Are these “early rains” the signal to start planting or a false start to the rainy season? Initial analysis of aWhere’s observed and forecast data shows that though the rains have been good, these October rains are highly variable and investment in the crop should be steady but cautious.
Read our latest weather advisory which takes an in-depth look at how recent weather patterns may have signaled some farmers to start planting early in western Kenya.
Early rains or a false start?
Are these “early rains” the signal to start planting or a false start to the rainy season? Initial analysis of aWhere’s observed and forecast data shows that though these rains have been good, these October rains are highly variable and investment in the crop
should be steady but cautious. The map to the right shows precipitation over potential evapotranspiration (P/PET) for the past 7 days (September 4-10, 2019) –
good rains over much of western Kenya and the whole region shows P/PET > 1.0 and positive conditions for vegetative growth.
The map below shows the forecast for the next 7 days (September 11-17, 2019) which is not as optimistic as the recent observed rainfall. Good rains in the northern part of western Kenya and healthy P/PET. While drier conditions are forecast for south of Homa Bay.
aWhere’s weekly climate charts show how some areas have received good rains but it is not universal. Rainfall variability over time—and across space—challenges agriculture.
With steady weekly rainfall, farmers are planting to take advantage of what appears to be a great start to the ‘short’ rains. As seen in the weekly charts below, March and April 2019 were disappointing for most which may have left farmers feeling a sense of urgency to plant as soon as the rains started in September. While this could produce positive outcomes for farmers, the increasing weather variability across Kenya and the world makes it difficult to plan ahead based on historical seasons. For example, the rainfall in late July in the Chepkoilel (central Uasin Gishu) was much greater than normal while the rains were very poor in March-April 2019.
The map below of the forecasted precipitation difference from the long term normal (2008-2018) shows how much of western Kenya is to be drier than normal. Some parts of the northern region are wet – this demonstrates the variability farmers are facing through next week and how they need to plan and adjust their on-farm activities.
Farmers in Buret experienced almost no rainfall in March and April! They could have benefited from weather information to avoid planting and wasting their resources.
Implications and Recommendations
The variability seen in Kenya this year requires farmers to have access to critical information inputs such as weather in order to plan their activities. The weather is changing which is forcing smallholder farmers, input providers and government agencies to adapt to this new world. With timely insights, farmers can take appropriate action to account for increasing weather variability, such as changing crops or varieties, timely planting, fertilizing, harvesting and grain conditioning operations to maximize yield, quality and food safety. Contact aWhere for specific recommendations.