Farmers urged to plant early as meteorologists predict short rainy season

Farmers should immediately plant their crops because the rainy season will be shorter than usual, meteorologists have said.

Farmers should immediately plant their crops because the rainy season will be shorter than usual, meteorologists have said.

Forecasters at the Rwanda Meteorology Agency said that the next three months will see normal or below-normal rain in many parts of the country.

They made the observation on Wednesday during the National Climate Outlook Forum in Kigali.

Districts likely to experience normal to below-normal rainfall include the city districts of Kicukiro, Nyarugenge and Gasabo, Western districts of Karongi, Rutsiro, Rubavu, Ngororero, and Nyabihu, as well as Nyamagabe, Muhanga, Huye, Nyanza, Gisagara, Nyaruguru, Kamonyi and Ruhango districts in Southern Province.

Others are Gatsibo, Ngoma, Bugesera, Rwamagana, Kayonza and Kirehe districts in Eastern Province.

Districts in Northern Province (Musanze, Gicumbi, Burera, Rulindo and Gakenke) will experience normal rainfall, according to the forecasters. They also said that a few areas in Nyagatare and Gatsibo districts in the east –bordering Northern Province – as well as Rusizi and Nyamasheke in Western Province will also registered normal rains.

John Ntaganda Semafara, the director-general of Rwanda Meteorology Agency, attributed the upcoming rain patterns to La Niña period, which is a cooling of the water in the equatorial pacific that occurs at irregular intervals. It is associated to widespread changes in weather patterns complementary to those of El Niño.

It is however less extensive and damaging

Semafara said that onset dates for this season came earlier than expected due to a series of tropical cyclones in the Indian Ocean in December 2017 and January 2018.

The rainfall started in the third week of February and is likely to stop between the last week of May and the first week of June, he said, calling for early planting of crops.

Over the last three months, the rain was normal to below normal – between 350-450mm, experts said.

Farmers, officials speak out

However, farmers say they needed clear and regular information about weather forecast.

“We are planting crops but we don’t know how the weather will be like in the future, the information we get is whether it will rain tomorrow or not but we need long-term forecast,” said Nepo Munyankuyu, a farmer in Mwurire Sector, Rwamagana District.

According to Telesphore Ndabamenye, the head of crop production and food security at Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB), farmers already started planting crops. He said he was optimistic the planting exercise will be done by mid-March.

Munyankuyu said that farmers were urged on soil erosion control, planting on time, and use of fertilisers, among others.

“We urge them to plant within this period so that by the time the rain stops, crops will be at the level where they can grow without difficulty,” he said.

“However, we encourage farmers, especially those in Eastern Province, to embrace irrigation and water harvesting so they can irrigate their crops in case the rain stops prematurely,” Ndabamenye added.

Irrigation is applied on 48,000 hectares countrywide while the target is to have 102,000 hectares of farmland irrigated by 2022.