Should farmers pay attention to the weather forecasts? What do Journalists think?

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Journalists want farmers to pay attention to the weather forecast
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By JOSEPH MITI (email the author)

Posted Wednesday, June 9 2010 at 00:00
When the meteorological department released a weather report forecasting lengthy dreadful torrential rains late last year, many Ugandans were apathetic to the information. Many thought the department’s prediction were erroneous just as it has been the case in the past. However, as the rainy season approaches the end, we have been proven wrong.

The damage torrential rains have caused country wide is huge with the biggest casualties happening in the mountainous area of eastern and southwestern Uganda where landslides killed, injured and displaced people.

In some parts of the country, rivers have flooded into communities causing farmers to lose acres of land and crops whose value is in millions of shillings.
Going by the last two years, rainfall performance in the country has been erratic.
Some areas have realised an overall poor performance of rainfall while others have received above normal rains that have lasted for over five months, proof that farming seasons are changing.

Prior to that, Uganda has been known for having two rainy seasons, the long rains starting in March and lasting through until June and the short rains running from around October/November to December. However this year, erratic rain that started in November has lasted until June.

Mr Stephen Magezi, the commissioner for Department of Meteorology, attributes the current weather extremes and variability to climate change, one of the major global threats to the survival of mankind in modern times.

Mr Magezi says in the 1960s to 1980s, the Ministry of Agriculture had a farming calendar, which it used to advise farmers on when to plant, harvest and when to prepare for the second season. “But now the calendar is no more because it was rendered useless by the variability of the climate,” he told the African climate change communication conference that was held in Kampala last week.

The conference, the first of its kind in Africa, aimed at improving media understanding of climate related issues on the continent. It was organised by Network of Climate Journalists in the Greater Horn of Africa-(NECJOGHA) and supervised by IGAD Climate and Prediction Centre in Nairobi.

Mr Michael Nkalubo, the acting assistant commissioner for Meteorology says lack of awareness over climate change related issues has for the past years escalated impacts of severe weather events that affect the country.

Mr Nkalubo said communities tend to ignore weather forecast information and when calamities occur, they blame climate scientists for not issuing a warning. A recent International Climate Risk Report labels Uganda as one of the most unprepared and most vulnerable countries in the world. Dr Eva Komukunda, a climate scientist at National Agriculture Research Organisation (Naro), said extreme climate variability is posing a threat to agriculture research and has escalated disease.

Dr Abebe Tadega, from ICPAC, said Africa is more vulnerable to the impact of climate change because most people on the continent are poor and lack appropriate technologies to adopt and mitigate challenges associated with it. “To avert the problem, Africa should share information, focusing on adoption than mitigation because the continent’s green gases omission is very small,” Dr Tadega said.

Mr Patrick Luganda, Chairman Necjogha, said applying climate information in farming is a critical intervention that would increase agriculture production and reduce poverty in Africa. Mr Luganda said it would also help the continent to find out Africa’s home grown approaches of adopting, mitigating and solving impacts of climate change.