Pastoralists count on radio to adapt to changing weather

A radio station in North Eastern Kenya is helping scientists understand weather projection better giving them time to plan where to find fodder for their livestock at a time when researchers say radio will play a key role in training pastoralists about changing weather patterns.

Studies show inadequate or no information about changing weather patterns is among the contributing factors for pastoralists’ failure to adapt to climate change. Known as Badada FM, the station has been reaching over a million pastoralists from Turkana, Rendile, Borana, Gabra and Somali communities.

The radio has been key in mapping grazing fields and community watering points, linking pastoralists with government and aid agencies and giving constant updates to pastoralists on looming drought and floods. “I have relied on the radio to know incase I exhaust my pasture where to move next or how to get prepared for the next drought,’ said Abdikadir Ahmed a Turkana pastoralist whose small radio is always strapped in his waistline.

According to Jo Abbot, the deputy head of the UK's Department for International Development (DFID) in Kenya, said climate change-related challenges can be managed through the adoption of technology and by keeping communities abreast of weather patterns. But relaying weather forecasts through print and electronic media and television has meant that this information does not reach people like pastoralists and the information available is often imprecise.

"Our delivery system makes it difficult to reach the end-users. Those who get it demand details such as exact amount of rainfall, onset and cessation, and this can-not be achieved in the predictions," Ayub Shaka, head of the Kenya Meteorological Department, said.

But empowering communities through resilience and early warning programmes improves pastoralists' coping mechanisms, and could work better than funding emergency programmes, experts say. "It's cheap to prevent disasters and empower communities with information. Researchers and donors will both benefit since famine, diseases, loss of livestock or source of income, and conflicts are very costly. They affect education, the health sector and development plans," Daoud Tani, head of the Re-source Advocacy Programme project, said.