An innovative tailored seasonal rainfall forecasting production in Zimbabwe
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Farmers’ adaptation to climate change over southern Africa may become an elusive concept if adequate attention is not rendered to the most important adaptive tool, the regional seasonal forecasting system. Uptake of the convectional seasonal rainfall forecasts issued through the southern African regional climate outlook forum process in Zimbabwe is very low, most probably due to an inherent poor forecast skill and inadequate lead time. Zimbabwe’s recurrent droughts are never in forecast, and the bias towards near normal conditions is almost perpetual. Consequently, the forecasts are poorly valued by the farmers as benefits accrued from these forecasts are minimal. The dissemination process is also very complicated, resulting in the late and distorted reception. The probabilistic nature of the forecast renders it difficult to interpret by the farmers, hence the need to review the whole system. An innovative approach to a regional seasonal forecasting system developed through a participatory process so as to offer a practically possible remedial option is described in this paper. The main added advantage over the convectional forecast is that the new forecast system carries with it, predominantly binary forecast information desperately needed by local farmers—whether a drought will occur in a given season. Hence, the tailored forecast is easier for farmers to understand and act on compared to the conventional method of using tercile probabilities. It does not only provide a better forecasting skill, but gives additional indications of the intra-seasonal distribution of the rainfall including onsets, cessations, wet spell and dry spell locations for specific terciles. The lead time is more than 3 months, which is adequate for the farmers to prepare their land well before the onset of the rains. Its simplicity renders it relatively easy to use, with model inputs only requiring the states of El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) climate modes. The developed forecast system could be one way to enhance management of risks and opportunities in rain-fed agriculture among small-holder farmers not only in Zimbabwe but also throughout the SADC region where the impact of ENSO and/or IOD on a desired station rainfall is significant.
KeywordsTailored seasonal rainfall forecast Zimbabwe farmers Maize yield Indian Ocean Dipole El Nino Southern Oscillation
Funding for this research has been provided through UNDP sponsored ‘Coping with Drought and Climate Change Project’ in Zimbabwe. Advice from the two reviewers was very instrumental in shaping the publishable state of the paper. The author participated in the SEI-ISDR-UNU Writeshop in February 2011 and acknowledges the valuable support, especially from Professor G. Kranjac-Berisavljevic. Bindura University is also thanked for partial funding and providing research facilities.
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