Smallholder farmers say access to climate information bearing fruit

Désiré Kagabo (left) of CIAT explains to members of the Tanzanian delegation how the climate information boosts farmers’ productivity. / Eddie Nsabimana.

A visiting Tanzanian delegation on Wednesday toured Bugesera District where they interacted with smallholder farmers who are using climate information to inform their day-to-day decisions on their agriculture activities.

The group was in Rwanda on a two-day study tour during which they visited farmers in Gashora Sector in Bugesera to witness firsthand the impact of weather-related information on farming activities.

A four-year project dubbed ‘Climate Services for Agriculture’ that’s being implemented by Collaboration International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources,  is helping farmers to use Participatory Integrated Climate Services for Agriculture (PICSA) information via their phones to make key farming decisions.

The system is backed by Rwanda Meteorological Agency ensuring that smallholder farmers access real-time climate-related information as part of broader efforts to build resilience to climate change.

Harold Lema, the market system manager at Tanzania’s Agricultural Markets Development Trust (AMDT), said the trip was beneficial to the Tanzanian delegation and they would use what they learnt here to help boost agricultural produce back home.  

“In Tanzania, smallholder farmers have no access to reliable weather information and this often leads to losses. But we are here to learn and we were impressed with the way Rwandan farmers do not only have access to such critical information but also use it to impact their agricultural activities,” said Lema.

He added: “We want to see how Tanzania can collaborate with Rwanda in terms of transfer of knowledge and information and market for produce. We are now going to share what we learnt here with farmers and the Government [of Tanzania].”

Through the project, farmers are empowered on how to manage risk and adapt to changing climate by interpreting and making sense of weather information.

Over 55,000 farmers from 14 districts across the country have hitherto trained on the use of weather and climate services.

It is expected that at least 1,000,000 farmers from all the 30 districts of the country will have learned how to use weather and climate information in their agricultural activities before the project closes shop in 2020.

Jean-Pierre Hategekimana, a farmer in Gashora Sector, said his seasonal production has significantly increased since he started using PICSA information.

“Before I started using PICSA, I would grow crops without taking reference from weather information, and we would struggle with production shortage due to unpredicted heavy rains or drought because we had no idea on crops that can resist during dry or rainy season.

“But now we grow selected crops depending on what PICSA tells us. That is why our production is on the rise since the day we started making reference to PICSA,” he said.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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