Key Advancements in Drought Policy and Management

The Monitor quickly developed into the anchor for the broader technical and institutional upgrades being sought by MI. In its most visible form, the Monitor is a monthly map that describes the current state of drought across the Northeast, determined by several meteorological/hydrological indicators (e.g., standardized precipitation index and standardized evapo- transpiration index). The indicators are weighted to produce a composite five-stage drought severity index (on a scale of S0-S4, where S means seca, or drought), and thus add nuance, objectivity, and consistency to the definition of drought in Northeast Brazil. The categories are defined as the percentile of recurrence across the index of weighted indicators: SO (30th percentile, going into and coming out of drought); S1 (20th percentile, moderate drought); S2 (10th percentile, severe drought); S3 (5th percentile, extreme drought); and S4 (2nd percentile, exceptional drought). The occurrence of an S4 drought, therefore, represents a 1 in 50 year event. Figure 21.3 provides a recent example of the monthly Monitor map.

The Monitor is inspired by the efforts of the US Drought Monitor and similar efforts in Mexico, and as such, it has benefited from close collaboration and training with the individuals and institutions in these countries responsible for their respective drought monitoring efforts. Similar to how it operates in these countries, the Monitor is far more than a map for the stakeholders in Brazil. Rather, it is an organizational construct of people, institutions, and processes, which are as important as the map itself. Its production has taken considerable collaboration and behavioral changes and now involves close coordination between senior-level technical specialists from institutions of the nine Northeast states and several federal entities. Three states (i.e., Ceara, Pernambuco, and Bahia) are playing the role of authors of the map, and all nine states are involved as validators to ensure the map is accurately depicting the drought conditions in their respective areas, while also helping to refine and constantly improve the characterization of drought throughout the region. Each month, the authors take turns leading a 2-week-long process of gathering and processing information from a newly established data integration and sharing process that was facilitated among the states and federal government via the Program, and subsequently drawing the map using a geographical information system. This process also includes revisions, discussions, and data exchanges to validate and improve the map before it is published.

The Monitor was officially launched in March 2016, and it has been operational and available to the public since then. One of the key federal partners, the National Water Agency (ANA), leads the coordination among the federal and state institutions, plays the role of Executive Secretary, and hosts the website (


Drought map for December 2016 produced by the Northeast Drought Monitor.

Along with the Monitor, the drought plans endeavored to make the elements of drought preparedness tangible to decision makers and demonstrate the paradigm shift toward proactive drought management. The plans all characterize drought impacts and vulnerabilities, key institutional actors, planning measures for mitigating drought risk, and emergency responses. As such, the teams and partners designing and implementing the plans attempted to consolidate the plans along the three pillars framework, and, to the extent possible, begin to make the links between the Monitor and its categorization of drought across S0-S4 with context-specific policy and management actions triggered by these categories in the drought preparedness plans. Whereas some of the plans were unable to define policy and management actions triggered as the drought progresses to higher stages

(e.g., S0-S4), such as in Piquet Carneiro (the rain-fed agriculture plan), others, such as the two urban plans, formulated a range of actions to be triggered across these various stages of drought.

Some of the plans have already become operational in the communities for which they were designed, the intention being that they will be used to guide decisions as the next drought unfolds and also to help guide longer- term investments to address underlying vulnerabilities and mitigate future drought risks. Moreover, these concrete examples of drought preparedness plans are helping to drive the conversation among federal and state governments on how to scale up these planning exercises across the Northeast.

None of the plans are able to pull information directly from the Monitor to inform the policy actions/triggers, because in its early stages the Monitor does not yet have the breadth and granularity of indicators to warrant a direct link between it and the plans. However, most of the plans adhere to the new S0-S4 categorization of drought severity and intend to use this categorization to feed back into the Monitor to inform its characterization of drought (e.g., the reservoir levels in the urban plan associated with S0-S4 will help the Monitor define drought severity in those areas). All of the plans highlight a need for continued iteration, and in these future updates to the plans, to strengthen links with the Monitor.

The Program produced several analytical products to explain the socioeconomic, institutional, technical, political, and social aspects of Brazilian drought policies. These included a rapid impacts and cost analysis (carried out from September 2014 to January 2015), which provided a qualitative and quantitative evaluation of the drought across multiple sectors of the Northeast, identified the key actors for supporting the institutionalization of the second pillar, and demonstrated a methodology that these actors can replicate for evaluating the impacts of droughts and drought responses in the future. The Program also helped to define a set of principal action items for advancing and institutionalizing a national drought policy and program, which informed the initial discussions around a national seminar process in late 2013 and produced a multicountry comparative drought policy study to identify lessons and good practices from several other drought- prone nations (i.e., Australia, Mexico, Spain, and the United States) (Cadaval Martins et al. 2015).

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