Weather and climate information services in subsistence agriculture : farmers’ experiences on the adequacy of these services in the Taita Hills, Kenya

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Title: Weather and climate information services in subsistence agriculture : farmers’ experiences on the adequacy of these services in the Taita Hills, Kenya
Author: Salla, Anni
Other contributor: Helsingin yliopisto, Matemaattis-luonnontieteellinen tiedekunta
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Science
Helsingfors universitet, Matematisk-naturvetenskapliga fakulteten
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2019
Language: eng
Thesis level: master's thesis
Discipline: Aluetiede
Abstract: Climate change is globally considered as one of the biggest threats to the economy and development. Agriculture is the sector that faces the heaviest consequences and agriculture is also the primary livelihood for 2.5 billion people. Especially vulnerable are those who rely on rain-fed agriculture and for them adequate information on weather and climate is essential, enabling the adaptation to climatic changes. Weather and climate information services (WCIS) which are the entity from the generation to the dissemination and utilization of the information, plays a significant role for farmers especially in the developing countries. Adequate information is accessible and accurate, also in terms of time and location, and is communicated in a way that enables using the information in practice. The connection between agricultural production and WCIS has been more acknowledged and most of the African countries are able to provide monthly and seasonal forecasts, agrometeorological forecasts and extreme weather event warnings. However, still many areas suffer from lack of information systems which would help farmers to plan their agricultural activities and to adopt better farming practices. This study focuses on the adequacy of WCIS through farmer’s experiences in the Taita Hills, Kenya. Using semi-structured interviews, it identifies ICT- and human-based sources, content, and utilization of the information and how the information is shared through social networks. Additionally, it acknowledges the role of traditional knowledge to forecast weather through indicators in the environment. Local subsistence farmers, who are the key informants of this study, have experienced the impacts of climate change mainly as delayed rain seasons and decreased rainfall as well as increased temperatures. Important weather information for the farmers, in terms of agriculture, is dominantly the information about the onset and volume of rainfall that is used to schedule farming practices to achieve successful yield. The results of the study indicate that ICT-based information sources, such as daily forecasts from the radio, do not offer useful information for the farmers due to high uncertainty. The main sources of weather and climate information are human-based sources such as chiefs’ barazas and agricultural extension officers which offer seasonal forecasts and guidance on suitable crop types and other agricultural counselling. The information is shared in a communicative way which enables a dialog between the source and the farmer. In addition to seasonal forecasts, farmers rely heavily on traditional knowledge and regard it as reliable since it is observed through own senses and has a long local history through generations. Social networks in general, including barazas and extension officers but also, for example, neighbours and farmer groups, play an essential role in sharing information. Farmers both receive and share information through several forums. However, there are still farmers that are excluded from any WCIS related social networks and hence lack capacity to adapt to climatic changes. There is still a need to develop extension services to reach everybody in need and to generate more locally accurate forecasts which require local weather data gathering. Also, there is great potential in ICT as an information dissemination tool to a large audience.

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