Elgeyo Marakwet County Meteorological Department Integrates Indigenous Weathermen Into Its Weather Forecasting Team
The Meteorological Department in the Ministry of Environment and Forestry in the County Government of Elgeyo Marakwet has teamed up with local elders with proven abilities to accurately tell the weather in an initiative to integrate indigenous knowledge (IK) into the County’s planning.
The County’s ministries of Environment, Culture and Tourism identified wazees [local sages] to do weather forecasting in Marakwet East, Marakwet North, Marakwet South, Keiyo South (Kocholwa) and Keiyo East. And as early as 3.00 am daily, the Director of the County’s Kenya Metereogical Department calls the wazees to get their forecasting of the weather for the next few days, months or years.
Integrating IK has had excellent results. This collaboration has enhanced the accuracy of the weather updates shared by the Department. For example in the year 2020 the wazees predicted the rains in 2021 might delay till May, and it happened. The wazees use such techniques as observing the direction of the shadows of the hills and mountains and to tell the weather. Or, by studying the characteristics of the moon and stars and the direction to which the birds are flying (East means rains are coming, and West signals drought). The wazees can also predict locust invasion. The current wazees say the last time there was a locust invasion was when they were young.
While the wazees can predict the weather and warn of natural disasters like floods, some special old women are known to influence it. For example, during dry spells, the women erect Sodom apple and millet bow-like structures using sticks and branches, decorated with Sodom apples, millet and sorghum next to rivers and streams, which is locally referred to as ‘closing rivers’. This is a prayer to God to release the rains. And sure enough, when this is done, it drizzles. This prayer is usually done by old women past child-birth age who are perceived to be pure, and thus their prayers will be favourably answered.
Soon, the County Government Elgeyo Marakwet in collaboration with the Meteorological Department will set up a radio station to host the wazees to be advising farmers and residents on environmental issues such as climate change and conservation.