The role of indigenous knowledge in climate adaptation: experiences with farmer perceptions from climate change project in Sedumbwe Agricultural Camp of Southern Zambia

Kafula Chisanga


Research Fellow

Faculty of Agriculture & Forestry

Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology

Kafula is a Zambian with a research interest in soil fertility and CA. He has a PhD in Sustainable Agriculture with a focus on conservation agriculture and soil fertility


Indigenous knowledge from elders and farmers on extreme weather must be integrated and considered alongside expert knowledge seasonally, and Zambian agriculture policy must consider this knowledge.

This research is significant as it shows the value of indigenous knowledge and how there are alternative ways to predict the weather for an agriculture season.

Key Findings

Indigenous weather prediction is not far from the actual rain situation in a particular season

    How to apply research

    Indigenous knowledge must be integrated with expert knowledge. Experts make predictions for what the weather would be, for the upcoming season, but it should be examined alongside indigenous knowledge predictions to assess accuracy. Indigenous knowledge on extreme weather should be collected before commencement of rain every season. This can be done in three steps.
    First, elders who hold indigenous knowledge need to be identified and mapped. This can be achieved by going to the villages and understanding and recording who holds the knowledge.
    Second, indigenous knowledge on predicted extreme weather can then be seasonally harvested by first holding focus group discussions up to 10 elders and farmers from the study area. And then, with a survey (aiming for 600 elder farmers)
    Lastly, after knowledge is collected, then a seasonal meeting where the indigenous knowledge for the upcoming season is reported to the experts should be held. They can then decide how the knowledge can be integrated into the conventional weather forecast systems.

      Let your research make a social impact

      About this research

      This journal article was part of a collaborative effort

      Andrew Bosco Mvula

      Taban Habibu

      This research was independently conducted and did not receive funding from outside of the university.

      Recommended for

      UN Sustainable Development Goals

      This research contributes to the following SDGs

      About this research

      This research was independently conducted and did not receive funding from outside of the university.

      This paper was co-authored

      Andrew Bosco Mvula

      Taban Habibu

      Recommended for

      What findings means

      This research advocates for the value of indigenous knowledge for predicting seasonal weather conditions that could impact agriculture for that season. Farmers already use this knowledge as early warning systems for extreme weather. This means that they can predict when to expect a drought, extreme rainfall that may cause flooding, or a normal season.

      Extreme weather can be predicted through monitoring the natural environment, and assessing small changes that are indicators for that season. For example, for a normal rainy season, in the Choma region, indicators may include: observing swallows in October, mist of the hills, the appearance of dark clouds during “Lwiindi Traditional Ceremony” (Harvest Thanks Giving Ceremony), or the appearance of the “Morning Star” just before the on-set of the rain season. For a drought season, indicators may include low temperatures in the months of September and October, migration of black ants from one point to another, or the high fruiting of wild fruits.

      The knowledge and skill required to understand these predictions for upcoming weather are learnt from elders, and passed on to generations. This means that those who know it best would be the elders within a village, and these are the ones who should be approached for the predictions.

      Findings in practice

      This research was based on a case study in the Choma district, which is one of the key agriculture based provinces in Zambia, accounting for 11% of the total agricultural households in the country.

      For this particular area, a drought season could be predicted by an increased occurrence of special insects (particularly from the caterpillar family) and winters preceding the on-set of the rain season are very cold, wind flow can be predicted by unusual direction and this is also coupled with high fruiting levels by the wild fruit trees.


      The data for this research was collected from two focus group discussions with elder farmers in the Choma district of southern province, Zambia. These farmers were predominantly between the ages 70-80. the focus group discussions were made of around 10 members (3 female, 7 male).

      A limitation of this research is that it only analysed one area, which means the indicators used for predicting weather may only be relevant for the study area. If there was more funding, there could be wider research coverage for comparing the indicators across other regions too.

      The collected indigenous knowledge should also be compared with expert knowledge (gathered using technology) to determine variances. A future study could also examine the differences and similarities between ‘experts’ and farmers.


      Indigenous Knowledge
      This is traditional knowledge which has been passed rom one generation to the next.

      Want to read the full paper? It is available open access

      Chisanga, Kafula; Mvula, Andrew Bosco & Taban Habibu (2017). The Role of Indigenous Knowledge in Climate Adaptation : Experiences with Farmer Perceptions from Climate Change Project in Sedumbwe Agricultural Camp of Southern Zambia. International Journal of Scientific and Research Publications, 7(9), 94–101.

      Thank you to

      for helping to prepare this research