Heavy rains are coming - weatherman warns

Most parts of the country will receive above-normal rains in the coming planting season, which will begin early next month.

Weathermen said they are fairly confident of this, adding that chances of heavier rains are above 70 per cent.

The March-May long rains season is the most important in Kenya and forms at least 40 per cent of all the rains the country receives.

The update was given by meteorologists from the Nairobi-based Igad Climate Prediction and Applications Centre, who have been meeting in Kampala to compare models for the March-May season.

“We expect wetter than normal conditions over most parts the region. Particularly western Kenya and [Kenyan] borders with Uganda, South Sudan and Ethiopia,” said Dr Hussen Endris, a climate modelling impact specialist from Icpac.

The rains are expected to begin in southern Kenyan areas bordering Tanzania, then move to central and spread toward western Kenya.

The scientists noted the rains will be heaviest in April, and end in May in many places.

“In Kenya, the long rains season accounts more than 50 per cent of its rain so it’s very critical,” Hussein said.

The forecasters noted there’s agreement for early onset of the rains over most parts of Kenya but some parts, especially near Somalia, will suffer delayed onset.

However, they are still unsure of the exact onset dates.

Hussein said most global models give varying onsets dates.

“In parts of Kenya we have seen disagreements with global models, 10-20 days,” he said.

He said this year closely matches 2010 and 2016. “In 2015 we had one of the strongest El Nino and was followed by 2016,” he said.

The climate scientists from Icpac and national modelling teams from the region have been working for the last one week in Uganda to develop the forecast.

“We have used nine global prediction forecasts and downscaled for the region,” Hussein said.  “There’s a more than 70 per cent probability of the rains exceeding the average in the region.”

Kenya Meteorological Department is expected to scale down the forecast and give a localised version by end of this month.

Met director Dr David Gikungu said there is a lot of speculation if the El nino, which is waning fast, will be replaced by La nina, which brings dry weather to Kenya.

“We are in a very unusual situation and even non-climate people have been suggesting we will go to La Nina because that’s what they have seen before,” he said.

Climate scientist Dr Stefan Lines, who spoke at the meeting, said the El nino conditions and the Indian Ocean Dipole have no impact on the March -May rains.

“It is still too early to predict if the El Nino will be replaced by La Nina,” he said.

Dr Stephan currently leads the International sub-seasonal and seasonal outreach team at the Met Office, UK.

Despite the heavy rains, Kenyans will also see dry spells within the period where rains will stop and sunny conditions will rule for several days, the forecast showed.

The heavy rains are expected to lead to a good harvest for the long rains season.

Most parts of Kenya experience two rain seasons: March to May-long rains and October to December-short rains.

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi says the projection for maize harvest from the October-December short rains season is  more than 60 million bags.

The government had earlier estimated the harvests at about 44 million bags, but the CS says the distribution of subsidised fertiliser to farmers had paid off in a big way.

Linturi said the government is now working to ensure adequate and efficient supplies to farmers for the next planting season.

"As government, we are doing all that is necessary to ensure farmers get the support they need to produce more and make Kenya self sufficient in food production," Linturi said.

He said the NCPB had adequate money to buy maize from farmers at Sh4,000 per 90kg bag.

Linturi said the government had procured 100 dryers to be distributed for use by farmers in all parts of the country.

Farmers will pay Sh70 per bag for the drying services.

"Now that we have bumper harvests the dryers will be used to ensure we reduce post harvest loses in all regions," he said.

The CS added that the boarded offer was only aimed at stabilising the maize prices so that farmers are not exploited by middlemen.

"We now have many private players buying maize and farmers are free to sell their produce to any place where they get better prices," Linturi said.

He said farmers also had many options, including to store maize at the NCPB through the Warehouse Receipting System, as they wait for better prices.