Reaching a million farmers in Rwanda with useful climate services

Farmers in Rwanda's Ngororero district prepare their field for the new planting season. Ngororero is one of four districts in Rwanda set to benefit from a new climate services for agriculture project in 2016. Photo: V. Atakos (CCAFS)
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Innovative project set to transform Rwanda’s farming communities and national economy through improved climate risk management.

Smallholder farmers in Rwanda’s rural districts face a myriad of challenges; the main one being loss of productivity—occasioned by an increasingly variable climate.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts a warmer and wetter climate for Rwanda. Rainfall patterns are changing, becoming irregular and unpredictable.

To build a more climate-resilient agriculture sector, the Rwandan government and partners are taking action to provide nearly a million farmers timely access to essential climate information services. On 23 March, on World Meteorological day, the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) in collaboration with Rwanda’s Meteorological Agency (Meteo Rwanda), Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB), the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) at Columbia University and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) launched the Rwanda Climate Services for Agriculture project.

"We’re very excited about this project and what it plans to achieve in the next 4 years. We believe it’s transformative," said Malick Haidara, the director of United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Rwanda's Economic Growth Office, during the official launch. The four year climate services project is funded by USAID.

Around 100 delegates among them key government agencies in Rwanda, research organizations, farmers, development partners, non-governmental organizations and media attended the launch held at Serena Hotel in Kigali. 

See who was in attendance in the below photoset:

Climate services for agriculture

This new project seeks to transform Rwanda’s rural farming communities and national economy through improved climate risk management. The goal is to improve agricultural planning and food security management in the face of a variable and changing climate at both local and government levels. Key to this project is the wealth of applied research on climate services generated by CCAFS and its partners in Africa and beyond.

Enhancing national access to climate services (ENACTS)

ENACTS is an ongoing initiative led by IRI that aims to bring climate knowledge into national decision making by improving availability, access to, and use of climate information. Through ENACTS, Rwanda has filled in a 15-year gap in its historical meteorological records.

Through ENACTS various countries, including Rwanda, can now provide a range of high-resolution climate information products tailored to agricultural user needs through web-based “maprooms”.

“We had to address this 15-year gap in our meteorological records,” said Didace Musoni from Meteo-Rwanda. “This was not an abstract problem: the absence of such data has had significant impact on society here,” said Didace Musoni from Meteo Rwanda. Tufa Dinku, a research scientist at IRI, lists a number of questions that are difficult to answer without solid historical data: How is climate change unfolding in the country? Are there certain areas seeing more impacts than others? What is the year-to-year variability in rainfall and how has that changed? What has been the trend between climate and agricultural productivity?

Watch a video explaining why climate data matters for development

" However, availability of climate data may not necessarily lead to their uptake by itself. Climate information must be made available to users who need to be engaged on the value and application of climate information products," said John Ntaganda Semafara, Director General, Meteo Rwanda.

The new project will therefore explore use of the Participatory Integrated Climate Services for Agriculture (PICSA) approach to reach farmers.

Participatory Integrated Climate Services for Agriculture (PICSA)

PICSA involves agriculture extension staff working with groups of farmers ahead of the agricultural season to firstly analyse historical climate information and use participatory tools to develop and choose crop, livestock and livelihood options best suited to individual farmers’ circumstances. Then soon before and during the season, extension staff and farmers consider the practical implications of seasonal and short-term forecasts on the plans farmers have made. The approach was developed by Reading University.

The Rwanda Climate Services for Agriculture project will improve on the PICSA approach to incorporate use of downscaled probalistic seasonal forecasts.

Farmer extension model: Twigire Muhinzi

Twigire Muhinzi is a farmer extension model implemented by Rwanda’s Ministry of Agriculture (MINAGRI) and Ministry of Local Government (MINALOC) to ensure that all farmers have access to advisory services. The model enables farmers to easily access basic extension messages through mobilisation and demonstration plots in each village.

Twigire Muhinzi is currently reaching 1,110,000 farmers grouped into 78,000 Twigire groups,” reported Moussa Senge from One Acre Fund— seconded to RAB— during the launch.

According to Peter Doward from Reading University, the PICSA approach could fit well within the TWIGIRE model, since it already involves discussions with groups of farmers.

Key outcomes of the project

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. In the first year, four districts are targetted: Kayonza, Nyanza, Burera and Ngororero.
  • 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.

The project implementing partners include CCAFS, RAB, Meteo- Rwanda, IRI, CIAT, Reading University, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). Other local NGOs working within Rwanda are expected to join and contribute to the various outcomes of the project.  

Through this project, we will learn how good practices for climate services can be implemented in other countries in a way that builds resilience of farming populations in various economies to a variable and changing climate, ” said Jim Hansen, IRI Research Scientist and CCAFS Flagship Leader, Climate Risk Management.

Watch a periscope interview with Dr. Hansen summarizing key aspects of the new project on youtube:

Further information


See how Rwanda's media reported the launch of the new Climate Services for Agriculture project:

Climate data is critical for national devt - The New Times

Abahinzi bagiye kujya babona amakuru y’iteganyagihe babasha gusobanukirwa - Igihe

Prime time news report about launch on Rwanda TV