Education Trough Information, How to Use Weather Forecast: the Senegalese Example

Seasonal Climate forecasts can be seen as considerably potential  to improve agricultural management and livelihoods for smallholders farmers. As a matter of fact, this field can potentially be developed to a larger extent. The existing constraints reflect inadequate information services, policy or institutional process in the Sahel region, in Senegal. However, great improvements have been made by regional climate outlook forums and national meteorological services in order to deliver forecast information to rural farmers for agriculture.

In June of the last year, a team of experts from ANAMS (Senegalese Weather Service), in Kaffrine, Senegal, has trained 33 farmers on using probabilistic seasonal forecasts. As a result, a week after training, the actual total rainfall forecast as well as the numbers of rainy days in the season July - September was provided to them. In order to do so, satellites to monitor ocean temperature throughout the world, and use computers to deduce the likelihood of rain in Senegal, were employed. Farmers  were also asked to assess a probability graph in order to express their feeling regarding rainfall in this particular part of Africa. This was followed by a discussion and it appears clear as farmers differentiated between a good rainy season (as in 2010) and a good crop season (as in 2008). In addition to that, they preferred forecasts in terms of rainy day rather that in terms of total rainfall season.

During January ANAMS went back to evaluate seasonal forecasting. 15 farmers who have attended the workshop in June were invited back as well as 13 who actually did not received any information. The participants were divided in groups as follows: one group included 12 farmers that had received the forecasts and made some decisions based on those. The other groups included farmers who did receive the forecast but didn’t make any adjustment to their farming practices, which were 3 participants, and the last group contained 13 farmers who had never received any climate forecast information before.

Group 1 understood from the workshop that a short cycle crop was suitable because the season will be less than 2010, but rainfall will be enough. However, they have the following problems: high spatial variability of the rainfall, the first rainfall was late and it was difficult to judge when to start planting, a long dry spell and an early termination of the season. Moreover, they wanted to know and to get: the starting date, finer forecast in space, a weather bulletin each two weeks, more training to better understand the forecast.

The group 2 did, in fact, receive the forecast, but had already bought their seeds at that time and it was therefore difficult to change any of the farming practices. Amy Ndiaye, a female participant from the non-adjustment group said it was difficult for her to implement the forecast because her husband didn’t attend the workshop therefore he didn’t believe in it. She added that “it prevented me to use a short-cycle variety. But after we had a low yield, he acknowledged that next time we will use seasonal forecast”.

Group 3 with members who had never received any climate information said that they had thought 2011 would be like 2010. They missed the opportunity of a long season in 2010, and were prepared to catch up the next year by choosing a long cycle, buy fertilizers and hire wage laborers. The group members concluded that their problem was that they didn’t know anything about the course of the rainy season and needed to be part of the group and receive seasonal forecast training.

The Workshop participants proceeded to discuss how to move forward with this process as well as evaluate the organization of the workshop in order to define what needed to be improved. There is a need to improve the communicating system and to build upon existing channels, in order to make possible that information reaches villages, for instance. All in all, farmers appreciated this experience and are willing to receiving more training in the forthcoming years.

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