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Kenya: rainmakers key to consensus on climate change

AFP reports that Kenya's Nganyi rainmakers are being enlisted to mitigate the effects of climate change:

Kenya rainmakers called to the rescue (click)
Alexander Okonda's great-grandfather was also a rainmaker. In the 1910s, he was arrested by the British because they determined that he had been responsible for poor rainfall.

Now, the great-grandson is getting the credit he deserves. As the methods of climatology have been strikingly transformed, he is appreciated as a top scientist. Alexander Okonda blows through a reed into a pot embedded in a tree hollow and containing a secret mixture of sacred water and herbs.

"This contains so much information. It is something I feel from my head right down to my toes," says Alexander, after completing his ritual. The young man is a member of the Nganyi community, a clan of traditional rainmakers that for centuries has made its living disseminating precious forecasts to local farmers.

Let me skip the croak of the frog, the motion of termites, and the leafing of trees. You got the picture.

Gilbert Ouma, a meteorologist of Nairobi University, said: "We knew that we had good scientific forecasts but that many people didn't believe them."

There was an easy solution for this crisis of confidence in science - a solution that was inspired by the IPCC process in the Western countries: the witches were asked to make the predictions instead of the colorless scientists.

Ouma explains that traditional prediction methods - referred to as "science" - have their limitations and that the project's main goal is to produce a consensus forecast that can be disseminated through indigenous channels.

As the IPCC experience showed, the more witches they include, the better consensus they may produce because the relative influence of the cacophony created by the champions of the limited method known as science is greatly reduced, as their concentration drops.

So these days, the forecasts for Kenya are presented by the chief rainmaker predictor Obedi Osore Nganyi and the Kenya Meteorology Department simply nods quietly. Everyone is happy because the predictions are strikingly similar, anyway.

"Most of what is in their predictions can also be observed scientifically," Dr Maria Onyango of the IPCC explains.

"It [the project] has enhanced their image in the community," Onyango says. "People used to look at them as witches, they didn't think something positive could come out of it."

Nganyi community chairman Abunery Osango concurs: "Our knowledge was hidden but thanks to the scientists, it is spreading... it is being used."

Much like the IPCC, the rainmakers must be grateful to this new kind of science. And so is Pascal Katana, a whiz student who will attract rain by broken cell phones and broken lamps. (The IPCC should recommend him to add a couple of burned SUVs, too.)

If you still prefer climate science that doesn't depend on witches or their authority and you want a real good, comprehensible, no-nonsense overview of the state-of-the-art state of climate science, buy the NIPCC report (880 pages).

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