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Understanding uncertainty: forecasting seasonal climate for farmers in Zimbabwe

  • PATT, ANTHONY
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    Climatological and agricultural research has shown that El Nino cycles in the Pacific Ocean are a good predictor of maize yields in southern Africa, particularly Zimbabwe. However, forecasters can only offer probabilistic predictions, rather than saying with certainty whether Zimbabwe will experience wet or dry conditions. In an effort to avoid confusing farmers, extension service officers translate the forecast into deterministic terms. This approach conflicts with the literature in risk communication, which suggests that participatory discussions of the full forecast content is necessary to maintain credibility over time. But most of the research on which this literature is based has taken place in industrialized countries, and it is unclear whether the lessons apply as well in places like rural Zimbabwe. To test for this, an experiment was conducted with farmers in villages throughout Zimbabwe, in which they revealed their ability to make decisions under situations of uncertainty. The results are qualitatively similar to those of similar experiments conducted in industrialized countries. This suggests that improvements could be made to current forecast communication practices in Zimbabwe.

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    Article provided by Cambridge University Press in its journal Risk, Decision and Policy.

    Volume (Year): 6 (2001)
    Issue (Month): 02 (June)
    Pages: 105-119

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    Handle: RePEc:cup:rdepol:v:6:y:2001:i:02:p:105-119_00
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