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Useful traditional knowledge indicators for drought forecasting in the Mzingwane Catchment area of Zimbabwe

Bright Chisadza (Department of Civil Engineering, University of Zimbabwe, Harare, Zimbabwe)
Mike J. Tumbare (Department of Civil Engineering, University of Zimbabwe, Harare, Zimbabwe)
Innocent Nhapi (Department of Civil Engineering, University of Zimbabwe, Harare, Zimbabwe)
Washington R. Nyabeze (WRNA, Witkoppen, South Africa)

Disaster Prevention and Management

ISSN: 0965-3562

Article publication date: 23 August 2013




The purpose of this paper is to identify, analyse and document local traditional indicators used in drought forecasting in the Mzingwane Catchment and to assess the possibility of integrating traditional rainfall forecasting, using the local traditional indicators, with meteorological forecasting methods.


Self-administered structured questionnaires were conducted on 101 respondents in four districts of the Mzingwane Catchment area, namely, Beitbridge, Mangwe, Esighodini and Mwenezi from February to August 2012. In addition, key informant interviews and focus group discussions were also used in data collection and the collected data were analysed for drought history and demographics; drought adaptation and the use of drought forecasting methods in the catchment using Statistical Package for Social Science.


The paper reveals the growing importance of precipitation forecasts among Mzingwane communities, particularly the amount, timing, duration and distribution of rainfall. Rainfall was cited as the major cause of drought by 98 per cent of the respondents in the catchment. Whilst meteorological rainfall forecasts are available through various channels, they are not readily accessible to rural communities. Furthermore, they are not very reliable at local level. The paper shows that communities in the Mzingwane Catchment still regard local traditional knowledge forecasting as their primary source of weather forecasts. The paper finds that plant phenology is widely used by the local communities in the four districts for drought forecasting. Early and significant flowering of Mopane trees (Colophospermum mopane) from September to December has been identified to be one of the signals of poor rainfall season in respect to quantity and distribution and subsequent drought. Late and less significant flowering of Umtopi trees (Boscia albitrunca) from September to December also signals a poor rainfall season.


The paper fulfils an identified need to study and document useful traditional drought indicators. Furthermore, the paper provides a platform for possible integration of traditional drought forecasting and meteorological forecasting and ensure sustainable rural livelihood development. The paper is useful to both meteorological researchers and resource-constrained communities in Mzingwane Catchment.



The authors wish to acknowledge the financial support from the Drought Early Warning and Forecasting for Africa (DEWFORA) Project to carry out the field work only. The authors would also like to thank the communities that participated in this research.


Chisadza, B., J. Tumbare, M., Nhapi, I. and R. Nyabeze, W. (2013), "Useful traditional knowledge indicators for drought forecasting in the Mzingwane Catchment area of Zimbabwe", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 22 No. 4, pp. 312-325.



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