Farmers and pastoralists, as well as policy makers, development and humanitarian programmes in Africa are searching for the best ways to adapt to the impacts of climate variability and change. Changes in seasonal rainfall patterns and more unpredictable, severe and frequent extreme events like floods and droughts are already being observed, threatening livelihoods in vulnerable communities. Most adaptation strategies aim to spread or reduce potential risks, for example by using drought tolerant seeds, cereal banks, diversification to non climate dependent income sources, weather based insurance products, or early warning systems. Although such concrete measures are essential, climate change is continuous and unpredictable. Adaptive capacity to make informed and flexible decisions for action is becoming even more important to ensure resilience to climate change impacts. Climate science and meteorology provide valuable sources of information that can help, not only in predicting future weather and climate (which can never be fully accurate), but also in developing understanding and skill in befriending and managing uncertainty.Seasonal forecasts for example, give probabilities of three different rainfall scenarios.
In the process of understanding how to use these probabilities, adaptive capacity is already strengthened. We can skilfully interpret and use the information by relating it to the risk assessments and decisions we make daily, and plan to spread or take risks, innovate or protect our assets, seize opportunities and make and modify decisions in response. Communicating climate information, in ways that users can understand and apply is therefore a critical resource to support effective adaptation to climate change. Impact of the climate communication system Community rainfall information has had an immediate impact on decision making on farming. This has resulted into change in community attitude and practice and is supporting communities to make better decisions at the right time like deciding when to plant. As total seasonal rainfall is low and distribution is erratic, planting is only successful when there is sufficient soil moisture to allow germination and survival through to the next rain. Farmers are able to know the rainfall recorded immediately after downpours and this has given them confidence in the decision to plant or not, thus resulting to a reduction of the rate of seed loss due to multiple replanting. Rain gauge information has also enabled decision making on other farming operations such as weeding time, when to apply pesticides and search for pasture by pastoralists. Installation of community rain gauges, training on rainfall data collection and dissemination of the resultant rainfall information in Dakoro therefore constitutes an important step for communities to have increased adaptive capacity through better access to information for livelihood decision making and early warning on potential risks, in an uncertain and changing climate.