Community workshops

Visit at two of the project sites

On June 5-6, 2013, the project team visited the Lambani and Mokwakwaila communities in the Lambani and Letaba River Basins of north-eastern Limpopo. In order to understand the use of the drought-prediction model and how information could be disseminated to the stakeholders, we met local farmers to learn of their challenges and what is most needed in terms of early warning systems.

At the workshop, the farmers were mainly crop farmers growing maize, beans, peanuts, pumpkins and had some livestock.The stakeholders mainly requested information about the rainy season (when to plant). They receive this type of information from local weather forecasts, mainly from the radio and tv. They also use information from natural signs such as the behaviour of plants, animals and stars e.g. birds, insects and locusts. If one knows it should be good rainfall year, one would plant more maize. One can also plant different crops e.g. millet or crop varieties. If they know when there will be more water in the rivers, they can plan when to do laundry. Livestock holders can harvest and store grass for fodder. If a dry year is forecasted livestock feed can be bought earlier and people might reduce their livestock numbers. Livestock can also be gathered and drinking facilities built.

During the visit to Mokwakwaila two wireless sensors and a rain gauge were installed in the community to measure rainfall and soil moisture. This data will be collected and combined with information on natural signs and seasonal forecasts in order to create more locally relevant information about rainfall, soil moisture and river flow.

Two workshops in Polokwane

Drought resilience and Sensors for measuring soil moisture

Two workshops were held in Polokwane at the LDA on June 3-4. They introduced the project on local-scale early warning systems of drought.

The Drought Resilience workshop more specifically dealt with identifying existing seasonal forecasts and natural signs, their uses as well as shortcomings in terms of format, dissemination, local relevance and reliability. Identified local signs included changes in plant condition e.g. abundance of certain indigenous plants and nuts and time of flowering; animal behaviour of donkeys, birds, cattle, insects; and the behaviour and appearance of wind, stars and moon. Signs as well as weather forecasts are used to determined which crops and crop varieties to plant, when to plant, how much to plant, irrigation scheduling, if and when to gather fodder and reduce livestock numbers, land preparation and disease management. Shortcomings in existing systems include the lack of local reliability and relevance of seasonal forecasts because they give vague and unclear classifications and are disseminated in scientific language and coarse format. Locally relevant recommendations also need to accompany the seasonal forecasts. Discussions were also initiated on which drought indicators are most useful which include precipitation, temperature, onset and amount of rainfall and soil moisture.

The Sensor workshop specifically introduced the sensor system to be used within the project and went over their description, cost, installation, measurement and transfer of data and maintenance. Discussions were held on current soil moisture sensors, how data could best be transferred, location criteria and possibilities, responsibility for uploading information and maintenance of equipment. Information was also shared about lessons learnt and expertise from existing field trials taking place in South Africa, Malawi and Kenya.


Project visit at the Lambani Site

On June 5, 2013, the project team had the pleasure to get invited to the Lambani village in the northeastern parts of Limpopo. In order to understand the use of the drought-prediction model and how information could be disseminated to the stakeholders, we met the local representatives and discussed with them, Five women and five men received us in their village.
We had a discussion seminar around some different topics and this is some of the compiled material from the interviews.

At the workshop, the farmers were mainly crop farmers. In general, people in the region might own between 3 to 35 cows. The stakeholders mostly need information about the rainy season (when to plant). This information is received from the weather forecast. The main crops in the region are maize, beans, peanuts pumpkins, and various types of nut. If one knows it is a good year, one would plant more maize. Among the people at the workshop, no one used any irrigation scheme.

Morning discussions

Where do you get water?

We get the municipality water (piped) and from the river. Water is not received every day.

Which months are most important?

October through January

How do you decide when to plant? What is the normal planting date?

Essentially, one waits for the rains, sometimes it comes in November. If not, one waits to December, etc. through January. If it rains for five days and seems to be good enough, then one could plant.

How much does it vary?

It's very different each year. When the rain comes from the South, one shouldn't plant because it has a lot of damage. When it comes from the North it is good.

Afternoon discussions

What are the signs in nature that you recognize?

If there is a shadow around the moon, then it will be rain in the coming days. When the swallows arrive it will be rain. If it becomes very hot, it will rain tomorrow. If there are stars and astaratars (?) it is going to rain within a few months if they are close to each other. When the birds are crying, it will be a rain. If there are many (?) worms, it will be a dry year. Before planting, if locusts (grasshoppers) arrive it will be a rainy year.

If you see the signs, who do you tell?

We tell lots of people and some listen. You talk to the neighbors.

How many people recognized these signs?

A few are seeing them – mostly the old people. Some follow, some do not. They instead listen to the television. Not many are using the signs. They rely mostly on weather forecasts on the radio station.

How can early warning information be useful?

If we hear that it is going to rain, we may plant, but if we hear it will be dry, there is not much one can do. Some cannot do anything. What about those with animals? If there is a dry year – they will buy and feed early – There is not more they can do. They will not sell their animals. Some will reduce their livestock. Some wait to witness (if it is really getting dry) because sometimes what was said, does not happen. If they wait too long until it is dry, they cannot sell.
They get long-term forecasts but they are not so reliable.

What if the radio signs say different things?

They rely more on natural signs than the radio. Sometimes they are told that it will be rain, but it does not come. So they stick to the natural signs. The radio forecasts are quite local. E.g., in Lambani it is going to rain.

If they knew there would be more or less water in the river ahead of time, is it useful?

For planning when to do laundry. The cattle can go and drink the water. The flow should be medium flow, not too high.
When the soil is wetter, they would try to plant. When the soil is wet, there seeds will germinate. But they will not do any different responses.