Trainings in climate services for agriculture reach all of Rwanda

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The human body can predict. You can look to the sky and know it will rain. Now we’ve learned about climate histories of Kanyinya, and we can mix this with our own knowledge.”

Monique Mukabahizi, Farmer Promoter, Nyarugenge District

For thousands of years, traditional ecological knowledge alone was enough to read the winds, know the temperament of the rains, when to expect hot spells, when to plant and when to harvest. A surge of unpredictable heavy rains, prolonged dry periods and extreme weather events, heralded by a changing climate, have complicated the reliability of traditional knowledge systems alone to shape promising seasons for farmers’ livelihoods. To complement these ancestral ecological ways of knowing, Participatory Integrated Climate Services for Agriculture (PICSA), developed by the University of Reading, facilitates informed decision-making by farmers by providing timely and location-specific climate information pertinent to agricultural livelihoods.

This integrative approach is being applied as part of the Rwanda Climate Services for Agriculture (RCSA) project, combining historical and forecasted climate trends, analysis of options and risks for different livelihood choices, and participatory seasonal planning tools for farmers. The RCSA project is coordinated by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and supported by the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

Making climate information a fluent part of farmers’ vocabulary

In February 2019, Meteo Rwanda, the Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB), the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and CCAFS gathered in Nyarugenge, Kicukiro and Gasabo districts of Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, to facilitate week-long PICSA trainings to more than 200 farmers, agronomists, socio-economic development officers, farmer promoters and agricultural extension workers.

Since the RCSA’s launch in 2015, PICSA trainings have been facilitated twice annually, before the start of each planting season. Culminating in Kigali and with the indispensable support of Caritas, Développement Rural du Nord (DERN), CIAT-Rwanda and CCAFS, PICSA trainings have now directly reached more than 150,000 farmers and agricultural extension workers in all 30 districts of Rwanda.

Farmers during the PICSA training in Mageragere Site. Photo: S. Samuel (CCAFS)

The PICSA approach combines resource mapping, seasonal calendars, climate information from traditional and scientific knowledge systems, participatory budgets, short-term and seasonal forecasts to evaluate the opportunities and risks for farmers’ crop, livestock and livelihood options. The application of these participatory methodologies aims to foster informed farmer decision-making and planning that enhances farmers climate resilience and adaptive capacity.

On the ground PICSA impressions

Each of the farmers and agricultural extension workers present during the PICSA trainings stood not only for themselves, but instead also represented groups of around 20 farmers from their respective districts, allowing the participatory approach to spread its impact and reach.

I’ve learned how to determine if the rains will pour or fall gently, how to calculate gains and losses and how to predict before planting. I used to detect these trends by chance.”

Fouraha Rwanyindo, Facilitator, Mageragere Site

Farmers training farmers during the PICSA sessions. Photo: S. Samuel (CCAFS)

PICSA came on time. Forecasts, historical data, prediction: they were things I knew but didn’t understand how to apply. Now I can share this with my neighbors so that others can see and learn.”

Mukamazimpaka Mwamimi, Farmer Promoter, Nyarugenge District

As a new set of agricultural extension workers have now been trained in participatory approaches to harness climate services, the RCSA project continues into its final year, guided by its central vision of ensuring Rwanda’s farmers and livelihoods are resilient, adaptive and productive in the face of climate change.

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Main partners of the RCSA project include Meteo Rwanda, Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI), RAB, CIAT, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) based at Columbia University, University of Reading, Radio Huguka, DERN, N-Frnds and Caritas.

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