Weather and climate information needs of small-scale farming and fishing communities in western Kenya for enhanced adaptive potential to climate change

Esther Onyango, Silas Ochieng, Alex Awiti


Hydro-climatic variability owing to climate change is a major driver of vulnerability among subsistence rural farmers in Kenya. Vulnerability is exacerbated by a lack of reliable weather and climate information necessary to support adaptation to more resilient farming practices. In the form that it is currently delivered, weather and climate information does not support the operational decisions that farmers and fishers make such as timing of land preparation, planting time, type of seed or likelihood of severe weather. This paper presents the results of an approach for eliciting perspectives from farmers and fishers on the weather and climate information products they need to support operational decisions. The specific objectives of the study were to: quantify the capacity of the agricultural and fishing communities to use existing weather and climate information; evaluate the service improvements delivered to farmers and; develop and test community education and awareness tools designed to help farmers and fishers make better decisions that reduce risks to their lives and livelihoods. The study was conducted in Rarieda constituency between August 2011 and December 2011. 401 farmers and 34 fishers were interviewed coupled with interactive focus group discussions with expert farmers and fishers. Results show that approximately 92% of farmers receive weather and climate information, mainly through radios and local administration, yet only 14% find the information useful in their operational decisions. Conversely, fishermen reported that there was no weather and climate information directly targeting them. Long term forecasts significantly influenced nearly all operation decisions which accounted for about 35.9% of the total variability in land preparation, 34.3% choice of seeds, 2.6% planting time and 36.1% in disaster management whereas daily forecasts had no statistical significance (p > 0.05) on any of the operations. 89% of the respondents were willing to pay for weather and climate information services though this was highly correlated with the wealth of an individual (X2 (4, N = 401) = 23.521, p <0.001). The study concludes that the weather information currently received by farmers is inadequate and service improvements need to be enhanced for optimal use of the available weather forecast for informed livelihood operational decisions.


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