Climate scientists meet in Kigali to develop regional climate outlook

Hundreds of climate scientists, researchers and policy makers are gathering in Kigali to attend the 50th Greater Horn of Africa Climate Outlook Forum (GHACOF50).

During the two-day forum, participants are expected to develop consensus regional seasonal climate outlook for the coming months of October to December 2018.

They will also formulate mitigation strategies to the implications of consensus regional climate outlook on the key socio-economic sectors in the region and understand the gender-specific impacts of climate, including user needs and service provision strategies for gender-sensitive climate services.

“Most countries in the Greater Horn of Africa are heavily dependent on rain-fed agriculture. Rwanda is no different. This makes climate and weather predictions a concern for us all – from policy makers to farmers.

It is for this reason that Regional Climate Outlook Forums are so important. By providing consensus on seasonal outlooks, climate sensitive socio-economic sectors can be better supported to build resilience for sustainable development” Rwanda’s Minister for Environment Dr Vicent Biruta said in his opening remarks.

The Minister further noted that the regional climate outlook expected from this forum will be an important input for detailed forecasts at the national level.

“Rwanda recently faced devastating floods that resulted in the tragic loss of hundreds of lives. We are also experiencing more droughts, which put farmers under immense financial and emotional pressure. Undoubtedly the result of climate change, these and similar experiences in all corners of the globe call for a paradigm shift in how we research and respond to changes in microclimates prone to dry spells and other climatic disasters” Minister Biruta said.

Sharing Rwanda’s experience, the Minister said mentioned a recently established interactive web portal for weather forecasts that has been helpful for the public whose activities entirely depend on weather conditions.

“Users can now choose the threshold they are interested in – either as percentiles or rainfall amounts, as opposed to the usual terciles of below normal, normal, and above normal. Today, a farmer can assess the probability that total rainfall for the coming season will be above a given amount and decide whether it would be adequate to grow a certain crop” Minister Biruta added.

The Greater Horn of Africa Climate Outlook Forum has become one of the most valued multi-sectoral participatory approaches to climate services, Dr. Assia Alexieva the World Meteorology Organization Representative said in her address to participants.

The forum is organized by IGAD Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC) organises in collaboration with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) in the region. In addition, ICPAC will be celebrating 20 years of holding these regional climate outlook forums, as well as launch of an atlas on climatic risks and food security in the region.