Unit 1: Understanding the climate and its links to development
Content: This Unit will describe:

·         Some concepts use: climate, weather, climatology, meteorology, climate system and scenario, climate variability and change, Adaptation, Mitigation, Vulnerability, Resilience.

·         Links between climate and development

·         Indigenous Knowledge as climate science

Objectives: At the end of this unit, it is expected that participants will:

§  Improve understanding of key climate concepts

§  Improve understanding of the links between climate and development

§  Use of indigenous Knowledge as climate science

Target Participants: Scientists, decisions makers, practionners such fields workers (NGOs, etc)
Method of training: Participatory training/facilitation methodologies, lectures, group discussions, case studies, Quiz, etc.
Training material Flip charts, notebooks and pens, marker pens, white board, white board markers, PowerPoint projection
Exercises Quiz
Classroom setup: This will depend on the facilitator and the methodology adopted
Duration: 60 mins
Evaluation: The facilitator to decide the most appropriate evaluation method
Reference Material CILSS (2014). Module d’intégration du changement climatique dans les politiques de développement National. Projet GCCA


CILSS/CRA (2010). Le Sahel face au Changement Climatique. Enjeux pour un développement durable. Niamey (Niger) 42.


GIEC (2001). “Climate Change 2001: Synthesis Report. Question 3. ch/index.htm.” GTI TRE Section 11.5.1.


GIEC (2007). “Bilan 2007 des changements climatiques : Rapport de synthèse “


GIEC (2007). Climate Change 2007. Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, M.L. Parry, O.F. Canziani, J.P.


  Palutikof, P.J. van der Linden and C.E. Hanson, Eds.,. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK 976


GIEC (2014). Changements climatiques 2014 : Impacts, vulnérabilité et adaptation.                    Résumé     à    l’intention    des    décideurs.    www.developpement- Gèneve 42


Description of facilitation methods


Before starting the training, the facilitator is required to go through the facilitation notes and the facilitation methodology for each session. Additional materials for the unit are provided in the links available in the sessions and in the facilitation notes. The facilitator can make reference to local knowledge to explain events.


Notes for the facilitator Section 1: QUIZ

The Objective: is to assess the climate knowledge of the audience in order to better guide

the communication for an effective transmission of climate sciences


Methodology: (i) Train X groups, (ii) choose a reporter from each group, (iii) each group answers the different questions and the answer is given by the leader of the group (iv) finally the leader gives the correct answers


•          Africa has the climate below?:

  1. The equatorial Climate
  2. The monsoon climate
  3. The tropical climate
  4. The desert climate
  5. The altitude climate


•          What is the name of the desert below Sahara?

  1. The Sahara
  2. The south-Sahara
  3. The Sahel


•          What is the definition of climate?

  1. The interaction of the three main factors: the air conditioner, mountains and crops.
  2. The climate is the average weather conditions (temperature, precipitation, sunshine, humidity, wind speed, etc.) that prevail over a given area over a long period of time. For the World Meteorological Organization, it must be at least 30 years
  3. The climate corresponds to the problems between the USA and the rest of the world on the management of industrial waste


•          The Paris Agreement aims to limit global warming to?:


  1. + 2 ° Celsius maximum by the end of the 21st century.
  2. + 1.5 ° Celsius maximum by the end of the 21st century.
  3. + 2 ° Celsius maximum by the end of the XXVth century.


•          Question A : Africa emits about 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions

  • True
  • False


•          Question B : CO2 is the main natural greenhouse gas

  • True
  • False


•          Question C : Identify in the list below the climate-related risks

  • Drought
  • Coastal erosion
  • floods
  • Shortening of the rainy season


•          The IPCC is:

  • Inter-State Group of Companies on Copper,
  • Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,
  • Group of Electro Cardiac


Adaptation, mitigation or resilience?


























Section 2: Definitions of some concepts


What is weather?

Weather: state of the atmosphere, describing for example the degree to which it is hot or cold, wet or dry, calm or stormy, clear or cloudy etc.

Weather is known as the condition of the atmosphere over a period of time. It refers to day-to-day temperature and precipitation activity.


What is climate?

The climate is the average weather conditions (temperature, precipitation, sunshine, air humidity, wind speed, etc.) that prevail over a given area over a long period of time.

For the World Meteorological Organization, it must be at least 30 years.

Climate: averages, but also extremes. Since it is translated into averages, the climate is also characterized by extremes and variations. It results from the interaction of the three main reservoirs: the ocean, the atmosphere and the continental surfaces (including the polar ice caps).


What is climatology and meteorology?

Climatology: known as climate science is the study of climate, scientifically defined as weather conditions averaged over a period of time. Given the wide scientific and societal significance of climate and its study, the origins of the terms climate and climatology are of interest. They are traced from their earliest usages in English. The early references are in general scientific works but later climatology evolves as a science in its own right.


