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Knowledge Systems and Rural Livelihoods : Incorporating Climate Forecasts into Farm Management in Niger, West Africa


Titre : Knowledge Systems and Rural Livelihoods : Incorporating Climate Forecasts into Farm Management in Niger, West Africa


Université de soutenance : UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA DAVIS

Grade : MASTERS OF SCIENCE in International Agricultural Development 2004

The findings from this research show that farmers rely primarily on traditional methods for forecasting, but that they are open to the possibility of using scientific forecasts. Most likely, the younger farmers and those who have traveled more will be more open to receiving information in this way. If the agricultural agent is delivering the forecast, farmers may be more likely to utilize it because it is from a trusted source. However, this appears to rarely be the case. Therefore, villages which have more interactions with the agricultural agent in the area will be more likely to use scientific forecasts. Because, traditionally, the male head of household makes decisions about when to plant, women farmers do not make use of the scientific forecasts. Overall, the timing and the format will play the most crucial role in the usage of the scientific forecasts and they will supplement farmers’ experiential knowledge. In arguing against normative economics for analyzing farmer decision making, Cancian (1980) concludes : “We seem to believe that people generally act on knowledge—that they use this knowledge to calculate, and having calculated, act. The fact of the matter is that they are very often called on to act before they can know.” To take it one step further, sometimes farmers wait until they see the evidence (the rain !) to act, in which case they are in an even more precarious situation. Nigerien farmers current behavior exemplifies this point and highlights the need to improve access to credible, understandable information. Thus, information and knowledge is essential. Commenting on community based natural resource management systems, Getz et al. state that “western- trained scientists often do not appreciate the extent to which solutions depend on the expertise and power of local people”. The authors continue with their recommendation that “partnerships between academic scientists and villagers require that scientists solicit and heed the knowledge and opinions of local men and women. The role of the scientist is to provide knowledge and political leverage to enable communities to implement their own decisions and affect decision- making at higher levels. The goal is policies and institutions that enable local people to have sustainable livelihoods where they live and an effective voice at higher socio- political levels”. This recommendation can apply as well to the weather forecasting realm. And as with introducing management practices of any sort, “participation of all stakeholders will be the crucial element for the development and adoption of new techniques”. However, in the end, “the agricultural development of West Africa will not be achieved by the artificial application of foreign techniques, but by the application of African formulas, inspired no doubt by more evolved techniques, but thought out by Africans, adapted to the needs, the means and the aspirations of African people”.

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Page publiée le 27 décembre 2011, mise à jour le 20 octobre 2019