Droughts, unpredictable rain and volatile weather patterns due to climate change are severely affecting the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in the Global South. Weather fluctuations with associated heavy rainfalls exacerbate flooding and soil erosion eventually impacting vegetative covers and soil water availability (Scherr, 1999). In Tanzania the effects of climate change are increasingly affecting yield. Tanzania is reliant on rain-fed agriculture (e.g. maize) and calculations show the average yields for maize dropped by one third due to increases in temperature limiting the length of rainfall (Agrawala et al., 2003). Research has shown that over a 100-year period around 33% of disasters in Tanzania were related to droughts; consequently these problems place a huge burden on farming families (Mongi et al., 2010).
The vulnerability of smallholder farmers is amplified by their inability to access reliable, precise and comprehensive weather predictions. Current weather predictions in Tanzania are very inaccurate and imprecise. Kukua estimates that to provide the whole African continent with accurate weather information, more than 7,000 weather stations must be installed. Without proper means of predicting the weather, the yield gap between potential and actual yields is widening subsequently exposing farmers to hunger and poverty (Mourice et al., 2014).
The introduction of technologies in the wake of climate change can have a profound effect on the livelihoods of farmers. However, in order to effectively aid farmers it is imperative that local knowledge and needs are incorporated, by exploring viable solutions in the form of technologies whereby investments in local capacity building are necessary. Within the scope of this research, local knowledge or indigenous knowledge, refers to knowledge embedded between and within communities, namely with regards to local agricultural knowledge (DeWalt, 1994). Locating this knowledge is an important source in developing technologies based on the needs of communities; this in turn will contribute towards empowerment, as locals are part of the technological development (DeWalt, 1994).
The importance of including local knowledge in the wake of climate change is also investigated by Komba & Muchapondwa (2015). The authors studied to what extent Tanzanian farmers (534 households) adapted their agricultural activities based on their perceptions on climate change.
The study concluded that Tanzanian farmers use, “short-season crops, choosing crops resistant to drought, and [change] planting dates” (Komba & Muchapondwa, 2015, pg.25).
This study aims to correlate climate change variations, local knowledge and the use of technologies to explore the potentials of using SMS services to provide smallholder farmers in Tanzania with more accurate and reliable weather information.
MSc and Bcs thesis, internship reports