Rwanda Meteorology Agency (RMA) has unveiled an initiative to create communication channels in districts for smallholder farmers to cope with climate change effects by providing early warning information.
The campaign will be carried out in conjunction with the Ministry of Agriculture in response to farmers’ complaints about not getting reliable information on time to help in reducing vulnerability to climate effects.
The agency says over 80 per cent of natural disasters are weather-related.
Jean Marie Niyitegeka, the in-charge of agro-meteorology at RMA, said the initiative to create at least 200 hubs will supplement the Ministry of Agriculture’s five-year project called Post-harvest Agribusiness Support Project (PASP) to solve both post-harvest handling issues and build resilience to climate change.
“As farmers learn about fertilisers and seeds they will get meteorological information on when to plant, what resistant seeds to go for, among others, so that they prepare for disasters,” Niyitegeka said.
John Ntaganda Semafara, the acting director-general of RMA, said the newly-adopted SMS alert will be used to access centres and farmers cooperatives so that they learn and provide feedback.
“The main challenge now is that the local community does not get information they need. We want to add communication stakeholders where the mainstream media, social media, Internet, mobile phones, community gatherings with local leaders and agronomists are involved in removing challenges,” he said.
There are 41 automatic stations and 100 stations especially on rainfall as well as satellite, radars and regional or international centres and accurate information at 89 per cent, but a forecast of an event like rain might change due to other unpredictable factors.
Forecasting information on agriculture occurs three times per month and is presented to the ministry to take measures such as drainage, prevent soil erosion, irrigation and others.
A leaf from Uganda
Meanwhile, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, on Thursday, announced awards for 16 game changing climate action initiatives from around the world.
Among the winners of the United Nations ‘Momentum for change climate change award’ included a Ugandan initiative dubbed, “Enabling farmers to adapt to climate change.”
The Ugandan meteorology authority initiative reflects the initiative that its Rwandan counterpart is seeking.
The initiative benefitting 100,000 farmers in the neighbouring country uses ICT solutions to build resilience.
It sends farmers agricultural advisories on crop management, how weather affects sowing, weed management, pest and disease incidence, post-harvest handling, crop and livestock market information.
The initiative also sends seasonal and short term weather forecasts, guidance on rainwater harvesting, drought, wind and flooding coping mechanisms via mobile technology, interactive radio, community meetings.
The programme that collects daily weather data from 22 rural weather stations minimises crop losses by up to 65 per cent ($474-573) per household per year.