Climate Change

Text by York-Philipp Cramer

Current trends, future projections, and the feedback from individuals, organisations, and communities experiencing a change in climate highlight that adaptation measures alongside continuous stringent mitigation actions have certainly become essential to cope with various current and future impacts of climate change. Adapting to climate change aims to reduce risks and costs associated with extreme weather events and enables organisations to increase resilience to future climate impacts. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2014), vulnerability is determined by an organisation’s exposure and sensitivity to significant climatic variations, and by its overall adaptive capacity. Assessing an organisation’s vulnerabilities and associated risks is highly critical to identify necessary adaptation response strategies.

Looking at East Africa and in particular at Rwanda, it will certainly become increasingly relevant for organisations to examine their exposure and sensitivity to key vulnerabilities to current and projected climate (up to mid- and late century). Root Foundation Rwanda is one of these organisations that will certainly need to deal with climate change in the near future and that has, at the same time, the potential to lead discussions about climate change adaptation response options on a local and national level.

Rwandan Climate

The East African region demonstrates a diverse topography including large lakes, rift valleys and mountains leading to great variations in temperature and precipitation (Henninger, 2013). Characterized by its high elevation and variable altitude (950-4500 AMSL) Rwanda exhibits a tropical moderate highland climate with lower average annual temperatures than usually observed around the equator, ranging between 12°C and 30°C (Figure 1), and considerable differences in precipitation (Figure 2).

Figure 1: Mean temperature (1987–2016) based on ENACTS data: (left) annual Tmax; (right) annual Tmin (Republic of Rwanda, 2018)

Figure 2: Climographs indicating mean rainfall and temperature for Kigali (Siebert et al., 2019)

The country is divided into four general climatic zones with Kigali located on the border between Rwanda’s central plateau and its eastern lowland zone further expanding to the East (Henninger, 2013). The low-lying Eastern part of Rwanda is characterized by a drier and warmer climate compared to the cooler and wetter climate in the mountainous and water-rich west. Typically for East Africa, Rwanda is following a bimodal precipitation pattern with two rain seasons (MAM; SON) and two dry seasons (DJF; JJA) throughout the year. The bimodal rainfall pattern can be ascribed to the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) close to the equator which is moving seasonally and thus passes through the area twice a year (Siebert, 2014). Most moisture is brought to the region by wind systems coming from the Indian Ocean and large lakes (e.g., Lake Victoria) (Siebert et al., 2019).