Tuesday November 13 2012

Kenyan scientist calls for adoption of indigenous knowledge to predict weather

By Xinhua

Kenyan scientist wants the government to adopt policies that will allow the integration of indigenous knowledge on climate as part of weather prediction patterns to reduce effect of climate change.

The scientist under Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC) said integrating traditional weather knowledge is key to reducing effect of climate change and boost food security as the pattern have been confirmed to be accurate.Professor Gilbert Ouma, Project Coordinator said a six season survey on the use of indigenous knowledge on climate prediction has proved that local climate knowledge is working towards food security, climate change and risk reduction.

The deliberation were made at a workshop in Kisumu in Western Kenya this week to disseminate findings of the study on impact of indigenous knowledge(IK),on food security, risk reduction and community resilience to adverse weather effects such as drought and floods.Key meteorological department officials across the region, fisheries, agriculture and environmental officers attended the recent meeting.During the conference, government officials drawn from line ministries said they will push up the adoption of the IK into a policy so that it can be used as part of modern weather predicting patterns.

Ouma, the lead researcher in the 2-year project carried among the rainmaking Nganyi community in Western Kenya said there is urgent need to integrate IK into scientific climate forecasts at the local level, where it can be used to enhance the resilience of communities vulnerable to climate change."Traditionally, African farmers have used IK to understand weather and climate patterns and make decisions about crop and irrigation cycles. However, increased variability has reduced their confidence in traditional knowledge," said Ouma. He said scientific weather forecasts have not helped much since it is formulated on larger scale and are presented in a manner unfamiliar to farmers."This creates a dilemma for those who recognize the limitations of traditional climate forecasts but are unable to use scientific ones," said Ouma who is from the University of Nairobi.

To address this problem, he said, the government should integrate indigenous knowledge into scientific climate forecasts at the local level, where it can be used to enhance the resilience of communities vulnerable to climate change. "Integrating traditional knowledge with science-based forecasts will help farmers make better decisions on what to plant where to plant and when to plant and harvest, other department will also advise locals accordingly on the expected weather for coping mechanism," he added. The scientist said such decisions will help change people's lives while slip on them can lead to hunger, poverty and suffering.

Although farmers receive forecasts, many do not rely on them as they are generalised. Weather prediction is one of the difficulty facing African farmers, the continent has only one eighth of the minimum number of weather monitoring stations recommended by the World Meteorological Association. The researcher said food insecurity in parts of Africa is as a result of artificial weather forecast that does not conform to local needs. If adopted the scientist said the system will help in mitigating adverse climatic effect as well as reduce poverty as the entire line ministry will be involved. "We are thinking of a system where ministry of environment will warn on the type of trees to be planted, ministry of public health on the nature of rains to be expected and advice digging of trenches where applicable, agriculture on the amount of rainfall using local examples," Ouma said.

Currently, the Kenya Meteorological Department (MET) forecast dwells on a larger scale sometimes regionalising rainfall and the public don't know where it will rain."We are tired of the current system, every village has its own climate, using local examples and working with traditionalist to forecast will be a sure way of mitigating climate change and boost agricultural productivity that suffers with floods," Ouma said.Farmers have been coping with weather patterns consistent with the expected effects of climate change such as higher temperatures, more intense rainfall, stronger winds and longer dry periods.

The researchers said forecast for the area using the indigenous methods was that it was 'likely to convey accurate patterns.Apart from the adoption of the traditional climate knowledge into a policy, the scientist also wants it to be incorporated into school curriculum for sustainability.Dr. Maria Onyango also a researcher in the six season study said incorporating the indigenous climate knowledge will enhance its sustainability and acceptance among the young generation. Already the researchers are working with three universities in developing indigenous climate knowledge curriculum to be adopted by other universities in Kenya.