Could this be the game changer in climate information services innovation?

Through PICSA, farmers are using climate information services to make decisions. The PICSA training aims to reach up to a million of Rwanda's smallholder farmers. Photo: G.Nsengiyumva (CCAFS)
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Jul 13, 2017


Tabitha Muchaba (CCAFS East Africa)


What would you do if someone returned your lost wallet with a $100 note in it? 

This is the feeling farmers from Cyanika centre, Eastern province, Rwanda had after participating in the Participatory Integrated Climate Services for Agriculture (PICSA) field training process. The excitement and motivation to go back to the farm to apply what they had learnt from the training could not be hidden from their faces.

I always wait for rain in order to start planting, but now, I know how to make projections and prepare my farm,” Niweshuti Aline, farmer

The field training was part of a four-day training of trainers on PICSA that took place in Huye district in the southern province of Rwanda from 12 – 16 June 2017. The activity allowed participants to work hands-on with a group of 40 men and women smallholder farmers to test both skills and knowledge gained during the training and to build their confidence in the PICSA process. This exercise, conducted in Kinyarwanda the national language, served as both intermediary training and as a trial for the PICSA approach.  The participants had an opportunity to assess first-hand the effectiveness of PICSA and identify areas that need improvement.

The farmers shared the traditional indicators that they use to anticipate weather and climate conditions such as birds, frogs, and invertebrates such as termites. They were also trained on how to develop a time series bar graph of recorded seasonal rainfall totals and validate it against their collective memory.

The field activity provided a great opportunity for CCAFS to interview some of the farmers on their challenges and expectations from the PICSA process, below find the testimonies.

Name: Kubwimana Generoze

As a single mother, I have to work hard to provide for my children. I grow and sell beans, maize, Irish and sweet potatoes and depend a lot on rain. Recently, the planting season has changed, I used to start preparing my farm in September but this has changed to October or sometimes late November and December. While I receive weather information from the radio, I feel that it is not reliable. The training was very informative as I have learned more about climate change and its impacts on the farming process, how and when to plant and the type of crops to plant. I also like meeting new people and discovering new things that I did not know.

My parting words to the trainers, “I would love to receive monthly information on weather.

Name: Niweshuti Aline

I am a single mother with two children. I provide for my family by working on other people’s farms. I also have a kitchen garden and I plant soya beans, beans, sweet potatoes, and maize. As a young female farmer, it’s hard for me to own land. I farm on rented land and the money is never enough to cater for my family.

In addition to this, the weather has really changed. The rain intensity has increased in the past years destroying crops and causing a lot of erosion. I have never received any weather information, thus this training has been very beneficial to me. I now know how to carry out a climate forecast, develop a seasonal calendar, project the onset of rain and measure rainfall. I would like to participate in more training like this and receive daily information on the weather forecast.

Name: Munyeshema Tharcise

I am married and have two children. Every morning I wake up to go to the farm while my wife is left at home to take care of the children.  I grow beans, maize, cassava and potatoes and I also keep a goat for manure. 

In my opinion, the climate has really changed. It’s getting hotter and hotter and farm production has reduced. I have been receiving weather information from the radio which has helped me prepare my farm before onset of rain. The government has also been very supportive as they have subsidized the cost of fertilizers and seeds at the start of every season.

I buy seeds at 500 RFR while others buy at 600 RFR.

The training has been very helpful to me.  I have gained additional information on the onset and cessation of seasonal rainfall, planning and budgeting for the farming activities and how keep records. In the future, I would like the training to be continuous and consistence.

Name: Nzamuramba Emmanuel

I love farming as it provides food for my family. I grow beans, potatoes, sorghum and soya beans and keep a cow that produces 5-8 litres of milk a day. I also work as a mason during the week.

The climate has really changed in the last 5 years. We used to start planting in September, but this has changed to October. Farm production has reduced, I have to work extra hours to put food on the table.

The Twigire Muhinzi (farmers’ promoters) and local agronomists have been very beneficial to us.  I always receive weather information from them including information on when to plant.  Thorugh this training I have learnt more about planning and seasonal forecasts. With this knowledge, I can identify the best crop option under different weather conditions.

From the PICSA Trainees

We also interviewed some of the trainees on the PICSA process:

Donatha Mukamuganga - Nyamagabe District agronomist

The PICSA process is very important for the farmers. The training manuals are detailed and informative and the farmers are now familiar with the weather changes, when and what type of crop to plant, the quantity of rain and when to do irrigation. I feel that some of the training concepts and processes are hard to explain to farmers i.e. some of the graphs are too complex to interpret. I would like to learn how to explain the graphs in a simplified way.

Other challenges I foresee include farmers’ illiteracy and blindness. 

Amos Uwezeye - Data Quality Control Officer, Meteo Rwanda

The PICSA process is good as it provides farmers with climate information to reduce agricultural loss. The farmers have learnt how to prepare action plans and budget, which will improve their way of life and investment. Climate and weather information on its own is not useful but when combined with agro advisories it is more useful for farmers.

The PICSA process is part of the USAID-funded Rwanda Climate Services for Agriculture project. The 4 year project was launched in 2016 and we look forward to interviewing these farmers and trainees again to share lessons learnt and hopefully, success stories on how localizing climate information services has helped them improve their livelihoods.

For more information regarding the project contact Desire Kagabo, the CCAFS Rwanda Climate Services for Agriculture Project Coordinator based at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Kigali, Rwanda

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