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In reality, Ouedraogo Toudebson's decision to sow his seeds early was the result of a complex chain of communications designed to strengthen the villagers’ position against a changing climate. And it worked.

Relying on traditional methods

Ouedraogo Toudebson is a farmer in Souri in the Passoré province of Burkina Faso.

Over the years, Toudebson and other farmers in the area had noticed changes in their environment - deforestation, topsoil erosion, high winds and floods - but predicting these changes was a more complicated affair. These traditional methods were losing reliability just at a time when they needed information the most.

In the past, people would look at trees. There is a kind of tree that produces yellow fruit, if this tree bears much fruit, this means that there will not be enough rain.

- Ouedraogo Toudebson, A farmer in Souri in the Passoré province of Burkina Faso.

Broadcasting climate information

The BRACED programme responded with an innovative project to distribute climate and forecasting information from the national meteorological agency, ANAM, through a network of eight local radio stations and a SMS and voice-messaging platform that would ultimately reach over 1.2 million people with climate information.

But the challenge wasn’t so much the technology, explained Malick Victor, head of BRACED partner Internews Burkina Faso, but understanding the tradition and context.

A lexicon of weather terms

Internews conducted research that led them to understand that one of the greatest barriers to understanding climate information was complex and technical meteorological terminology.

So to make it more intelligible to their rural audience, they developed a lexicon, translating over 500 terms into simpler French and three native languages.

Engaging a wide range of weather experts, sociologists, linguists, journalists and farmers, Victor and his team explained that translating these terms went beyond language to encompass differences in worldview.

If the national meteorological office says there will be an eclipse, we can translate that into easier language [such as] ‘the moon will disappear’, but in Móorè we have to say ‘the moon will be caught by the cat'.

- Malick Victor, Head of BRACED partner Internews Burkina Faso.

Building understanding and trust

This lexicon, now adopted by ANAM and certified by the national institute of language, not only functions to decipher the language of the weather, but explains temperature, wind behaviour and the concept of probability - all designed to build understanding and trust in this information.

Additionally, the lexicon contains a dictionary for understanding the short codes sent by SMS to over 585 people trained to disseminate forecasts and alerts to their community.

The value of a resource like this is clear to Placide Togo, head of programming at Radio Natigmbzanga in Yako, capital of Passoré province.

While his radio station used to broadcast weather reports, Togo says that the information was largely ignored as it wasn’t understood or trusted. But with a little training and a tool like the lexicon, this soon changed.

Data snapshot

93% of low-income, male farmers like Ouedraogo are now making use of climate information to make livelihood decisions since joining the BRACED programme.

People [now] say ‘I have an activity to do, let me first listen to the radio in order to know what will happen before we start it'.

- Placide Togo, Head of programming at Radio Natigmbzanga in Yako, Passoré province..

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