, Dr. Kuswanto and his team will collect historical climate and hydrology data to characterize drought and use this to develop a drought prediction model based on climate prediction and statistical models. The two most vulnerable districts have been identified as the site for the pilot study for implementation of DCM: Probolinggo, East Java, and Lombok Utara, Nusa Tenggara Barat. They are listed as top priority districts due to their vulnerability to drought impacts. Based on participatory evaluations conducted on these two districts, statistical evidence will be evaluated to confirm the effectiveness of DCM. The U.S. collaborators will assist with the development of the DMFS for Indonesia, as well as with DCM implementation in the targeted districts. They will also provide remote sensing data required to build the system.

The Government of Indonesia (GoI) has made climate change mitigation and adaptation a national priority. Climate change resilience has been the focus of the GoI as part of the commitment to implementing the Sendai Framework for the Disaster Risk Reduction Framework. Climate change resilience has also become one of the focuses of the USAID mission in Indonesia. This PEER project supports these interests by focusing on a parallel strategy to strengthen extreme weather and climate resilience. The Meteorological Office Indonesia (BMKG) issues drought information from a simple monitoring system but with very low predictive capacity and hence drought forecasts have never been made properly. Moreover, the provided drought information is difficult for smallholders and communities to access directly, which has led to lack of actions to reduce the risk. Therefore, the DMFS coupled with an effective strategy for easy access to information by communities/smallholders, is urgently required. The DCM will frame how decisions are currently made at the smallholder and community levels in response to drought and determine whether decisions can be made (based on forecast information) to reduce drought risk. The project will ensure that communities and smallholders will have access to the drought information generated from the system, which is consistent with the idea of the DCM model.

Summary of Recent Activities

5-125 Andalas Award
Dr. Kuswanto (left) receives an award following his presentation and outreach at Andalas University (photo courtesy of Dr. Kuswanto).
Activities on this project during the first half of 2020 were mainly devoted to system development and validation. However, the work has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in the PI’s university being shut down since March 20, 2020. Prior to these disruptions, however, Dr. Kuswanto and his team carried out several activities successfully. On January 24, they organized an internal discussion with the Center for Disaster Management and Climate Change-ITS about strategies for winning international research grants. Dr. Kuswanto was assigned to mentor an applicant from his institute who was applying to PEER Cycle 9, and that project remains under consideration as of July. On March 3, together with the Research Institute-ITS, he and his colleagues organized a sharing session about how to successfully apply for international research grant. About 50 researchers attended the session. Two undergraduate students (bachelor’s degree program) and one research assistant (Master’s degree program) working on the project have completed and defended their final projects in January 2020. All of them graduated in March 2020, just a day before the university was shut down due to Covid-19.

The PI and his team continue to collaborate intensively with BMKG. Staff from that agency visited ITS in February 2020 to discuss further cooperation after PEER project. As the follow up to the collaboration, BMKG will send staff members to study at ITS. One of them will be in the Department of Statistics and will learn more about statistical data analysis for weather and climate issues. Moreover, two students were selected to conduct internships at BMKG Jakarta from March through April. Due to COVID-19, the internships were conducted online.

On February 28-29, 2020, Dr. Kuswanto was invited by the PTPN (government company producing sugar) to give a training on data analysis. They shared information about the correlation between sugar cane output and the weather situation and explained the usefulness of applying mid-range forecast information. The PTPN staff expressed interest, stating that the predictions from the system the PI and his group are developing could help support their work, especially for the planting and production planning calendar.

In the first week of March, Dr. Kuswanto gave an invited talk to the ITS student association on scholarship and how to become a research assistant, especially for graduate students. He shared information from his experience carrying out two PEER projects and highlighted the role of research assistants in the projects. The students found the talk very useful, as they had heard the term “research assistant” before but did not have a clear idea of what the position entailed. During the project phase, the PI learned a great deal about the U.S. education system from his U.S. partners, which gave rise to his idea of adopting the “Master by Research” and “PhD by Research” program as applied in many U.S. universities. With Dr. Kuswanto now serving as the director of postgraduate programs and academic development at ITS, he was in an appropriate position to propose the idea to be implemented at ITS. After much discussion, the ITS Academic Senate approved the idea and the programs were launched in late May 2020.

One of the project’s Master’s students presented a paper (online) in a conference organized April 16-17 by the Indonesian Operations Research Association (IORA) at Atma Jaya Catholic University, Jakarta, which was entitled the 5th International Conference on Operations Research 2020. The paper focused on modeling of extreme precipitation indices, and it is now under consideration for publication in a journal.

On the research side, the shutdown of ITS created difficulties for the PI and his team, as they had problems accessing the specialized high-speed computer they use to validate their observation data. They had expected that the university would reopen in July 2020, but with conditions in Surabaya continuing to worsen, ITS remains. Dr. Kuswanto is currently negotiating with his department to obtain permission to use the computer in the laboratory remotely. In the meantime, the researchers continue to work on developing their modeling and forecasting system to be published online. The PhD student working on the project is still carrying out her research focusing on the theoretical part and preparation of a publication. During July through September, the team will continue developing their system, including validation with current observation data, and they will run the validation remotely if the university allows. Dr. Kuswanto will also participate in an online training program organized by the Climate Reality Project July 18-26. As a follow-up, he and his team will organize a focus group discussion on climate issues in Indonesia July 30, in partnership with Climate Reality Indonesia. The PI also plans to submit a paper to a virtual conference, the 2nd Climate Smart and Disaster Resilient: ASEAN International Conference, which will be held October 26, 2020.

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