The role of Indigenous Knowledge Systems in coping with food security and climate challenges in Mbire District, Zimbabwe
Agriculture is the main form of livelihood in the Mbire District of Zimbabwe. The district lies in Natural Region IV and the average rains are 650 mm per year and experiences frequent droughts and floods. Weather forecasting is done by the Meteorological Services of Zimbabwe and information is issued in the form of seasonal climate forecasts (SCFs) which are based on probabilities and rainfall amounts, not distribution and referring to large spatial scales. On the other hand, indigenous knowledge which has been gained through a long period of observation of the environment by local people is site specific, cheap and can fill in the gaps that are left by scientific forecasting. The objectives of the research were to identify the different indigenous knowledge indicators used in the district, comparing the SCF and IKS for the 2012/13 rainfall season and the role IKS can play in ensuring food security in a changing climate. A total of 181interviews, 5 focus group discussions and 7 key informant interviews were used to collect data in Ward 9, 10 and 12 of Mbire District from March to June 2013. Analysis of data was done using SPSS and Microsoft Excel statistical packages. Qualitative data was analyzed using the thematic approach. IKS of weather forecasting is well known in the area; with 93% of the respondents having some knowledge of it. Of all the respondents, 54% found IKS more reliable than SCFs. For the 2012/13 rainfall season, 42% predicted that normal rains were going to fall using IKS. SCFs forecasted normal/ above normal rains and this forecast were true but the district was not food secure due to uneven rainfall distribution which caused poor yields. Although IKS is widely known, only 14% of the small scale farmers used it to plan their agricultural activities. Use of IKS as the sole weather forecasting system is low. Both IKS and SCFs can be integrated together to provide forecast information to farmers and improve food security in the Mbire District. The reliability of both IKS and SCFs is being affected by changing weather patterns, like the late starting of the rains and noticeably shorter rainy seasons. Validation of indigenous knowledge against scientific knowledge should be done over a long period of time, capturing normal, below normal and above normal seasons. There is a need to document IKS and young people need to be taught about it as this form of knowledge currently belongs to older people (age> 55) who have been observant of the environment. Both systems should be integrated in order for farmers to make informed decisions which will make them more food secure.
Indigenous Knowledge Systems
Seasonal climate forecasts