Harnessing diverse knowledge and belief systems to adapt to climate change in semi-arid rural Africa
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Farmers in semi-arid regions have historically coped using long established practices such as place-based climate forecasting using observations. However, this is becoming less reliable with climatic changes. Meteorological forecasting based on numerical prediction provides an alternative that is also now widely available to enable adaptation. However, this climate information has constraints including uncertainty and a broad spatial and temporal scale. The use of these two sources of forecast information is also affected by farmer perceptions of its advantages and disadvantages as well as beliefs and social norms. This study uses the case of Bobirwa subdistrict in Botswana to investigate the role of traditional norms and religious beliefs in the use of place-based and national meteorological forecast information to inform adaptation. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 82 farmers from 8 different communities. We found that whilst some farmers use national meteorological information, others use place-based forecast information only and some combine the two. We also found that certain religious beliefs and traditional norms prevent the use of national meteorological forecast information by some farmers. An integrated climate information system that is credible and accessible to farmers from different belief systems will provide opportunity for farmers to use this climate information to adapt better to climate variability and change.