The West African state of Togo has a long history of floods and droughts along the river Mono. The flow of the river is regulated to a certain extent by the upstream hydropower plant which dams the water and releases it on a more regular basis to produce electricity. Nevertheless, in case of severe rainfall, huge amounts of water have to be released at once to reduce pressure on the dam. In 2009, the German Red Cross (GRC) in close collaboration with the Croix Rouge Togolaise (CRT) developed an early warning system to inform and train local residents in how to avoid unnecessary losses during future flooding. Tricoloured bars along the stream serve as indicators of water level and act as a trigger for respective measures which have to be taken if the level rises. Once the water upstream reaches a critical level, volunteers will inform downstream residents in order for them to take action. The network of volunteers includes more than 100.000 people in 112 communities along the main rivers; they inform each other via mobile phone.
To further reduce the risk of flooding, a new ground-breaking project has been initiated. In collaboration with the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre in The Hague and the operator of the hydropower plant, a system has been developed which is able to forecast rising water levels and flood. Based on this data, funding can be generated to take appropriate action to reduce the impact of downstream floods. This method of Forecast-based Financing (FbF) aims at implementing precautionary measures BEFORE the disaster happens. Contrary to traditional humanitarian aid, which only comes in after the disaster, FbF is a mechanism to avoid potential losses based on scientific evidence. Standard operating procedures (SOPs) are developed with established thresholds; when these are reached, a certain measure kicks in. In the case of Togo, different water levels will trigger different measures; starting with easy and low-cost radio emissions to inform the population about disaster risk reduction measures, the distribution of chlorine tablets for water purification if the water level continues to rise, and coordinated evacuation as the final step if the forecasted flood proves to be severe enough. Measures will only be taken if the required threshold is reached, otherwise no further activities will take place. Therefore, by predicting the extent to which a flood will materialise, based on weather forecasts and historical data, customised measures will be taken step by step to reduce or even avoid the impact of floods on the Togolese population.