Kagunyu, Anastasia, Simiyu Wandibba and Joseph G. Wanjohi
While the importance of indigenous and traditional knowledge has been identified, evaluated and supported in various scholarly texts and papers, the evaluation and efficacy of this knowledge in the context of climate change adds a new dimension to the research. This paper, focused on the practices of the Borana in Isolo County, Kenya. The goal of the study was to “identify the early warning signs used by the Borana community to predict the onset of weather changes, and to establish the efficacy of the early warning signs used by the Borana in the context of climate change.” This is critical information in an era of change in weather patterns since the Borana use these early warning signs to determine when they will migrate to different areas.
While, as the authors note, indigenous and traditional knowledge has been developed in close connection with the local environment over a period of generations, or “from time immemorial,” that knowledge is perhaps becoming less accurate under the recent and drastic changes brought about by climate change. This region, in particular, has seen an increase of drought from once in 10 years to once in two or three.
The study used a variety of methods including secondary source information regarding climate, semi-structured interviews of 300 male and female heads of household, focus group discussions and direct observation of the local people’s practices. The researchers produced strong results in detailing the types of early warning signs used in the community, however, they did not analyze their results on reliability of the early warning signs beyond self-reported statements by the respondents. Further research is needed to determine the reliability of the indigenous practices, and to identify in what ways a combination of the traditional early warning indicators and modern forecasting methods can improve results for the community. As the authors state, citing Gufu Oba’s work (2009), indigenous knowledge is “a product of time, society and environment …. the useful parts of knowledge would persist through time, while the dysfunctional components are discarded…. because they fail to achieve repeated uses.” The processes lead to adaptation to the changing conditions, and increase resilience in indigenous/traditional communities.
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Photo credit: Adolphson, Bruce Yukio, 2009, Portraits of the Drought: Mwambia.