Perceptions of Smallholder Rice Farmers on Traditional and Conventional Weather Forecasting in Zanzibar, Tanzania

Layla Salum, A. E. Majule, Y. W. Shaghude


This paper assesses the perceptions of the smallholder rice farmers in Zanzibar on the use of conventional and indigenous knowledge (IK) for seasonal weather forecasting and farming decisions. It draws data from a study that was conducted in two rice fields in Central district, Unguja, and four rice fields in Micheweni district, Pemba. The paper mainly employs qualitative data from focus group discussions and interviews. The results reveal that farmers, particularly from rain-fed rice fields, have limited access to conventional seasonal weather forecasts, and thus rely on the knowledge of traditional weather forecasting. This is ascribed to their negative perceptions on conventional seasonal weather forecasts, limited access to extension services, and limited access to media, such as television and radio that provide weather information, which is attributed to low rural electrification and poverty. The results also showed that smallholder rice farmers in the islands use their own indigenous knowledge to forecast weather and utilise it for the preparation of fields, planting and harvesting of rice. The study highlights that, recent fluctuations in rice production is attributable to the variability of rainfall, rainfall seasons, and incidences of extreme floods. This illustrate the challenges of both conventional and traditional weather forecasting systems, and underscore the need and importance of integrating traditional and conventional weather forecasting to increase access to conventional weather forecasting to boost resilience to the impacts of current and future climate changes.

Keywords: weather forecast, perceptions, indigenous knowledge, rice farmers, Zanzibar

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