Meteorology: the scientific study of the atmosphere that focuses on weather processes and forecasting. Meteorological phenomena are observable weather events which illuminate and are explained by the science of meteorology. Those events are bound by the variables that exist in Earth’s atmosphere.


What is climate system and scenarios?

Climate system: The term “climate system” refers to an ensemble that includes the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, the biosphere and the geosphere, as well as their interactions.


Climate scenarios: Climate scenarios are long-term visions of future climate change (i.e.: climatic parameters) as well as the main socio-economic parameters in a given locality. They make it possible to estimate the vulnerability of the country and to anticipate with adaptation measures.


What is climate variability?

Climate variability : is defined as long-term averages and variations in weather measured over a period of several decades. Evidence for changes in the climate system abounds, from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans. Climate, sometimes understood as


the “average weather,” is defined as the measurement of the mean and variability of relevant quantities of certain variables (such as temperature, precipitation or wind) over a period of time, ranging from months to thousands or millions of years.


What is Adaptation, Mitigation and Vulnerability?

  • Adaptation: is the set of responses (solutions) to the harmful or positive effects of climate change. It can be done naturally, or by a spontaneous reaction (for example in the face of a climatic disaster) or be anticipated as part of a
  • Mitigation: is concrete measure to limit global
  • Vulnerability: is the level at which a system can be degraded or damaged by climate change. It depends on both physical and socio-economic


What is resilience?

Resilience: A concept derived from physics, resilience refers to the ability of a material to recover its original shape after deformation.

In sociology and psychology, resilience is the ability of an individual or group to rebuild after trauma.

In ecology, resilience is defined as the ability of an ecosystem to recover its functions after major disturbances, whether natural (fire, flood, storm …) or related to human activities (hunting, agricultural practices, pesticides …) . For example, the resilience of a forest ecosystem after a fire describes its ability to recover from the regrowth of resistant trees, seeds in the soil, wind-blown seeds, animals, etc.

Another illustration: agroforestry is a set of agricultural techniques favorable to the resilience of agriculture in the face of climate change, thanks to the protection of crops against climatic excesses (wind, cold, storms, floods …), the limitation of runoff and evaporation, to the diversification of the sources of income


What is climate change?

According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) CCs are all changes directly or indirectly attributable to human activities that affect the composition of atmospheric air and add to the natural variability of climate.


The natural variability of the climate expresses the variations of the average state of the climatic variables: ex. a year it rains a lot, the following year is dry; one year, the start of the rainy season is early and then late another.


Ø  Causes of climate change


  • Natural causes
    • Changes in atmospheric composition of greenhouse gases (GHGs) of natural origin
    • Variations in solar activity
    • Accidental influence: massive volcanic dust discharges,


o    Human causes

  • The massive release of GHGs into the atmosphere due to human activities (energy supply, industry, transport, deforestation, agriculture)


What is Greenhouse effect and GHG?

The greenhouse effect is the trapping in the lower layers of the atmosphere of the radiation emitted by the earth to the atmosphere.


  • Without a natural greenhouse effect (without water vapor in the atmosphere) the average temperature on Earth would drop first to -18 °
  • However, observations on the temperature show an average temperature of the earth of the order of + 15 ° C. This difference in temperature is due to the natural greenhouse effect.
  • With the observed increase in greenhouse gases, global mean temperature is expected to be + 16.5 ° C and 19.5 ° C




Energy supply, industry, forestry (deforestation), agriculture (release of nitrates, land clearing, biomass decomposition, etc.) transport (use of fossil fuels such as oil) are the most emitting sectors of GHGs.



Section 3: Links between climate and development


  • Climate and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

From the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a real roadmap for sustainable development for the next 15 years, is formally adopted in New York, the United Nations 2015 Summit for Sustainable Development (New York, 25-27 September 2015).

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are applicable to both developing and developed countries and cover the three pillars of sustainable development (economic, social and environmental).

The SDGs number 17 and are themselves broken down into 169 targets or sub-objectives. Climate issues and changes are reflected in a specific SDG (SDG13), and in various other SDGs that reflect the vulnerability of the poor to extreme weather events: SDGs for combating poverty, hunger, health, water resources, land degradation and loss of biodiversity


SDG 13: Take urgent action to tackle climate change and its impacts



  • Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)


  • Climate change and Sustainable Development Goals



4)      Climate resilient development


It is the integration of CC into Local Policy and Planning processes that can lead to climate- compatible development.


Ø  A development with a low carbon emission

  • In general, the greatest potential for containing greenhouse gas emissions is in:
  • Improved energy efficiency (across all uses / sectors)
  • Use of low emission technologies to produce heat and electricity
  • Use of more sustainable modes of transport
  • Reduced deforestation (and cessation of desertification)
  • Change in agricultural practices, for
    • More efficient use of nitrogen-based fertilizers
    • improved manure management



Section 4: Local/indigenous climate science


Rely on local understanding of the relationship between temperature and rainfall to explain the technical aspects of scientific predictions of rainfall based on sea surface temperatures (SST).

