Delivering targeted climate information services and products for farmers in Rwanda
By Desire Kagabo, Gloriose Nsengiyumva and Yvonne Uwase
Through the Participatory Integrated Climate Services for Agriculture (PICSA) approach developed by the University of Reading, trained farmers are able to use climate information services to make decisions about when to plant, which crops to plant and which inputs to use—and they are doing so at an increasing rate. Indeed, farmers are relying on seasonal and short term forecast information to update their farming calendars. Farmers acknowledge that some of the losses incurred in the past could be attributed to poor access to climate information services. The PICSA approach builds on the existing farmer-to-farmer extension service model locally known by its Kinyarwanda name as “Twigire Muhinzi.”
During the first year of the Rwanda Climate Services for Agriculture project, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), the PICSA approach has been implemented in four districts (Burera, Ngorero, Nyanza and Kayonza). Led by experts from the University of Reading, this process involved an initial ‘expert trainers’ workshop held in June 2016, where 31 senior staff from the Rwanda Meteorological Agency (Meteo Rwanda), Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB), the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and a number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were trained in the PICSA approach. The training yielded a core team of PICSA trainers who will continue to train other stakeholders in the PICSA approach during the four-year period of the project and beyond. This initial training was followed by two parallel sessions covering the project’s four implementation districts. During these sessions, CIAT staff and ‘expert trainers’ trained 48 farmer promoters in the PICSA approach. Farmer promoters rolled out the PICSA training with 2,631 farmers in the four districts. Of these farmers, 1,254 (48%) were women.
The information provided within the project is locality specific and tailored to farmers’ needs and written in the local language to enhance farmers’ understanding. The information includes parameters such as the start and end of the rains, the length of the growing season, total seasonal rainfall amount, longest dry spell within a cropping season, and short-term and long-term forecast. The farmer promoters were trained in advance and given printed copies of the information to be shared with farmers. Given the various levels of training from expert trainers to farmer promoters then to farmers, copies of the climate information products and training materials were distributed to all farmers to avoid distortion of information.
Following the training, farmers can now read, understand, and correctly interpret graphs or tables of historical climatic parameters of their villages. Farmers also understand that seasons vary annually, requiring different response measures. “Farmers are very enthusiastic to attend trainings because they are getting the information that can help them find solutions to their crop losses related to extreme weather events,” explained J.D’Amour Nzabandeba, a farmer promoter from Ngororero district, during a monitoring and evaluation visit. Farmers commended the effective communication on climate information services to farmers through PICSA and reinstated that this will positively impact future farmers’ actions.
Concurrently, and also through the Rwanda Climate Services for Agriculture project, Meteo Rwanda is increasing its capacity to provide climate information services as well as develop tools tailored to farmers’ needs, including the downscaled, gridded historical climatic data and downscaled climatology forecast. Forecast information and climate tools are available online in the Meteo Rwanda Maproom developed by the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI).