Rwanda- Using Climate games to understand the reality of how climate change is affecting small scale farmers

By Margot Steenbergen & Gernot Laganda

“I could better understand the reality of how climate change is affecting the ‘on the ground reality of small scale farmers’, in a safe environment, without my investment actions being harmful.”

This comment was made by one of the participants of an innovative two-day climate change workshop held in Kigali, Rwanda. The workshop was organized by the Single Project Implementation Unit (SPIU) of IFAD-supported projects in Rwanda. The specific programme that initiated this workshop is the Climate Resilient Post-Harvest and Agribusiness Support Project (PASP). This  project includes an innovative grant for climate change adaptation provided by IFAD’s Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP).
©IFAD/Red Cross
Alphonse Mutabazi, Climate Change expert from the Rwanda Environmental Management Authority “preparing” for a flood.
The Rwandan context is unique in the global ASAP portfolio, in that it focuses on post-harvest climate risk management. Post-harvest losses is one of the greatest sources of inefficiency in agricultural production in Rwanda. Current losses for key agricultural commodities amount to up to 30 percent of harvested product. If no action is undertaken, these losses are expected to increase, considering the country’s reliance on rainfed agriculture and its vulnerability to climate change.

The country strategy supported by IFAD plans to create 200 collection points for agricultural produce, called HUBs. For the moment, the programme focuses on the five value chains of maize, cassava, beans, Irish potatoes, and dairy. These value chains are part of the Government of Rwanda’s flagship Crop Intensification Programme (CIP).

Reducing post harvest losses through the creation and support of climate smart HUBs is a practical example of climate change adaptation. Some regions in Rwanda are experiencing increasingly longer dry spells, alternated by shorter, but more intensive periods of rainfall. An on the ground reality is that harvesting now takes place at wetter times of the year. Consequently, farmers can no longer rely on the sun to dry cereals to safe moisture content.

Moreover, the IFAD supported project allows for specific climate risk management actions, including improved use of weather forecasts. The programme is novel, and the idea of climate change, and climate change adaptation are relatively new to the country programme team. As part of the initial capacity building strategy, a climate change workshop was organized.

In addition to technical lectures by the Rwandan Meteorological Agency (RMA), and the Rwanda Environmental Management Authority (REMA), the Red Cross and Red Crescent Climate Centre was invited to allow for the participants to ‘experience’ the effects of climate change, in the safe setting of the Ministry of Agriculture.

Through the tried and tested methodology of ‘serious games’, the participants appreciated the value of forecast based decision making.
©IFAD/Red Cross
Some decisions had better outcomes for the participants than others

Three decades of development investment decisions made in the space of an hour, while taking into consideration complexities caused by climate change? No problem for the participants of this climate change workshop.

Similarly, being asked to think as a HUB manager, they were presented with the following options:

For the next year, do we invest in:
A) Collecting and processing maize, and ensuring the maize flour will reach a market (regular HUB activities);
B) Ensuring we do not suffer the negative consequences from a potentially devastating flood, by purchasing hermetically sealed harvest storage bags;
C) Longer term, more expensive climate risk management measures, such as elevated and more robust storage facilities;
D) Improved Flood Early Warning Systems, which similarly require an initial investment.

Complex trade offs, in a complex setting triggered rich discussions. The real value of improved early warning systems and longer-term climate risk management became more evident. In a country that is 85 percent rural, largely agriculture dependent and highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate stresses, a shift towards longer-term protection could be very beneficial.

The workshop not only improved the understanding of climate change, but also fostered the grounds for new partnerships between different government agencies. All in all, a very promising start of the IFAD supported Climate Resilient Post-Harvest and Agribusiness Support Project of the Government of Rwanda.