IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability

9.6.2 Indigenous knowledge systems

The term ‘indigenous knowledge’ is used to describe the knowledge systems developed by a community as opposed to the scientific knowledge that is generally referred to as ‘modern’ knowledge (Ajibade, 2003). Indigenous knowledge is the basis for local-level decision-making in many rural communities. It has value not only for the culture in which it evolves, but also for scientists and planners striving to improve conditions in rural localities. Incorporating indigenous knowledge into climate-change policies can lead to the development of effective adaptation strategies that are cost-effective, participatory and sustainable (Robinson and Herbert, 2001). Indigenous knowledge in weather forecasting

Local communities and farmers in Africa have developed intricate systems of gathering, predicting, interpreting and decision-making in relation to weather. A study in Nigeria, for example, shows that farmers are able to use knowledge of weather systems such as rainfall, thunderstorms, windstorms, harmattan (a dry dusty wind that blows along the north-west coast of Africa) and sunshine to prepare for future weather (Ajibade and Shokemi, 2003). Indigenous methods of weather forecasting are known to complement farmers’ planning activities in Nigeria. A similar study in Burkina Faso showed that farmers’ forecasting knowledge encompasses shared and selective experiences. Elderly male farmers formulate hypotheses about seasonal rainfall by observing natural phenomena, while cultural and ritual specialists draw predictions from divination, visions or dreams (Roncoli et al., 2001). The most widely relied-upon indicators are the timing, intensity and duration of cold temperatures during the early part of the dry season (November to January). Other forecasting indicators include the timing of fruiting by certain local trees, the water level in streams and ponds, the nesting behaviour of small quail-like birds, and insect behaviour in rubbish heaps outside compound walls (Roncoli et al., 2001).