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Atmosphere 2013, 4(4), 383-410; doi:10.3390/atmos4040383
Article

Use of Traditional Weather/Climate Knowledge by Farmers in the South-Western Free State of South Africa: Agrometeorological Learning by Scientists

1
, 2,3,*  and 4
1 South African Weather Service, Bram Fischer International Airport, Private Bag X20562, Bloemfontein 9300, South Africa 2 Department of Soil, Crop and Climate Sciences, Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa 3 Agromet Vision, Groenestraat 13, Bruchem 5314 AJ, The Netherlands 4 Section Agrometeorology, Department of Soil, Crop and Climate Sciences, Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, University of the Free State, P.O. Box 339, Bloemfontein 9301, South Africa
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 3 September 2013 / Revised: 29 September 2013 / Accepted: 25 October 2013 / Published: 13 November 2013
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Abstract

The variety of natural indicators, associated with weather forecasting and climate prediction, as used by farmers in the South-Western Free State province of South Africa, is described. Most farmers in this area were not familiar with the application of weather forecasts/climate predictions for agricultural production, or with other science-based agrometeorological products. They relied almost fully on their experience and traditional knowledge for farming decision making. The indicators for traditional knowledge are demonstrated here in broad terms, relying on the stories and indications from observations and years of experience of their use by the farmers. These means of engagement with the natural environment, are skills not well understood by most scientists, but useful to the farmers. They range from the constellation of stars, animal behavior, cloud cover and type, blossoming of certain indigenous trees, appearance and disappearance of reptiles, to migration of bird species and many others. It is suggested that some short-term traditional forecasts/predictions may be successfully merged with science-based climate predictions. The traditional knowledge and its use, reported on in this paper, is what scientists learned from farmers. Berkes was right that scholars have wasted too much time and effort on a science versus traditional knowledge debate; we should reframe it instead as a science and traditional knowledge dialogue and partnership. The complications of a changing climate make this even more necessary.
Keywords: farmer traditional knowledge; agrometeorological learning; weather/climate forecasts/predictions; science-based agrometeorological advisories/services farmer traditional knowledge; agrometeorological learning; weather/climate forecasts/predictions; science-based agrometeorological advisories/services
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Zuma-Netshiukhwi, G.; Stigter, K.; Walker, S. Use of Traditional Weather/Climate Knowledge by Farmers in the South-Western Free State of South Africa: Agrometeorological Learning by Scientists. Atmosphere 2013, 4, 383-410.

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