Academic journal article Journal of Sustainable Development

Managing Climate Risks Using Seasonal Climate Forecast Information in Vhembe District in Limpopo Province, South Africa

Academic journal article Journal of Sustainable Development

Managing Climate Risks Using Seasonal Climate Forecast Information in Vhembe District in Limpopo Province, South Africa

Article excerpt


The majority of small - scale farmers in the Vhembe district have been experiencing extreme climatic risk, high climate variability and change for a very long time. The majority of these small -scale farmers are vulnerable to all types of climate risk due to their low adaptive capacity, lack of access to technology as a result of level of education, lack of financial resources and also among other things low level of resilience and high level of poverty amongst these farmers. However, the majority of these small - scale farmers in the Vhembe district use different adaptive strategies as a way of preserving assets for future livelihoods including: (a) Drought resistant varieties, (b) Crop diversification, (c) Plant crops that require less water, (d) Some of these small - scale farmers use local climate indicators to monitor climate risk, (e) Adjust fertilizer input, (f) Use rainwater harvesting techniques. Different institutions in the country including the South African Weather Services, and the Agricultural Research Council, and the Limpopo Provincial Department of Agriculture, issue and disseminate the seasonal forecasts information to different districts including the Vhembe. Most of the time, the information has been disseminated to end-users in simple ways, but the need to find more out more about end users' needs is still required.

Keywords: seasonal forecasting, climate risk, drought impacts, climate information, Limpopo Province

1. Introduction

Since 1994, the South African Weather Service (SAWS) has been actively involved in research around the seasonal time-scale of climate predictions (Klopper et al., 1998; Landman and Manson, 1999; Tennant, 1999; O'Brien et al., 2000), with the aim of providing the best possible information on future climate conditions so that the risk in economic and social decisions are reduced. Climate information, even if provided in a perfect forecast, has limited value if it cannot be understood and used by the recipient to support the decision-making process (Glantz, 1977; Chagnon, 1992; Osunade, 1994; Mutiso, 1997; Huber and Pedersen, 1998; Eakin, 2002; Roncoli et al., 1999; Finan & Nelson, 2001; Roncoli et al., 2001a; Roncoli et al., 2002a; Luseno et al., 2000). Most studies of the value of the seasonal forecast have been conducted in the developed world (Mjelde et al., 1988; Lyakhou, 1994; Mosley, 1994; Mason, 1996; Nicholls, 1996; Mjelde et al., 1997; Landman & Mason, 1999; Letson et al., 2001; Klopper & Landman, 2003, O'Brien & Vogel., 2003). This paper will add to the few studies conducted in the southern African region. Various mechanisms have been used by several organizations to disseminate climate forecast information by distributing fliers, newsletter, electronic and printing media, technical briefs etc.

Forecasts, moreover, need to be expressed in the language of the users, providing the communities with possible appropriate alternatives to current production methods (Price, 1995; Arctic Council, 1995; Blench, 1999; Stern and Easterling, 1999; Stricherz, 1999; Letson et al., 2001; Valdivia and Gillies., 2003; Easton, 2004b; Hansen et al., 2004; Ziervogel et al., 2004). Blench (1999) and Finan (1999), argue that these forecasts will probably be useful only to certain types of producers, as not all farmers can equally access or use the information. It also requires that trust and communication exist between users and providers of climate forecast (Finan, 1999).

Effective use of seasonal forecast information that is useful to farmers, however, is wider than just issuing a forecast and includes a process of examining the current needs, problems and context in which users operate. The use of forecasts, however, provides more than just information about the forecast. The highly variable nature of rainfall in southern Africa enhances the potential use and value of reliable and dependable seasonal forecasts in the decision-making processes of different sectors. …

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