Rain Gauge Shortages Impact Rain Information Service


In short
The country that used to have over one thousand rain gauges spread over sixteen climatic zones now has less than four hundred functioning ones. Only one hundred of the existing stations regularly provided rain data to the national radar.

Measuring rainfall is of crucial importance in agriculture. But the Uganda National Meteorology Authority says it cannot obtain accurate rainfall data due to inadequate weather stations. Emerging reports indicate that weather station coverage stands at only fifty percent across the country. 

The North, North East and Western parts of Uganda are the most under served yet farmers there like the rest of the country rely on rainfall for agriculture.

The first East Africa Community and the then governments had supported the intensification of rain gauges in member countries for collection of accurate rain and weather data but many of those have either broken down or were vandalized during years of insurgency.

Uganda according to National Meteorological Authority had one thousand forty rain gauges located at government schools, tea estates and airfields among others.

Uganda National Meteorological Authority Director of Networks and Observations, Paul Isabirye says the country now has less than four hundred rain gauges across the country. 

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The lack of concentration of rain gauges in the country has posed a big challenge to the meteorologists and the prime users like farmers.

Isabirye says with few of the equipment available, it is not possible to obtain very accurate area specific information especially under uncertainties resulting from climate change.

Farmers also tend to question the accuracy of data collected from distant weather stations.
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Faced with financial constraints, the former Department of Meteorology under the Ministry of Water and Environment had not trained enough Meteorologists to run the stations.

Uganda according to a report by Makerere University's Dr. Agnes Rwashana Semwanga had only twenty three trained meteorologists in 2012 under the then Department Meteorology. Those according Dr. Rwashana Semwanga were not sufficient to manage the national meteorology network and the stations all over the country. 

Sunday Emmanuel, the Secretary General of Uganda National Farmer's Federation say absence of accurate rainfall data has cost farmers over  half of their harvest in the last three seasons.
 He said if farmers had been given accurate and reliable weather reports, they could have overcome the losses suffered.

The farmer's federation boss remembers with nostalgia the seventies and eighties when Geography teachers, students or some people at the sub counties would volunteer to take daily records from whether stations. 

He says that system should be restored by training volunteers to take and transmit the rain information to the district or at national levels.

Isabirye agree that the same training given in the past can be given to a team of volunteers because collecting whether information requires partnerships.

He is concern that the current generation of Ugandans hardly volunteers to offer the service.

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Isabirye said the Uganda National Meteorology Authority now plans to procure one hundred rain gauges this financial year as it tries to reequip and revive weather stations in the 16 climatic zones.