December 6, 2022


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How Rwanda is using climate change data and projections to plan a sustainable future

Gicumbi Air Quality Monitoring station in Northern Province/PHOTO: REMA

In 2011, Rwanda adopted a Green Growth and Climate Resilience Strategy to become a developed, climate-resilient and low-carbon economy by 2050. To achieve this goal, the government and its stakeholders are working to reduce emissions, adapt to climate change and foster resilience.

Rwanda is a low income country that remains highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, further complicating the path to reaching its ambitious target of becoming a high-income nation by 2050.

According to the World Bank’s Rwanda Climate Risk Country Profile (2020), climate change impacts play negatively on the country’s efforts to achieve sustainable development. While the country experienced robust economic growth leading to a drop in poverty rate from 39.1% in 2014 to 38.1% in 2017, the World Bank notes that Rwanda is still highly vulnerable to impacts from climate change through its high dependence on rain-fed agriculture, as well as need to improve its road networks, health sector and water resource management.

In some parts of Rwanda, heavy rains often result in crop damage, which in turn reduces yields./Photo: FILE

Rwanda’s Updated Nationally-Determined Contributions (NDC) also notes that the country is increasingly experiencing the impacts of climate change. Over the years, rainfall has become increasingly intense and the variability is predicted to increase by 5% to 10%. Records of temperature increases show that between 1971 and 2016 the country recorded rises in mean temperature of between 1.4°C and 2. 56°C. These changes in temperature and precipitation are said to be the key drivers of climate and weather-related disasters that negatively affect Rwandans and the overall economy, including windstorms, lightning, droughts, floods, landslides and storms. These climate-induced disasters result in damages to infrastructure, loss of lives and property including crops, soil erosion, and water pollution, among others.

Recently, torrential rains destroyed schools in Karongi District

According to Rwanda’s Ministry in charge of Emergency Management, Rwanda experienced around 3,309 of disasters within the period of 2011-2019. In 2018 alone, the country recorded 254 deaths linked to climate-induced disasters and a loss of 15,910 houses and 13,337.21 hectares of damaged crops. In 2020, disasters caused 298 deaths and 414 injuries, amongst other losses. The 2015 National Risk Atlas estimated the economic cost of the assets vulnerable to landslide and earthquake to be 100.3 billion Rwandan francs.

Owing to this situation, Rwanda has learnt that climate projections are important for future planning and for adapting to climate change. The climate system is very complex and so looking at past trends alone and expecting the situation to remain the same would be misleading and an overgeneralisation. For Rwanda, investing into globally recognized climate models to project the future climate is important to come up with strategies, plans and actions that responds to future needs and support the targets of achieving a sustainable, climate-resilient economy in the future.

One of the programmes of action of the Green Growth and Climate Resilience Strategy is ‘Climate Data and Projections’, which was designed to maintain climate change records and provide data to help the country prepare for a warmer world through new technologies and capacity building.

Having access to climate data and projections is essential for Rwanda to respond to climate change using evidence-based policy making and planning. Therefore, a number of institutions came together to track and manage climate related data, including the Rwanda Meteorological Agency (Meteo Rwanda), the Ministry of Education, the Rwanda Environment Management Authority, the Rwanda Green Fund and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). This joint effort includes regular measurements, weather forecast, data management, information sharing and climate knowledge and education.

Work is underway to build Rwanda’s capacity to advance the national adaptation planning process and is being implemented by Meteo Rwanda and the Rwanda Environment Management Authority. One of the activities under this partnership is climate change projections for Rwanda on different timescale such as 2030, 2040, 2050 and 2080. Those projections will be used to develop climate risk assessments and to inform policy-makers and planners about probable future climate risks.

In addition to this ground-breaking project, here are three other initiatives that are enabling Rwanda to better understand its climate today and more accurately predict how it will change into the future.

  1. Rwanda Climate Change Observatory

The Rwanda Climate Change Observatory is a world-class project initiated in 2011 by the Ministry of Education in collaboration with the MIT to measure climate change on Mount Mugogo in terms of greenhouse gases (GHG), meteorological parameters, other climate change factors as well as building skills in storing, processing and archiving GHG data from different sectors.

The Climate Change Observatory is part of WMO’s Global Atmosphere Watch network measuring greenhouse gases and air quality. As a World Meteorological Organisation Global Atmosphere Watch station, it contributes to an international network of observation systems supporting the global response to climate change.

This initiative has strengthened research on climate change and atmospheric sciences, presented education opportunities for Rwandans and trained them on effective climate data maintenance and analysis.

  1. Investing in Meteo Rwanda forecasting and climate modelling

The Rwanda Meteorology Agency (Meteo Rwanda) provides accurate, timely weather and climate information services for safety of life, property and for socio-economic development of the country. The agency collects, gathers and accesses meteorological data from weather stations around the country. The data are analysed in parallel with data from other sources to generate the weather forecast of different ranges of time (nowcast, short, medium and long ranges forecast), with the aim of supporting socio-economic development.

Given the importance of weather and climate data for responding to climate change, significant investments have been made to boost the capacity of Meteo Rwanda. This has been done through an investment from the Rwanda Green Fund called ‘Strengthening Rwanda’s Weather and Climate Services to Support Development’. This initiative provided new monitoring equipment and increased the technical skills that lead to improvement of the range of weather and climate information available to inform decision making at all levels in Rwanda,

This project installed climate change and air quality monitoring infrastructure and provided training to inform decision-making and enforcement activities. The infrastructure provides data for regulators and is being used as a research tool in higher learning institutions. Data is now being provided to climate modellers to increase climate change consequence modelling in Rwanda and across the region.

  1. Building a nationwide Air Quality Index

Rwandans can now access real-time air quality information thanks to a new website and mobile application launched by the Ministry of Environment, Rwanda Environment Management Authority and Rwanda Meteorology Agency.

The countrywide air quality monitoring system provides data on the quality of the air in twenty-three sites across the country. The Air Quality Monitoring System was developed through the Air Quality and Climate Change Monitoring Project, which has been funded by the Rwanda Green Fund (FONERWA). It was designed in collaboration with Massachusetts Institute of Technology and implemented by Rwanda Environment Management Authority and the Ministry of Education.

The system provides real-time Air Quality Index (AQI) for each station in both numerical and color code format. The system highlights the dominant air pollutant which is responsible for air quality degradation during the reported period for each station. It will help Rwanda to compare ground observations data with satellite data through remote sensing technology to verify their accuracy.

The system strengthens Rwanda’s existing field installed air quality monitoring network by providing online access to pollution readings from each station as well as data management including data sharing mechanisms.

Visit the Air Quality Monitoring System here:

Learn more about Rwanda’s efforts to use data to prepare for the future at

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