A study we conducted in 2010 in Mali on behalf of AGRA found that in a male-dominated area with a very young population of 24 years on average (62%), and where only 11% of people cultivated their own land for which they possessed a title deed, land ownership had an impact on how farmers used climate information, whether for sowing and harvesting, or for relocating to avoid a disaster. The Level of education was another factor that determined the demand of climate information services. Over 51% of household members had never attended school and only 26.6% had completed primary schools. Consequently, they tended to stick to indigenous agriculture and traditional weather information systems. Farming knowledge and some conservation measures taken against soil erosion were an indication of farmers’ awareness on environmental degradation and climate change. However, the high variability of rainfall and temperature was persistently hampering farming water and farmlands, thus leading to a drought that continued to exacerbate agricultural production. Unfortunately, most farmers could not properly use Climate Information System (CIS) from the Meteorological department, even though more than 91.9% of them claimed receiving information on rainfall distribution and temperature through Radio and TV, sms, agricultural extension officers, and their neighbours. The frequency and accuracy of such information was being generally questioned, 69.3% of farmers finding it easier to recourse to traditional Early Warning Systems (EWS). The latter were believed to be more effective and to have better response for food security and agricultural production adaptation to conditions of drought. These EWS encompassed the changing colour and canopy of some specific plants' leaves, the flowering of some well-known indigenous trees, the colouring and motion of clouds, early presence of dew, the croaking of frogs, the migration of different species of birds and animals, the stomp-stamping of insects, high wind pressure, high and low surface temperatures, unusual cool air associated with the variation of spring discharges at some critical periods of the year, and the aching joints of elderly ones. These indicators were differently interpreted as incoming drought spells or heavy rains associated with the risk of flooding. Though some farmers did not trust CIS forecast by the Meteorological Department, 99% among them found it useful for predicting rain onset. This allowed them taking preventive measures against soil erosion, flood and drought, and to plan sowing. They also suggested that EWS at a local level coupled with their own judgment on CIS were enhancing weather forecast credibility and therefore its adoption. They were not only useful for planting but also for taking preventive measures to ensure food security in case of disaster. Another interesting fact was that farmers paid attention to the CIS because they used a public Market Information System (MIS) to obtain information on prices and other input data for selling their produce. CBOs (46%), NGOs (24%) and Market Information Authority (26%) were the largest providers of the MIS. The Market Information Authority mostly used extension service workers and CBOs to avail information through mobile phones to the householders. However, despite this well nested network, 33.9% of users obtained information from their fellow farmers in the same localities: 14% in Koulikoro, 2.4% in Sikasso, 14% in Segou and 3.5% in Mopti. Thus, African governments need to invest in farmer education on the use of CIS. They need to diversify their means of communication to reach the diverse users of climate information. The more they are acquainted with the system, the more the system becomes trustworthy. Nonetheless, the accuracy of the forecast will remain another loophole that needs to be addressed to close the gap.
Prof. Dr. Cush Ngonzo Luwesi, PhD, SAC Member, CR4D, ACPC, ECA, Addis Ababa
|Associate Professor: Economics & Environment, University of Kwango (UNIK), Democratic Republic of Congo|