Rwanda, like other countries around the world, is susceptible to climate change. Climate change is a significant and lasting change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over periods ranging from decades to millions of years.
Scientists have recently discovered various factors leading to climate change with rising greenhouse gases as the main cause.
Heavy rains every year destroy crops and homes, and claim lives of people in different parts of the country.
According to the statistics from the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs, about 112 people died of landslides, floods and lightning last year. About 124 were critically injured.
In the same year, 3,934 houses were demolished mostly by heavy rains, floods and landslides. Over 2,201 hectares of land were also devastated by the same disasters in various areas.
Districts that are most prone to disaster include Rubavu, Karongi, Musanze, Nyamasheke, Burera, Gasabo and Kirehe.
Jean Baptiste Nsengiyumva, the Director of Public Awareness and Research at the Disasters ministry, said they had agreed with local leaders in the respective districts to relocate residents living in high risk zones to avoid loss of lives.
He said they were also implementing a new project that uses various technology equipment, including geographical information system (GIS), Global positioning System(GPS) as well as remote sensing machines to identify likely disasters.
The ministry last fiscal year spent about Rwf202 million in disaster risk reduction, including responses and recovery, according to officials.
Eng. John Bosco Talemwa, an independent expert on irrigation and mechanisation, said due to climate change, agriculture had been affected.
“People living in marginal areas such as dry lands of the Eastern Province, or hills of the Western Province face additional challenges with limited management options to reduce impacts. Climate adaptation strategies should be put in place to reflect such circumstances in terms of the speed of the response and the choice of options,” he said
He mentioned that some technical options like reducing emissions of carbon dioxide through reduction in the rate of deforestation and forest degradation, reducing emissions of methane and nitrous oxide through improved animal production were needed to curb the challenge.
He cited the need to improve management of livestock waste, management of irrigation water on rice paddies, and sequestering carbon through conservation farming practices and restoration of degraded land.
Talemwa asserts that global warming has changed the planting timing and in most cases rainy season is unpredictable.
“Climate change has affected almost all parts of Rwanda, rice marshland have dried up in Kabuye-Gasabo, floods have recently swept crops in Rulindo, Musanze and Nyabihu,” he said.
Talemwa advised farmers to embark on various adaptation measures, including changing planting time, planting different varieties of crop species as well as turning to new drought and heat-resistant varieties.
Didace Musoni, the head of the division in charge of data management at Rwanda Meteorology Agency, observed that heavier rains were expected in the next 100 years which could lead to various negative impacts.
He further noted that in the last 40 years, due to climate change, temperatures have been increasing by 0.6c in Rwanda, adding that there was a slow response to early warnings to prevent some catastrophes.
The official said the Meteorology agency normally gives early warnings about future heavy rains but responses from other agencies is still slow which leads to death and destruction of properties.
“Heavy rains and high temperatures may lead to diseases and this will impact the economy,” he added.
Musoni said heeding to early warnings is needed to avoid more disastrous events.
Rema weighs in
Dr Rose Mukankomeje, the director general of Rwanda Environment Management Authority, said Rwanda was prone to climate change and had already been affected in different ways. She, however, mentioned that various polices were being devised to avert dire consequences.
“Rwanda targets to achieve the forest cover of 30 per cent of total land area, by 2020 and since forests are known to reduce greenhouse gases emissions, increasing forest cover has been envisaged as one of measures to mitigate climate change,” she said.
She said that the National Green Growth and Climate Resilient Strategy which outlines approaches to be used in order to ensure a Green and Climate Resilient Rwanda had been adopted.
“There is An Early Warning System which is being developed by Rema in partnership with Midimar and Meteo Rwanda, to help predict weather changes and climate-related disasters, like flooding, landslides and droughts, before they happen so that they can be prevented.
She said that irrigation is being promoted in drought prone regions, especially in the Eastern Province, as well as radical terraces in hilly and mountainous zones in the Western Province.
The report released two weeks ago in Berlin German by Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that global emissions of greenhouse gases were rising to unprecedented levels despite a growing number of policies to reduce climate change.
It said emissions grew more rapidly between 2000 and 2010 than in each of the three previous decades.
The report entitled, Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change, warned of increasing disasters like floods, urging immediate political will by world leaders to mitigate the challenge.
Experts advised that it would be possible, using a wide set of technological measures and changes in behaviour to limit the increase in global mean temperature to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.