Climate Forecast Information: The Status, Needs and Expectations Among Smallholder Agro-Pastoralists in Machakos District, Kenya

Ngugi, Robinson Kinuthia

The potential use of seasonal climate forecasts in farm and resource management has been studied in a number of cultural contexts around the world. Many of these studies reveal difficulties that smallholders encounter in accessing, interpreting and applying forecasts for their own benefit. This study looks at the awareness of and usage of climate forecast information in central Kenya in the aftermath of the 1997/98 El Niño event. Household surveys were conducted in Machakos District, Kenya, in January 2001. Retrospective and concurrent awareness and application of seasonal forecast information was assessed for 240 households across a range of agroecological zones. The results reveal a surprisingly high degree of awareness and use of forecasts. Farmers discussed both actual and potential application of forecasts for both above-normal and below-normal rainfall. The influence of the El Niño event of 1997/98 was clear in their emphasis on strategies to mitigate the impacts of above-normal rainfall. Applications of information in both crop and livestock management are documented. Constraints still exist, such as interpretation of information, relevance of the variables forecast to the management decisions of concern, confidence in the forecasts, and access to resources such as seeds. It is suggested here that collaborative efforts between the forecast providers and the users of information may be directed towards addressing these constraints.

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Academic Units
International Research Institute for Climate and Society
International Research Institute for Climate Prediction
IRI Technical Report, 02-04
Published Here
May 21, 2010