S.Kilungu (CCAFS)

How to weave local and indigenous knowledge in climate monitoring and weather forecasting in Africa

A new tool called TILKIT is—for the first time—merging local and indigenous knowledge with empirical observations of climate and weather in relatable ways to generations of experience.

Farmers can play a crucial role in combating food insecurity and rural poverty in many African countries.

A continuously changing climate threatens more than 51 million smallholder farmers across the continent, who depend on rain-fed agricultural production systems.

At the same time, this vulnerable group has a great pool of indigenous and local knowledge, helping them to combat the effects of climate change. 

Agricultural knowledge, technology and innovation relevant to climate change were recently discussed at the 2022 Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) in Accra, Ghana, a conference which aimed to advance African agricultural development.

The conference was created as a forum for discussion among the continental practitioners of climate-smart agriculture (CSA) in the agriculture and food sector.

The theme of the 2022 forum was “introspection on CSA actions to strengthen accountability, resource use and impact in Africa”.

As an example of farmers’ local knowledge potential to scale CSA, Joab Osumba from AICCRA presented a ‘decision-support tool’ called ‘Traditional Indigenous and Local Knowledge Tool' (TILKIT), which is used for weather monitoring and forecasting, using local community knowledge.

The tool allows indigenous and local traditional knowledge to be used, adapted, and validated.

TILKIT monitors local weather and indicators, informed by knowledge of regional climate risks and vulnerabilities. Examples include consensus-based ethnographic indicators.

It analyses and forecasts weather hazards based on the behaviour of these indicators.

This information is updated regularly as per local weather conditions.

With this information, it’s possible to disseminate and communicate advisories (warnings, alters, and suggestions) based on the forecasts and to respond to the warnings generated or received locally.

TILKIT presents results for indicators in selected locations, inferring their impact on local weather forecasting.

Depending on the number of identified indicators, it is feasible to calculate percentages of normal, above-normal, and below-normal rainfall projections in a community. This data—coupled with precise lead times—generates appropriate agricultural advisories that can be given for the location.

Results are presented systematically in probabilistic terms that local communities can understand, and that can be empirically compared to conventional weather forecasting.

The TILKIT tool indicator assessment facilitates the determination of local lead times for scalable strategic, tactical, operational, and emergency decisions in local agro-weather risk management, in addition to conventional weather forecasts that often come late.

Moreover, every community to which TILKIT is made available are given the opportunity to confirm whether they find it relevant and helpful to their situation, with the opportunity to suggest new aspects that could improve the tool.

The community-based adaptation approach encourages diverse user participation that varies considerably in scope, ranging from individuals to user groups to communities, strengthening farmers' vulnerability to a changing climate.

TILKIT was tested in various training sessions in East Africa from 2016 to 2021, showing benefits for more than 1,100 people.

After the development of TILKIT in Kenya, it is now being scaled up and implemented in Tanzania and Uganda.

TILKIT is the first time that local and indigenous knowledge has been adopted in climate and weather monitoring in such practical ways.

AICCRA is now working to connect TILKIT to national and regional policy frameworks and decision makers at different levels, involving more stakeholders to scale the impact of TILKIT. 


Joab Osumba, Research Officer - Climate Smart Agriculture Policy, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)

Maren Ahlers, Communications Consultant for AICCRA East & Southern Africa

Brook Makonnen, Communications Leader for AICCRA Ethiopia and East & Southern Africa, ILRI