Collecting farmers’ feedback on climate information services in Rwanda

A farmer heading to work in Rwanda's Ngororero district, one of four districts in Rwanda set to benefit from the Rwanda Climate Services for Agriculture project in 2016. Photo by V. Atakos.

Using radio to communicate and collect farmers’ feedback helps assess the current quality of climate information services and dispel myths regarding climate and weather forecast.

The impacts of climate variability are increasingly visible in Rwanda, especially in the agricultural sector. Yet farmers often point to the lack of access to the relevant information related to climate variability as the reason they cannot manage risks for better agricultural production.

Through a live broadcast on Huguka Radio —a local extension radio station that covers 70% of Rwanda—Twahirwa Anthony, a senior weather forecaster from the Rwanda Meteorological Agency (Meteo Rwanda), highlighted the type of climate services information available to farmers and discussed how this information is disseminated and used. Farmers then directly provided feedback by calling during the show, sending text messages, and commenting on social media. During the broadcast, Anthony explained what the weather forecast is and what people should have in mind once they receive it: “The forecast is a prediction; therefore it should not be surprising once it changes.”

Getting the relevant, up-to-date information to farmers

Except God, no one else can predict the weather,” said some of the farmers who called in during the show.

The views received from listeners, especially farmers, show that seasonal forecast information often do not match the realities on ground. Farmers expressed frustration and lack of trust in the weather forecast information from Rwanda Meteorological Agency. In an interview with Huguka Radio, Mukamana Francine, a farmer from the Muhanga district commented: “Meteo Rwanda says that the seasonal amount of rainfall is enough to grow beans, but it does not.” “Meteo specialists should consider checking their machines because they give mismatching information, so that farmers could fully benefit from climate services information,” added another farmer from Muhanga district, Nsengiyumva Epa.

Speaking on the availability and accuracy of climate services and information, Anthony explained how data from different Meteo Rwanda weather stations are gathered and compiled for publication. He pointed out that the misunderstanding stems from farmers not being updated about the changes that occur along the season. “As we give the seasonal forecast, there are possibilities to access to short term forecast (3days, 10days forecast, etc.) which helps farmers to cope with seasonal weather variabilities,” Anthony noted.

Anthony also acknowledged that the current large scale of weather forecast information provided to farmers (province level) is not fine enough to use in daily decision-making. He advised farmers to request for more detailed weather information available with agriculture extension services and agencies such as the Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) and other appropriate agronomic advisory services in order to bridge the gap between forecast dissemination and use. Regarding the issue of meteorologists using weather forecast terminologies unfamiliar or unknown to farmers, Anthony commented that Meteo Rwanda has the responsibility to approach and explain to stakeholders or users of the information the meaning of different terminologies so that the disseminated climate and weather information is more accessible and better understood.  

Efforts to increase capacity to deliver climate information at local level

Feedback from radio listeners from different districts such as Gicumbi, Gakenke, and Burera emphasized the need for better means of dissemination for climate-informed agricultural advisories, such as through text messages. Anthony stated that, in collaboration with RAB and the local government, the existing home-grown decentralized, farmer oriented national agricultural extension and advisory services delivery model locally known as “Twigire Muhinzi” can be used to empower agronomists to disseminate climate information to farmers efficiently.

Joint efforts and strategies are being used to ensure that climate services information is downscaled and relevant to smallholder farmers in Rwanda. Through 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), Meteo Rwanda is increasing its capacity to provide climate information services as well as develop tools tailored to farmers’ needs. Anthony highlighted few concrete examples including the downscaled, gridded historical climatic data and downscaled climatology forecast available online in the Meteo Rwanda Maproom developed by the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI). Through the collaboration between Meteo Rwanda, RAB, International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), and CCAFS, there is hope that farmers will have access to climate services information for better decision-making to cope with climate variability and to wave away smallholder farmers' myths on climate and weather forecast. 

Further readings

Desire M. Kagabo is the CCAFS Rwanda Climate Services for Agriculture Project Coordinator based at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Kigali, Rwanda. 

Gloriose Nsengiyumva is the CCAFS Rwanda Climate Services for Agriculture project – Outcome 1 coordinator based at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Kigali, Rwanda.

Florentine Mukarubayiza is a Journalist and head of Community Services Program at Radio Huguka based in Rwanda. 

Catherine Mungai is Programme Specialist for CCAFS based at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

Dannie Dinh serves as the Communications Officer for CCAFS flagship on climate information services and climate-informed safety nets. She is the Special Assistant to the Director at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI).