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      Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Indicators of Rain: Evidence from Rwenzori Region, Western Uganda

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          Abstract

          This study investigated the abiotic and biotic environmental indicators used among pastoralists and arable farmers to predict the onset and cessation of rain as well as to make short-term and seasonal forecasts in the Rwenzori region of Western Uganda. We used a mixed-methods approach that included surveys of 907 households, focus group discussions, and key informant interviews. The results indicate that resident birds such as white-browed coucals and turacos and migrant birds such as eagles and swallows were important indicators of the onset of rains. Butterflies were an important indicator for the cessation of rains, and red ants were an indicator for the onset of rains. Among the abiotic indicators, winds, clouds, earthquakes, and cloud formation on Mount Rwenzori were important indicators. Behavior of cattle at the onset of rains was important among the pastoralists, and flowering of coffee plants was important among the arable farmers. The behavior of the biotic indicators was driven by the availability of food, water, or other necessities. An attempt to explain the phenology underlying the behavior of biotic indicators and the meteorological science underlying some of the abiotic indicators is made. Although biotic environmental indicators are rudimentary and their accuracy is influenced by external factors such as climate change, they provide climate information within the locality of the farmers. Our results suggest that the indicators used in indigenous forecasting could be incorporated in national meteorological systems in a bid to improve the accuracy of rainfall forecasts and their use among farmers and pastoralists in rural Africa.

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          Most cited references84

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          Insect overwintering in a changing climate.

          Insects are highly successful animals inhabiting marine, freshwater and terrestrial habitats from the equator to the poles. As a group, insects have limited ability to regulate their body temperature and have thus required a range of strategies to support life in thermally stressful environments, including behavioural avoidance through migration and seasonal changes in cold tolerance. With respect to overwintering strategies, insects have traditionally been divided into two main groups: freeze tolerant and freeze avoiding, although this simple classification is underpinned by a complex of interacting processes, i.e. synthesis of ice nucleating agents, cryoprotectants, antifreeze proteins and changes in membrane lipid composition. Also, in temperate and colder climates, the overwintering ability of many species is closely linked to the diapause state, which often increases cold tolerance ahead of temperature-induced seasonal acclimatisation. Importantly, even though most species can invoke one or both of these responses, the majority of insects die from the effects of cold rather than freezing. Most studies on the effects of a changing climate on insects have focused on processes that occur predominantly in summer (development, reproduction) and on changes in distributions rather than winter survival per se. For species that routinely experience cold stress, a general hypothesis would be that predicted temperature increases of 1 degree C to 5 degrees C over the next 50-100 years would increase winter survival in some climatic zones. However, this is unlikely to be a universal effect. Negative impacts may occur if climate warming leads to a reduction or loss of winter snow cover in polar and sub-polar areas, resulting in exposure to more severe air temperatures, increasing frequency of freeze-thaw cycles and risks of ice encasement. Likewise, whilst the dominant diapause-inducing cue (photoperiod) will be unaffected by global climate change, higher temperatures may modify normal rates of development, leading to a decoupling of synchrony between diapause-sensitive life-cycle stages and critical photoperiods for diapause induction. In terms of climate warming and potential heat stress, the most recent predictions of summer temperatures in Europe of 40 degrees C or higher in 50-75 years, are close to the current upper lethal limit of some insects. Long-term data sets on insect distributions and the timing of annual migrations provide strong evidence for 'positive' responses to higher winter temperatures over timescales of the past 20-50 years in North America, Europe and Asia.
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            Seasonal Fluctuations in Rainfall, Food and Abundance of Tropical Insects

            Henk Wolda (1978)
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              Indigenous climate knowledge in southern Uganda: the multiple components of a dynamic regional system

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Weather, Climate, and Society
                American Meteorological Society
                1948-8327
                1948-8335
                April 2020
                April 2020
                : 12
                : 2
                : 213-234
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Botswana, Gaborone, Botswana
                [2 ]Department of Extension and Innovation Studies, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda
                [3 ]International Food Policy and Research Institute, Washington, D.C.
                Article
                10.1175/WCAS-D-19-0027.1
                9faa8741-4b50-432b-ae19-1e7490293c6d
                © 2020
                History

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