Peasant interpretations of wind movements also recognize the sea as the origin of the rains. During the dry season, farmers expect the winds to blow westward, that is, to take water from the ocean, and then return by blowing eastward to beginning of the winter season. Farmers predicted and explained the drought from the absence of such winds (Carla, 2001).

Beyond our study area, different communities use baseline indicators to decide what to do and monitor food production. These indicators include:

  • The period, intensity and duration of cool temperatures in the dry season;
  • The production of flowers and fruits by certain plant species;
  • Animal behaviors such as insects, birds, frogs …;
  • The movements of constellations;
  • The circulation of the winds;
  • The succession of seasons…

A publication in the journal of the Union of Chemical Industries (UIC) of CHAMPAGNE- ARDENNE clearly shows us that at the base of a traditional interpretation on the indicators is a scientific explanation:


In Peru and Bolivia, at the end of June (often during the St. John’s Day, winter solstice for this hemisphere), farmers, who grow potatoes in the Andean highlands, gather in small groups in the middle of the night to climb the mountains. Once at the summit, they watch for the appearance, just before dawn, of the Pleiades (group of stars located in the constellation Taurus in the direction of the North-East) at the level of the skyline. If the Pleiades are brilliant and numerous, it means that the year will be rainy and the harvests good. On the other hand, when they are pale and in small numbers, the year will be dry, with poor harvests.

Later, studies have shown that the appearance of El Niño results in less abundant rainfall. Statistics from the International Potato Center in Lima indicate a strong correlation in this region between rainfall and yields. In a normal year, summer high winds blow from east to west into the highlands and raise moist air from the Amazon Basin, and then follow the mountain ranges south. In years when El Niño is present, high winds blow from west to east and reduce the moisture supply to crops. El Niño initiates the formation of a thin layer of clouds that veils the sky, which helps to make the Pleiades paler and less numerous because the less luminous are masked, as is well observed by the farmers.


1) Biophysical Indicators of season characteristics

  • Astral Indicators
  • The Grand Chariot (Constellation of the Big Dipper)

It consists of four feet or four legs, two posterior and two anterior. These four stars, feet or paws of the camel, form the chariot of the Big Dipper. The four legs are connected to the three neck stars composed of three cervical vertebrae. If the three cervical vertebrae are easily identifiable, the head is a problem: it is probably Arcturus (Edmond, 1989) which punctuates, far enough from the previous three, the end of the constellation


  • When the Grand Chariot appears to the North after the sunset between May and June, with the shape of a camel sitting looking towards the East: This is the beginning of the rainy season. The farmers know that it is time to sow even if the rain does not fall, some give themselves to dry sowing knowing that it is still time for this


  • When the Grand Chariot appears to the northwest after the sunset between September and October, with the shape of a camel standing this time, the head looking to the west: the peasants know that this is the end of the rainy


·         The Pleiades (Constellation of the bull)

The Pleiades are a cluster of stars at first sight, but their observation can distinguish six or seven of these stars (Zan Diarra, 1988). It is a most spectacular stellar open cluster, clearly visible to the naked eye in the form of a small cauldron, formed by the 7 main stars

  • When the Pleiades disappear in the West after the sunset: it is the beginning of season of rains. This is the period from April to May during which we can record a few times the first rains. But the peasants say that they do not always sow at the end of these rains. The peasants speak of 7th and 8th month which would correspond to the traditional period of observation;


  • When between May and June, the Pleiades reappear in the East towards dawn, that is to say around 4 to 5 am in the morning: it is the beginning of sowing;


  • When at dawn always we observe the Pleiades in the middle of the sky towards 4-5 in the morning, it is the end of sowing and the actual installation of rains; and this corresponds to the 9th month of their traditional agricultural calendar which is roughly equivalent to July-August.


Usual name Latin name Behavior Period Expected Result
Grand chariot Ursa Major Appearing northward after sunset, Form of camel sitting looking towards East May-June Beginning of rainy season (Beginning of sowing)
Grand chariot Ursa Major Appearance to the northwest after sunset, Camel shape while standing head looking West Sept-Oct End of rainy season
Pleiades   Disappearance of Pleiades in the West after the sunset April-May Rainy season start /

Fall of first rains in ten days

Pleiades   reappear in the east around 4-5 in the


May-June Beginning of sowing
Pleiades   Arrival of Pleiades in the middle of the sky towards 4-5 of morning July- August End of sowing and Actual installation of rains



Ø  Plant indicators

In West Africa, through years of observation, farmers have developed traditional ways to predict the characteristics of all seasons of the year. To the order of these means known as basic knowledge, or traditional knowledge, or indigenous knowledge, they use indicators such as plants whose observation of the phenological phases of some of them, allows to monitor and to predict the start, end and quality of the rainy season.

