Senators call for more funding for climate change adaptation

Women work on a potato farm in Muko Sector, Musanze District. File.

There should be more funding towards adaptation to climate change, to mitigate impact on the economy, particularly poverty eradication efforts.

The legislators made the observation Thursday during a meeting with officials from the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR) led by Ivan Murenzi, the deputy director general.

Members of the Upper Chamber had called the meeting to gain a deeper understanding of the findings from the fifth Integrated Household Living Conditions Survey (EICV5) published in December and to interact with NISR officials on how best their statistics can always inform policies.

Senator Emmanuel Bajyana said that NISR’s research work was very important but called for better ways to disseminate their findings to ensure that more people benefit from them.

“These numbers are very useful. The problem is that many people don’t understand them. When you talk about extreme poverty, I don’t think many people understand what that means,” he said.

One of the most remarkable findings by EICV5, Bajyana said, is about the impact of climate change on Rwanda.

The survey indicated that prolonged drought that hit the country during the 2016 agricultural season B was blamed for the slow poverty reduction rate as it affected crop production and created shortages in the supply chain.

The drought saw increased prices for foodstuff in 2017. Agriculture contributes some 30 per cent of the country’s GDP, while about 70 per cent of Rwandans are directly employed in the sector.

Bajyana said the finding on the relationship between drought and poverty in Rwanda calls for more concrete efforts to invest in climate change adaptation mechanisms.

“When we talk about climate change, we are talking about increase in temperatures. If we don’t stand up against climate change, serious consequences will catch up with us,” he said.

NISR has already called for mechanisms to minimise shocks caused by climate change if Rwanda is to succeed with her programmes to reduce poverty levels.

Several senators, including Narcisse Musabeyezu and Evariste Bizimana, urged NISR officials to always be closer to the people and policymakers to explain what the figures from their assessments mean.

“Statisticians often say that they aren’t policymakers. But the law requires NISR to advise the Government. They should be looking at the figures and show Minecofin (Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning) the impact of government policies and which areas should be given priority,” Bizimana said.

He called on NISR to work more closely with districts, ministries, and other public institutions on planning.

“If you aren’t doing this already, you should start doing it,” he told NISR officials.

Murenzi responded that they already advise many public institutions but indicated that they are often careful not to end up playing the role of policy planning.

Meanwhile, the senators generally commended the institute for continuously improving on the way it collects, analyses and documents data on the country’s socio-economic conditions. 

But they challenged the statistical office to be pro-active in using its findings to influence policy-making and planning in public institutions.

They also urged the statistics office to find a way of popularising their findings among citizens.

The EICV5 showed that more Rwandans registered a significant improvement in their living conditions despite a marginal drop in poverty levels over the previous three years.

It noted that poverty levels had dropped by one percentage point from 39.1 per cent recorded in the 2013/14 fiscal year to 38.2 per cent in 2016/17.

But it also showed that living conditions had improved significantly on major indicators such as access to electricity, housing, and owning radio sets.

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