By Mary Nyasimi (CCAFS), Emma Bowa (CARE) and James Muhindi (Assistant Director Climate Modeling Kenya Meteorological )
Members of the Kenya Seasonal Planning Network in partnership with Kenya Meteorology Department (KMD), held a one-day meeting to discuss the 2016 long rains (March to May) prediction and develop agro-advisory messages for farmers and other users of climate information. In attendance were climate users from different sectors including agriculture and food security, livestock, water resources, disaster risk management, oil and gas, physical infrastructure (roads and railways), insurance and financial institutions, and various non- governmental organizations, community based organizations and development partners who discussed the potential implications of the consensus climate outlook for March-May (MAM)2016.
For East Africa, MAM is considered the most critical rainfall season. The regional consensus climate outlook from IGAD Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC )for the the 2016 MAM season indicates an increased likelihood of near normal to below normal rainfall over northern and eastern Ethiopia, eastern and southern Kenya, and much of Tanzania (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Greater Horn of Africa Consensus Rainfall Outlook for the March to May 2016 season
Zone I: Usually dry during March to May
Zone II: Increased likelihood of near normal to below normal rainfall
Zone III: Increased likelihood of near normal to above normal rainfall
Zone IV: Increased likelihood of near normal to below normal rainfall
Much of Rwanda, Uganda, northwestern and central Kenya have increased probability for near normal to above normal rainfall during MAM 2016 season. The major processes considered as key drivers of the regional climate during this season included atmospheric-ocean conditions over the adjacent Indian and Atlantic Oceans as well as the predicted neutral Indian Ocean Dipole mode and decaying El Niño conditions. According to KMD, local and month-to-month variations might occur as the season progresses. It is likely that episodic heavy rainfall events leading to flash floods might occur even in areas with an increased likelihood of near normal to below normal rainfall. Also, dry spells may occur in areas with an increased likelihood of near normal to above normal rainfall.
In terms of temperature, most of east Africa will experience warmer temperatures than normal (figure 2) Southern Tanzania will experience close to normal or above normal temperatures.
Figure 1: Greater Horn of Africa Consensus Mean Temperature Outlook for the March to May 2016 season
Zone I: Increased likelihood of above normal mean temperatures
Zone II: Increased likelihood of near normal mean temperatures
Zone III: Increased likelihood of above normal mean temperatures
Zone IV: Increased likelihood of near normal to above normal mean temperatures
Kenya Seasonal weather advisory (2016 MAM season)
For Kenya, the current 2016 MAM seasonal outlook appears similar to the year 1983. Rainfall is expected from mid-March for most of western and central Kenya, near normal conditions. But they will be torrential; pouring in very short spurts. This is very good for hydroelectric power generation but not for agriculture and infrastructure. In eastern and northern Kenya, dry conditions are expected. The coastal region will receive above normal rainfall starting from mid-April to June. Kenya is expecting early onset of rains. In terms of temperature, January and February temperatures have been above average and the same is expected going into March.
Downscaling national forecasts to County Levels
Once the KMD releases the national forecasts, the County Meteorological Directors will downscale it to the 47 counties of Kenya. At the county level, the forecast is shared during the participatory scenario planning (psp) forum that includes farmers, extension agents and inputs dealers.
According to the Kirinyaga County Meteorological Director, “After 3rd of March 2016, downscaled forecasts will be available at County level. A planning workshop will be organized for various stakeholders. Traditional forecasters are also given time to prepare their projections and share them during the workshop. The two forecasts are shared with farmers. These planning sessions use the local language Kiswahili and English. The agro-advisories are then disseminated into sub-county levels finally reaching the farmers through chiefs barazas, market centers and churches.
What advice should agricultural and livestock farmers receive for areas that will receive below normal rainfall?
In Kenya, mistrust of forecasts by local people is still rampart. According to Joab Osumba, The Department for International Development (DFID ) Climate smart project. ‘The problem with explaining what a weather forecast is to farmers, is that farmers take it as the “truth’. Its very difficult to tell farmers that it is a ‘forecast’ and using the local language to discuss the word ‘forecast’ is not easy. If the forecasted weather does not reflect what happened on the ground during the season, then farmers do not trust us.
Some of the participants expressed similar concerns and theAssistant Director Climate Modeling of Kenya Meterological Dept. reported that ‘We have had farmers, especially those from pastoral areas threaten to take Kenya Meteorological Dept. to court because the forecast did not reflect what actually happened on the ground”
Despite the above concerns, the participants were able to suggest some of the agro-advisory messages that farmers experiencing below normal rainfall would need. These are:
- Behavioral change of farmers to diversify what crops and crop varieties they should grow. With below normal rains, farmers need to sow drought tolerant varieties such as pigeon pea.
- Information on planting windows depending on the type of crop
- Planting in low-lying or marshy fields especially for vegetables
- Daily and or weekly market price information for crop and livestock inputs such as fertilizers, seeds, pesticides, drugs etc.
- Targeting of insurance packages for different crops and livestock
- Information on expected crop and livestock pests and diseases associated with dry spells
- Herd reduction especially for pastoralists. They can sell their livestock and buy enough fodder.
- Irrigation especially for high value vegetables
- Moisture conservations measures
- Prices of produce will increase due low yields
Agro-advisories should also be provided to county and national governments to ensure that they also start preparing for below normal rains. Examples include:
- Building of water harvesting structures to provide for irrigation and livestock
- Prepare strategies to tackle potential hunger and famine
- Organize farmers into groups to get insurances
Greater Horn of Africa Climate Outlook Forum. 2016. Statement from the Forty Second Greater Horn of Africa Climate Outlook Forum (GHACOF 42) for March to May 2016 season: 22-23 February 2016; Lemigo Hotel, Kigali, Rwanda.
Kenya Meteorological Department. 2016