By Susan Onyango (ICRAF)
The Rwandan government has teamed up with research institutes and development partners to provide nearly one million farmers with timely access to essential climate information services.
The launch of Rwanda Climate Services for Agriculture project, coinciding with the World Meteorological Day on March 23, will help transform the country’s rural farming communities and the national economy through improved climate risk management.
Majority of Rwanda’s population relies on agriculture for employment and subsistence. The sector accounts for one-third of the country’s gross domestic product and generates more than 70% of export revenues. Like most of the world, Rwanda has not been spared from changing weather and climate patterns. The agriculture sector is particularly vulnerable to weather extremes such as floods, heavy rains and prolonged droughts. It is for this reason that reliable agricultural information will enable better agricultural planning and food security management.
“In this context, it becomes critical that farmers can access and use reliable climate and weather forecasts,” said Innocent Bisangwa, an environmental and climate change specialist in Rwanda’s Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI). “Through this work, we will help them make the best decisions about when and what to plant, how much fertilizer to apply and when to harvest.”
The Rwanda Climate Services for Agriculture project will reconstruct Rwanda’s incomplete meteorological data record using cutting-edge climate science, and develop climate information products and services based on the expressed needs of farmers and other end-users. It builds on on-going innovations made by the Enhancing National Climate Services initiative (ENACTS), which filled in a 15-year gap in Rwanda’s historical meteorological records.
The project aims to deliver four specific outcomes:
- Climate services for farmers.Farmers across Rwanda’s 30 districts will have decision-relevant, operational climate information and advisory services, and be trained to use the information to better manage risk.
- Climate services for government and institutions.Agricultural and food security decision makers in the Ministry of Agriculture and other national and local government agencies and institutions will use climate information to respond more effectively to risks.
- Climate information provision.Meteo-Rwanda will design, deliver, and incorporate user feedback into a growing suite of weather and climate information products and services tailored to the needs of decision makers.
- Climate services governance.A national climate services governance process will oversee and foster sustained coproduction, assessment and improvement of climate services.
A key success factor is involving farmers from the beginning, and ensuring their knowledge is built into these initiatives. The project will use a tried and tested approach known as PICSA—Participatory Integrated Climate Services for Agriculture to help farmers understand how climate information could impact their own decision-making.
The USAID funded project will be implemented by the Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) and Meteo Rwanda, in collaboration with the CGIAR Research Program on Climate, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), Columbia University’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI), the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).
- Press release: New program in Rwanda will transform agriculture through climate information and historic data reconstruction
- Project factsheet: Rwanda Climate Services for Agriculture
- Website: Enhancing National Climate Services (ENACTS) webpage
- Video: ENACTS Explained by lead researcher Tufa Dinku
- Video: Climate Data Matters for Development
Susan Onyango is the communications specialist for climate change for the World Agroforestry Centre and is based at the headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. With over 12 year’s experience in communication, she promotes the World Agroforestry Centre’s work on climate change, writes blogs and provides communication advice and support to scientists. Susan holds a MA communication studies and a BA in English. Twitter: @susanonyango