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Indigenous Knowledge for Seasonal Weather and Climate Forecasting across East Africa
Maren Radeny, Mary Nyasimi, James Kin...
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Indigenous Knowledge for Seasonal Weather and Climate Forecasting across East Africa

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Advance knowledge of climate information is important in helping farmers make decisions on resource allocation and type agricultural enterprises in a season. Climate information coupled with agro-advisory services offers greater potential to enhance capacity of farmers to adapt to climate variability and climate change. Because of significant gaps in provision of climate services for farmers in East Africa—downscaled location-specific forecasts, reliable, timely, and user-friendly climate information that effectively addresses farmer’s needs. Farmers rely on indigenous knowledge (IK) for their seasonal forecasts, where locally observed variables and experiences are used to assess and predict the local weather conditions e.g. onset of rains. IK for climate forecasting is often passed from one generation to the other through oral history and local expertise and not widely documented, thus creating a wide inter-generational gap between IK custodians and the young generation.

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Indigenous Knowledge for Seasonal Weather and Climate Forecasting across East Africa

  1. 1. Indigenous Knowledge for Seasonal Weather and Climate Forecasting across East Africa Maren Radeny, Mary Nyasimi, James Kinyangi, John Recha, Drake Mubiru, Henry Mahoo, Ayal Desalegn International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), P. O. Box 30709-00100 Nairobi, Kenya Introduction Advance knowledge of climate information is important in helping farmers make decisions on resource allocation and type of agricultural enterprises in a season. Climate information coupled with agro-advisory services offers greater potential to enhance capacity of farmers to adapt to climate variability and climate change. In East Africa (EA), significant gaps still exist in provision of climate services for farmers, specifically downscaled location-specific forecasts, reliable, timely, and user-friendly climate information that effectively addresses farmer’s needs. Consequently, farmers often rely on indigenous knowledge (IK) for their seasonal forecasts, where locally observed variables and experiences are used to assess and predict the local weather conditions and climate e.g. onset of rains. However, IK is not widely documented and often passed on from one generation to another through oral history, thus creating a wide inter- generational gap between IK custodians and the young generation. Objective Document and synthesize existing IK in weather forecasting practices, including the major sources of climate information for farmers and pastoralists across East Africa. Methods We use case studies from four sites across three countries in EA—Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda. Sites represent the diverse farming systems in EA ranging from mixed crop- livestock to pastoral systems. Data were collected from 397 households, complemented with information from focus group discussions (FGDs), and key informant interviews. Conclusion Farmers and herders use these local indicators to make important agricultural production decisions. The biological IK indicators are more variable compared to the meteorological IK indicators. In Borana, IK forecasts are used to plan livestock mobility to reduce losses during drought conditions. Farmers in Ethiopia and Tanzania sites, considered IK a more reliable source of climate information. Therefore, a systematic documentation of IK and a framework for integrating IK forecasting with modern scientific forecasts can improve the accuracy of climate forecasts and would likely increase farmers’ trust and willingness to use scientific forecasts in EA. Indigenous knowledge weather and climate forecasting Farmers and pastoralists commonly use a combination of biological, meteorological and astrological local indicators for predicting weather. • Meteorological indicators used to predict onset of rains include appearance and colour of the clouds, direction and strength of the wind, temperature and humidity, lightning and thunder, and appearance of less dew on the grass and plants. Learn more: ccafs.cgiar.org/ • Biological indicators include animals and plants. Birds and insects are the key animal indicators. Some plants and trees are more sensitive to changes in atmospheric conditions than others - sprouting of young shoots of the Mvule tree indicates onset of the rainy season in Uganda. • Astrological indicators were more pronounced among the pastoralists in Borana and include the alignment of the moon and stars, appearance and position of the moon, size and movement of the star. Traditional astrologists in Borana use seven stars (individual or in groups) locally known as Lemi that are believed to be very important for forecasting. Results Sources and types of climate information Differences in climate information sources across the sites. Almost all households in the pastoral system depend on indigenous sources and social networks for climate information. Radio is the most commonly used media to access climate and weather information in the mixed crop- livestock systems. 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 Wild bird Fischer's Lovebird Golden Oriole Hornbill Wild bird Chicken Duck Owl Coucal Swallows Percent of households IndicatorsbasedonbirdsinLushoto References Chang’a L, Yanda P, Ngana, J. 2010. Indigenous Knowledge in Seasonal rainfall prediction in Tanzania: A case of the South-Western Highland of Tanzania. Journal of Geography and Regional Planning 3: 66-72. Egeru A. 2012. Role of Indigenous Knowledge in Climate Change Adaptation: A case study of the Teso Sub-Region, Eastern Uganda. Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge 11: 217-224. Poster design by: S.Kilungu (CCAFS) Contact: Maren Radeny: m.radeny@cgiar.org 0 20 40 60 80 100 120 Newspapers and television Village meetings Indigenous sources NGOs, researchers & extension workers Relatives, neighbours and friends Radio Percent of households Sourcesofclimateinformation Rakai Hoima Lushoto Borana 0 20 40 60 80 100 120 Appearance of less dew on the grass/plants Lightning and thunder at night with no rain Very high temperatures at night Direction and strength of the wind Appearance of dark clouds Percent of households Meteorologicalindicators Rakai Hoima The onset and amount of rainfall are the most important information farmers receive. Other types of information include distribution and cessation of rainfall, duration of the cropping/rainy season, and severity of weather events (e.g. drought, floods, occurrence of strong winds). • Indicates that the next main rainy season would be normal, a time of abundance, peace and love in Borana. 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 Reliable Somewhat reliable Not reliable Percentofhouseholds Reliability of climate forecast information in Lushoto Indigenous Scientific • Occurrence of a halo moon (moon surrounded by yellow ring) indicates the likelihood of onset of rains for main and short seasons in Lushoto. Over 55% of farmers in Lushoto believe IK forecasts are reliable, while close to 38% believe scientific forecasts are not reliable.

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