Building climate services capacity
With climate change, traditional indicators of weather patterns in Rwanda are no longer reliable. Rwanda Climate Services for Agriculture have introduced the Rwanda Climate Map room, an advanced suite of online information for agriculture, and the Participatory Integrated Climate Services for Agriculture (PICSA), which has reached over 110,000 farmers across 30 districts.
This solution comprises the following:
- An objective seasonal forecast system based on statistical downscaling of output from an ensemble of multiple climate models.
- Localized climate information that is disseminated on a national scale.
- Face-to-face participatory climate planning processes.
- Working through the Twigire Muhinzi agricultural extension service, 112,000 farmers across all 30 districts have been trained and supported toincorporate climate information into their planning, using the Participatory Integrated Climate Services for Agriculture (PICSA)process.
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The PICSA approach has so far achieved the following:
- integration of climate services through agricultural extension staff and other intermediaries for farming communities across Rwanda’s 30 districts. Training has so far been provided to over 110,000 farmers.
- Climate risk assessments and adaptation plans for six priority agricultural commodity value chains.
- An ICT-based ‘5Q’ (Five Question) monitoring tool that has been introduced to capture farmers’ feedback on the services theyreceive.
Radio Listener Clubs piloted in Rwanda, which combine the benefits of broadcast media and mobile phone communication channels. These clubs meet weekly to listen to climate service broadcasts, accessed by roughly 40% of Rwanda’s farmers.
International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI); the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI); the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), the Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board (RAB); Meteo Rwanda; the University of Reading (UK); Radio Huguka; DERN; N-Frnds; Caritas (Caritas Kibungo, Caritas Butare and Caritas Kibuye). The Government of Rwanda and USAID have also been supporters
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The project’s main objective is to increase the resilience of farmers to climate change, and improve climate risk management skills, leading to higher productivity for Rwandan farmers. Achievements include the establishment of the Rwanda Climate Map room, the most advanced suite of online climate information for agriculture in Africa, and the delivery of climate services through Participatory Integrated Climate Services for Agriculture (PICSA), which has engaged more than 1,600 professionals and over 110,000 farmers across all thirty districts in the country.
In recent years, Rwanda has been confronted by the vagaries of a changing climate, including hailstorms, strong winds and torrential rains, which lead to landslides. Prolonged periods of drought have also become more prevalent. As a consequence, traditional indicators of forthcoming weather patterns are no longer as reliable as they once were. 80% of Rwanda’s population is engaged in farming so the implications for the country’s economy as a whole are serious. Increases in temperature and changes to rainfall patterns, resulting in floods and droughts, can significantly reduce crop yields, negatively impacting on people’s livelihoods, food security and the country’s export earnings. Rwanda’s steep, hilly topography also make it particularly susceptible to soil erosion and landslides, further exacerbating adverse impacts. Rising temperatures also give rise to new pests and diseases that challenge farmers’ productivity. Despite climate information being traditionally available at Meteo Rwanda, the Government’s meteorology agency, its delivery to local communities and adoption by farmers has been almost non-existent.
The Rwanda Climate Services for Agriculture project began in 2016 as a four-year initiative aiming at transforming Rwanda’s agricultural economy through climate risk management. Central to this project has been the Meteo-Rwanda Map Room - a collection of digital maps and other instruments that monitor climate and social conditions. The essential projects are:
- Delivery of weather information, down from every ten days to daily.
- Delivery of information on seasonal variables (frequency of rain days, dry/wet spells, wet, heat, cold extremes, season onset, cessation, duration, dynamic rainfall total).
- Improved downscaled seasonal forecasts.
- Provision of formatted graphs used in Participatory Integrated Climate Services for Agriculture (PICSA) for all locations in the country.
- Filling of a decade-long gap in historical records, following the genocide of the 1990s.
- Historical analysis of seasonal rainfall totals; dry/wet spells; extremes; season onset, cessation and duration.
- Prototype soil water balance tools.
These products have been incorporated into the following programs:
- Face-to-face participatory climate communication and planning processes with farming communities. Approximately 48% of farmers engaged in this initiative are women.
- Training of 112,000 farmers across all thirty districts.
- Use of climate services to make decisions on the types of crops varieties to grow, timing of planting and land preparation and when and how to prepare land. Crops being grown effectively under this regime include maize, beans, tomatoes, green pepper, green beans, chili pepper, cabbage, eggplant and watermelon. Some surplus is exported, notably fruits, green beans and chili pepper.
- Climate information shared on Radio Listener Clubs piloted in Rwanda combine the benefits of participatory, broadcast media and mobile phone communication channels. These talks are broadcast twice during the week and rebroadcast on every Saturday.
- Outreach to the members of 16 farmer cooperatives from four districts with nearly 4,000 members, all trained on PICSA.
The Map Room has generated:
- A historical analysis of seasonal rainfall total; dry/wet spells; extremes; season onset, cessation and duration
- The first national flexible seasonal forecast
- A prototype series of soil water balance tools
- Automatic generation of graphs formatted for PICSA workshop use
Delivery through PICSA has been extended to more than 1,600 professionals, Twigire Muhinzi field staff and volunteers trained in the PICSA process. Over 110,000 farmers throughout the country have been trained. Furthermore, farmer to farmer communication is thought to have created a multiplier effect of ten to one. Climate service radio programming has become accessible to 70% of population (about
8.9 million people).
- There are 225 radio listening clubs
- 73 young people have become involved in agribusiness
- 27 Journalists and communication experts have been trained in communicating climate information and services
Relative to the control, PICSA participation increased the value of crop production by 24%, and income from crops by 30%. The combination of PICSA and listening clubs was associated with a 47% increase in the value of crop production, and a 56% increase in income from crops.
Lessons Learned/Potential for replication
1. Developing climate services that support agricultural risk management requires substantial investment in capacity in three key areas:
- Supply side: National meteorological service capacity to provide locally relevant information tailored to the needs of farmers, often addressing historic data gaps;
- Demand side: National agricultural research and extension system capacity to translate, communicate, and build farmers’ capacity to understand and act on climate information;
- Institutional and governance arrangements to sustain co-development of services beyond a project’s lifespan.
2. Involving applied climate and agricultural research institutions, which are well grounded in climate services, improves the prospects of finding scalable solutions to supply- and demand-side capacity challenges.
3. Climate services for farmers benefit from a mix of delivery channels that includes participatory communication facilitated by trained intermediaries.
4. Mainstreaming climate services in agriculture requires strong partnership between agricultural and meteorological agencies and their associated Ministries, and enabling governance.
The Rwanda Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry (MINAGRI) through the Rwanda Agriculture Board has already incorporated the PICSA approach in its plans for educating farmers in mitigating climate risks. Local NGOs have already adopted PICSA as an approach to support their farmers in crop production, and have shown their willingness to continue after the timeline of the initial project has expired. Radio listeners’ clubs will continue as learning hubs.The NGOs that collaborated with the project aim to continue PICSA training sessions. District and sector extension agents have been trained and used PICSA knowledge to inform their future plans.
Last update: 25/05/2021