The Rwanda Meteorology Agency has warned that parts of Eastern province and Southern province are likely to face unusual dry spells similar to those that befell the country in 2016, 2010 and 1996.
The announcement was made, on August 27, while releasing September to December 2021 rainfall seasonal forecast.
The 2016 dry spell period was Rwanda’s longest drought in six decades and affected food security.
More than 47,300 households with over 230,000 people suffered from the drought that hit the country, with Kayonza, Nyagatare and Kirehe districts in Eastern Province most affected.
That time, drought affected crops on 16,119 hectares of land in Kayonza District, 6,619 hectares in Nyagatare District and 750 hectares in Kirehe District.
Officials said that was the first time such a drought occurred in the country in 60 years.
“For better planning and better decision making, be aware that this rainfall seasonal forecast is likely to be similar to that of 2016 and 2010. In 2016, there was less rainfall which triggered unusual dry spells and we might have similar worries this season,” Anthony Twahirwa, Division Manager of Weather/Climate Services and Applications at Meteo Rwanda said.
However, he said, the outlook is supplemented by daily updates of different timescales 10-days forecasts and regular monthly forecast updates and advisories.
Twahirwa said that Rwanda is facing climate change effects like other countries in the world based on the UN-Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released weeks ago.
Data from the Ministry of Environment show that the number of rainy days in Rwanda has declined by between 35 and 45 days per year due to climate change compared to the years back in 1971.
However, in the northern region there has been a rise of 5.6 rain days.
This decline in the number of rainy days is the main cause of dry spells frequently observed across the country especially in central and eastern regions according to Herman Hakuzimana, the Environment, and Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation specialist at the ministry of environment.
Due to global warming, trend analysis for the period since 1971showed a temperature increase of 1.4°C has been recorded since 1970 in Rwanda
Aimable Gahigi, the Director General of the agency urged different institutions to take measures in coping with the extreme events.
“We have been facing changes in climate and weather events due to human activities that are polluting the atmosphere. Floods, landslides, extreme heat events, and drought events are increasing and posing threats to the country. We have been facing delays in rainfall onset and when rains end. This affects sectors such as agriculture,” he said.
He said there is a need for more efforts to prevent disasters and strengthen resilience, urging public and private institutions, non-government organizations and citizens to rely on weather forecast information for better decisions.
“This is an important season for the agriculture sector and it requires attention,” he added.
Jean Claude Izamuhaye, Head of Department, Crop Research and Technology Transfer at Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board (RAB) said that the rains that ended very earlier in 2021 Season B have reduced bean productivity by 20 percent in some parts of the country.
He added that based on the rainfall forecast this season, measures have to be taken because particularly parts of Southern province and Eastern province are likely to face unusual dry spells.
“Using short-growing period crops is one of the options.. We urge farmers to prepare land and plan on time,” he said.
Irrigation must be prioritized during dry spells, he added.
Overall, over 60,000 ha are irrigated in Rwanda – out of the country’s 1.5 million hectares of arable land. Plans are underway to increase the irrigated farm area to over 102,000 ha by 2024.
Evariste Safari, the Head of Rwanda Agriculture Inputs Dealers Association (RAIDA) said that the Meteo agency should set up a strong platform to share weather information and data to inform the agriculture sector on a regular basis.
The Meteo agency says there are such platforms and probably need to be revamped and strengthened.