Youth, agriculture, and innovation: Building the capacity of young entrepreneurs to manage climate risks

In September 2018, members of the Rwanda Youth in Agriculture Forum learned to manage climate risks in agriculture through Participatory Integrated Climate Services for Agriculture training.

Participatory Integrated Climate Services for Agriculture (PICSA) is a systematic approach that aims to facilitate farmers to make informed decisions based on accurate, location specific weather and climate information. Through this approach, farmers choose suitable crops, livelihood, and livestock options with the use of participatory tools that support their decision-making. The Rwanda Youth in Agriculture Forum (RYAF) is a platform that brings together young entrepreneurs in agribusiness, aiming to positively change the way young people consider the agriculture sector in business and encouraging them to join other agricultural business-oriented groups for development. 
 
The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the Post-Harvest and Agribusiness Support Project (PASP) of Rwanda Agriculture Board recently entered a partnership to train PASP cooperative members on PICSA. The four-day training PICSA training for RYAF members builds on three years of development in the capacity of Meteo-Rwanda and the Twigire Muhenzi agricultural extension program to support Rwanda’s agriculture sector with climate service, through the Rwanda Climate Services for Agriculture (RCSA) project.  
 
But how, you might ask, is PICSA relevant for RYAF members? Although RYAF members are not farmers, they are young professionals engaged in agribusiness and work closely with PASP cooperatives. Thus it is important for them to have climate risk management skills. 
 
RYAF members could not make important changes in agribusiness without considering the management of climate change which mostly victimizes agriculture.”
 
Madeleine Usabyimbabazi, PASP representative

Participatory Integrated Climate Services for Agriculture training for Rwandan youth

The PICSA training was held from 18 to 21 September 2018 at Silent Hill Hotel in Kayonza district, Eastern province, Rwanda. The event brought together 91 participants, including 73 RYAF members, nine PASP staff, seven trainers from CIAT, one trainer from the Rwanda Meteorology Agency, and one communication specialist from the Ministry of Agriculture (MINAGRI).
 
Twelve PICSA steps were discussed and summarized into seven stages:
  1. What does the farmer currently do?
  2. Is the climate changing?
  3. What are the opportunities and risks of climate change? 
  4. What options do farmers have? 
  5. Contextualized farmer options
  6. Comparison of different options and plans
  7. Farmer decision making 
During group work, participants were encouraged to think about and match what they were learning to the real context of the cooperatives they were representing, enabling them to prepare for future farmer training and appropriate solutions for climate issues in their respective cooperatives. 
                                   Figure 1. Participants in PICSA training by gender
 
The coordinator of the Single Project Implementation Unity (SPIU) for IFAD-funded
projects, Mr. Alex A. Ndagijmana, visited participants at the training venue and told the trainees, “You are young and candidates to any post of responsibility, leaders of tomorrow. Please take seriously what you are learning so that you get enough knowledge that will be useful for you in the future.” 
 

Putting training into practice with farmers

Towards the end of the training, participants visited the Abanyamurava cooperative, a PASP cooperative operating in Kayonza district in Nyamirama Sector, Shyogo cell, to practice what they had learnt in PICSA.
 
In her welcoming remarks, cooperative leader Mrs. Chantal Uwamaliya emphasized the important role of women in the project, noting, “In this cooperative, women are the majority, and they are hard workers.”
 
“We are very happy to receive scientists who are able to inform us on climate change and how to cope with climate risks in our farming activities,” she added.
 
Participants split into 10 groups, with RYAF trainees explaining climate information through PICSA to farmers. This fieldwork exercise was an opportunity for RYAF trainees to experience PICSA in practice, to see how farmers react to this kind of information and to gain some confidence in teaching PICSA to farmers. 
 
 
Seasonal calendar produced during the group work.
Photo: Yvonne M. (CIAT/RCSA)
 
Abanyamurava Cooperative members were given a toll-free number to call the Rwanda Meteorology agency, where they can ask for information about weather and other climate information. There is also a USSD code (a short alphanumeric code that, when sent by SMS, elicits a particular response, also received by SMS) for receiving daily weather and seasonal forecast.
 
Closing the practice session, the RYAF chairperson reminded farmers of climate risks in the eastern provinces and encouraged them to always search for climate information to make informed decisions and cope with climate risks.
 
 
 
RYAF participants discussing climate with farmers.
Photo: Yvonne M. (CIAT/RCSA)
 
 Climate information is vital in agriculture, please don’t keep what you know for yourselves, share the information with other farmers and make agriculture a real source of income.” 
J.Baptiste Hategekimana, RYAF Chairperson
On the last day of the training, RYAF members made plans to train their cooperative members before being handed training certificates by the RCSA project leader, Dr. Desire Kagabo. In his closing remarks, he encouraged participants to value climate information for better agriculture-related decision making. 

The Post-Harvest and Agribusiness Support Project (PASP) is funded in part by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) through the International Fund for Agriculture's (IFADAdaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme and led by the Rwanda Agriculture Board  The Rwanda Climate Services for Agriculture (RCSAproject is funded by USAID/Rwanda and managed by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).