Integrating meteorological and indigenous knowledge-based seasonal climate forecasts for the agricultural sector: lessons from participatory action research in sub-Saharan Africa

Integrating meteorological and indigenous knowledge-based seasonal climate forecasts for the agricultural sector: lessons from participatory action research in sub-Saharan Africa

Can indigenous knowledge make accurate climate forecasts?

This paper examines how meteorological seasonal climate forecasts (SCF) and indigenous knowledge-based seasonal forecasts (IKF) can complement each other to improve agricultural productivity in sub-Saharan Africa. Using case studies, the report documents the processes and lessons learned with respect to using, applying, and integrating SCFs and IKFs. It also presents the current available seasonal forecasts and indigenous knowledge, and explores how the two types of information have been integrated, as well as the platforms for disseminating this information and the challenges of applying it.

The report notes that integration of indigenous knowledge to meteorological climate forecast is very important as it is highly localised, and often comes with practical advice on measures to take in light of the forecast conditions. Using local languages and terminology familiar to farmers is also essential to the usability of forecast information, and too often overlooked in the provision of SCFs. It further notes that the major challenge is how to bring IKF and SCF together in a way that respects their different values and builds on their strengths. This is set against a backdrop of a changing climate, which means that indigenous knowledge indicators might not be as reliable as they were in the past. It notes that increasing variability in climate has reduced farmers’ confidence in traditional knowledge and has led them to seek out both seasonal and short term weather forecasts. If SCFs can capture the increasingly variable climate, they may be able to provide important information that can create a framework for developing strategies for responding and adapting to climate change.

To achieve the integration of SCF and IKF, the report gives the following recommendations.

  • There is a need to develop partnerships among relevant institutions, NGOs, and local communities to enhance the capacity for cooperation on the use of seasonal and indigenous forecasts, climate change, and agricultural production.
  • Policy support is needed to improve the nature and availability of information and to strengthen partnerships for sharing and using climate information.
  • Existing institutions or structures should be developed to enhance the linkage of meteorological community and end-users.
  • There is a need to establish multi-stakeholder platforms to interpret meteorological, climate, agronomic, and indigenous information, develop advice to farmers, and disseminate the tailored information to make it more accessible to users.
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