When Kenya’s rain got ‘stuck’ in Tanzania in April last year, Stella Aura was unknown to many Kenyans. She, however, trended on social media.
This was after Ms Aura, who by then was the acting director Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD), explained to Kenyans why the prolonged rains were ‘sitting’ in the neighbouring country as Kenya was left dry.
Meteorologists blamed the failed rains on climate change. Cyclone Idai had ripped through Mozambique in March, playing a key role in delaying the northward movement of the rain-bearing inter-tropical convergence zone (ITCZ).
The ITCZ is a low pressure belt, which shifts its position north and south of the equator according the position of the sun. It is here where rain-bearing trade winds converge.
Today, the laidback but tough KMD director laughs at how Kenyans sauntered her with funny memes, with majority of the citizenry urging President John Magufuli to ‘release’ Kenya’s rain.
Seventeen months later, Ms Aura, Kenya’s first female KMD director who is also Permanent Representative of Kenya with World Meteorological Organisation, laughs at how Kenyans made her ‘famous’.
“Yes! The rains were stuck in Tanzania, the cyclones had moved all the moisture, but the way it was put! I trended on social media. I had explanations to make, it was a tough period,” Ms Aura says.
Ms Aura stresses on the importance of weather forecasts.
“I still remember how I trended on social media. But let us work together to ensure we have a reliable forecasts that will inform development decisions,” Ms Aura urged more than 100 climate scientists, researchers and development partners, who met in Mombasa last year during the 54th meeting of the Greater Horn of Africa Climate Outlook Forum.
She said many farmers in Kenya depend on rain-fed agriculture and the department’s forecasts helps the industry players to plan the sector.
In an exclusive interview at the Pride Inn Paradise Hotel in Mombasa, Ms Aura says she took over the leadership of the department in 2018 at a very challenging but opportune period in her career.
There were many pending bills, audit queries and frequent changes of regime due to cabinet reshuffles. Since she was appointed director, more than two years ago, she has served under six permanent secretaries.
“The major challenge at KMD is that we are losing people through natural attrition and retirement, but we are not replacing them at the same pace,” states Ms Aura.