The Rainmakers of Nganyi

‘The Rainmakers of Nganyi’ is part of a series of short films that profiles innovative approaches to research and the co-creation of knowledge as a key to the transformation of the African food system. 

The Rainmakers of Nganyi

Researchers at Kenyan universities were faced with a problem: the weather forecasts that they were providing weren’t being taken seriously. Faced with climate change and climatic extremes, farmers were losing crops and finding it increasingly difficult to predict the weather.

The researchers hoped their forecasts would help people adapt to climate extremes, but the people did not trust the scientific forecasts and listened only to traditional rainmakers.

So they began to use rainmakers in the village of Nganyi, Western Kenya, as communication agents in an attempt to convince people to listen to their forecasts. But then they started to notice striking similarities between their predictions and those of the rainmakers. Were they really forecasters? Were they really meteorologists? And can they make it rain?

This is the story of how new research is bringing ancient and modern ways of knowing together to build climate resilience in Africa.

After the Green Revolution

As farmer suicides continue to plague India, farmers are returning to organic methods to fertilise and protect their crops.

The Green Revolution left behind a heavy reliance on chemical fertilisers and pesticides which not only sent farmers into a spiral of debt, but over time poisoned the soil and led to decreasing yields.

Sanjevak is a mixture of cow dung, cow urine, raw sugar, ant-hill sand and other ingredients that are readily available to farmers, and which they have been using to regenerate their soil and increase their crop production again.

Scientists at the Dharamitra Eco-technology Resource Centre have started work with farmers to test and develop this technology, and to help disseminate it and other ecological agricultural practices to farmers across the country.

An Ethiopian Amazon

Gebremichael Gidey Berhe or ‘Abo Hawi – the father of fire’ wants to turn Abreha we Atsbeha into the Amazon rainforest.

Given that Abreha Atsbeha is in the drought-prone highlands of Northern Ethiopia, where, not too long it was considered too dry to live, this is an ambitious goal.

But he isn’t called Abo Hawi for nothing! The highly energetic and motivated village leader has worked alongside the villagers to construct bench terraces high up on the mountain slopes on which they planted crops, trees and grass to stabilise the soil, they dug percolation trenches and wells, and agreed to restrict grazing to certain areas. As a result, they were able to control the water flow, have ear-round access to water and dramatically change the landscape of this historical village in a time where climate change is wreaking havoc across the continent.

Collaboration with local researchers at Mekelle University helped to bring show these achievements to the rest of the world. Visitors now come from all over the country and the world to see what has been accomplished in Abreha Atsbeha. Abo Hawi travels around the world to speak about his experiences, and he recently received the prestigious Equator Prize on behalf of the villagers.

Enkanini: Taken By Force

Researchers as intermediaries in upgrading informal settlements: A transdisciplinary story of life in an African slum.