We have inventoried with the farmers a great diversity of plants considered as indicators that fall within the framework of the tools they use to forecast the rainy season.


Usual name Nom latin Behavior of the indicator Period Expects Resultat
 Prune tree         Sclerocarya birrea  Maturing fruit  May-June   Beginning of the rainy season

(Falling from the first rains in about ten days)

Annone tree Annona senegalensis Maturing fruit End of May-

beginning of June

Beginning of the rainy season / beginning of sowing
Baobab tree Adansonia




 Beginning of the rainy season
Bauhinia Bauhinia


Regeneration of leaves Mai-Juin Beginning of the rainy season
Cassia Cassia


 Flowering April


Early rainy season (dry sowing)

Beginning of the rainy season)

Combretum Combretum


Regeneration of leaves   Beginning of the rainy season
Combretum Combretum Leafing, flowering May June Beginning of the rainy season


Doumier Hyphaene


When its dry leaves are not


May June Beginning of the rainy season
Doumier Hyphaene


When nuts are well formed May June Beginning of the rainy season
Ebénier of West Africa Diospyros






Beginning of the rainy season


Ø  Animal Indicators

Birds are also among the most important categories of basic indicators in this West African zone that concerns us. Their arrival and activity informs farmers about agricultural activities and even sometimes the strategies to implement in order to maintain household food security. In this area, the best-known birds in the forecast setting of the winter season are the stork and the little red-billed hornbill. These are two well-known migratory birds in West Africa that arrive early in the winter and return with the end of the winter season.


  • The arrival of the storks or Ciconia nigra indicates to the farmers the start of the rainy season. These birds usually arrive between May and June, when the monsoon begins to blow. Like the plants, we must also say that, the early season indicator birds do not predict the day of the first rain, but rather, they show the farmers that it is the right time to prepare the fields for cultures. “The elders inform us that the stork does not come at once to settle, she made a first arrival in the village in April, after nesting, she returns to return in 1 month: it is the start then of the wintering, and some farmers can sow dry. About the stork, in some areass it is the arrival of these birds which counts, but elswere the number of the birds is very important for the forecast. Thus in this last zone, it is thought that the arrival of a small number of Ciconia nigra predicts a good rainfall and therefore the season will be favorable. On the other hand, the arrival of a large number of these birds in the village indicates a bad winter season”.


  • The arrival also of Red-billed Hornbill or Tockus erythrorhynchus also show the farmers the beginning of the rainy season. It is a migratory bird, and farmers usually observe its migration from South to North between April and May. It passes in large group towards the North. Although they are found in the area during wintering. It is clear that the birds continue to the north, and it is at the end of the winter season precisely during the harvest in September-October that we also observe its migration from North to



Ø  Insects and worms

Insects also start their arrival or appearance and especially their activities, are part of the indicators that inform farmers about the characteristics of the rainy season. Most of its insects are mostly used for short-term forecasting. They insect concerned are bees, Cicada, Locust, locust, Ants, Stinging winged ants, Red insect, scarab, termites, winged termites, flying termites, earthworms, etc.


Ø  Fish, reptiles, amphibians and others


Fish, reptiles and amphibians are also involved in traditional seasonal forecasting in West Africa.


The wind seems to be the best-known and best used indicator by farmers in all the villages we surveyed. What is more important with this indicator is that the interpretation of its behavior does not suffer from contradiction even small nuances as is the case for other indicators. What is followed by his behavior is speed, direction, and direction. It is therefore observed very ready to know the beginning and the end of the season, as well as the quality of the rainy season.





Carla Roncoli, K. I. (2001). “Reading the Rain: Local Knowledge and Rainfall Forecasting in Burkina Faso.” Society and Natural Ressources 15: 409-427


CILSS (2014). Module d’intégration du changement climatique dans les politiques de développement National. Projet GCCA


CILSS/CRA   (2010).   Le Sahel face au Changement Climatique. Enjeux pour un développement durable. Niamey (Niger) 42.


GIEC (2001). “Climate Change 2001: Synthesis Report. Question 3. m.” GTI TRE Section 11.5.1.


GIEC   (2007).   “Bilan   2007   des   changements   climatiques   :     Rapport    de synthèse “


GIEC (2007). Climate Change 2007. Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, M.L. Parry, O.F. Canziani, J.P. Palutikof, P.J. van der Linden and C.E. Hanson, Eds.,. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK 976


GIEC (2014). Changements climatiques 2014 : Impacts, vulnérabilité et adaptation. Résumé à l’intention des décideurs. Gèneve 42


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