Every year in May, just before the start of the rainy season, Papa Samba Diane and Alimou Diaby get together with many other farmers of Kaffrine to hear about the seasonal forecasts. They want to know if the rainy season will be short or extended because they need to decide on which seeds to plant.
Kaffrine is located at the boundary between the Sahelian and Sudan Savannah zones, and its climate varies greatly from season to season, year to year, and decade to decade. Without seasonal forecasts it can be difficult to decide which seeds to use and when, which time is more favorable for harvesting, and when to replenish the soil’s nutrients.
The Senegal meteorological service (ANCIM) has joined forces with the CGIAR program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) to bring this information directly to farmers such as Papa Samba and Alimou. “We are able to select the right seeds for the season,” they both agree.
Associations of women farmers are also invited to the meeting in May with ANACIM. “They [CCFAS] take good care of us and make us feel comfortable,” said one woman. “They even came to the village to share a meal with us.”
ANACIM has also provided villagers with pluviometers for collecting rainfall and measuring the amount. Every time it rains a villager calls ANACIM directly to transmit the information on the amount of rain. Ousman Ndiaye, a meteorologist at ANACIM, says that “The villager asks them [ANACIM] to transmit this information to the news media so that the village can come together to listen to the news. They are proud of having contributed to it.” This ground level information is very important to improving models and providing better predictions, Ousman says.
“During the rainy season,” explains Papa Samba, “ANACIM sends us text messages almost every three days to give us an update and tell us if there will be more rain or a few days without rain.”
The farmers use days without rain to replenish the soil nutrients. At the end of the rainy season, ANACIM informs them if the rains will continue so that they will wait for the next message confirming that the rainy season has ended. “If we harvest and the rain continues we will lose everything – we don’t have a covered place where we can stock our harvest”.
ANACIM, together with CCAFS, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the World Food Programme (WFP), have recently met in Dakar, on the occasion of a national consultation, to discuss ways to improve climate services for farmers in Kaffrine and to extend the service to other parts of the country.