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Indigenous knowledge for seasonal weather and climate forecasting across East Africa

Maren Radeny, Ayal Desalegn, Drake Mubiru, Florence Kyazze, Henry Mahoo, John Recha, Philip Kimeli, Dawit Solomon
Climatic change 2019 v.156 no.4 pp. 509-526
case studies, climate, climate change, farmers, indigenous knowledge, livestock production, pastoralism, risk, weather forecasting, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda
Climate information and agro-advisory services are crucial in helping smallholder farmers and pastoralists in East Africa manage climate-related risks and adapt to climate change. However, significant gaps exist in provision of climate information that effectively addresses the needs of farmers and pastoralists. Most farmers and pastoralists, therefore, rely on indigenous knowledge (IK), where local indicators and experiences are used to observe and forecast weather conditions. While IK-based forecasting is inbuilt and established in many communities in East Africa, coordinated research and systematic documentation of IK for weather forecasting, including accuracy and reliability of IK is largely lacking. This paper documents and synthesizes existing IK for weather forecasting in East Africa using case studies from Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Uganda. The results show that farmers and pastoralists use a combination of meteorological, biological, and astrological indicators to forecast local weather conditions. IK weather forecasting is, therefore, crucial in supporting efforts to improve access to climate information in East Africa, especially in resource-poor and vulnerable communities. The paper draws valuable lessons on how farmers and pastoralists in East Africa use IK weather forecasts for making crop and livestock production decisions and demonstrates that the trust and willingness to apply scientific forecasts by farmers and pastoralists is likely to increase when integrated with IK. Therefore, a systematic documentation of IK, and a framework for integrating IK and scientific weather forecasting from national meteorological agencies can improve accuracy, uptake, and use of weather forecasts.