Knowing weather, strengthening livelihoods
: the role of Indigenous knowledge weather forecasting in fishing communities in coastal Tanzania

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Weather and climate forecasting is an essential feature of our quest to become a resilient society against extreme weather events that threaten the lives and livelihoods of marginalized peoples. Despite advances in weather forecasting technology, the uptake and reliability of weather forecasts is still low in Tanzania. There is a growing recognition of the role of local knowledge systems (LKS) of weather forecasting in managing weather and climate-related risks and in strengthening rural livelihoods in developing countries. I employed ethnography as a methodological and theoretical framework to explore how fishers’ LKS of weather forecasting empower decision- making in the diverse and complex fishing livelihoods of Mafia Island Tanzania. During my ethnographic fieldwork with Mafia Island fishers in 2019 and 2020, knowledge of weather prediction appeared to exist in a hierarchy among fishers and was intertwined with the Islamic lunar calendar, Indian ocean monsoon seasonality, and the social-cultural and geographical contexts of the island. Recently, climate change has made weather more unpredictable for fishers, creating a greater need for reliable weather information, but the stateprovided forecast does not meet this need. Findings address some theoretical issues in the anthropology of weather and LKS and the tensions between traditional and conventional weather forecasting, and its implication on fishing livelihoods. Due to the unreliability of weather information from the Tanzania Meteorological Authority (TMA), fishers feel the need to verify it by comparing it with their own LKS perceived accuracy. The mismatch between LKS and conventional systems suggests that they should coexist complementarily. However, the increasing dominance of state-sponsored conventional weather forecasts is devaluing LKS and threatening its inter-generational transmission, hence a need to incorporate LKS into the value chain of weather and climate services and look at the wider spectrum of user-needs to strengthen weather and climate-sensitive livelihoods in Tanzania.
Date of Award22 Aug 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Roehampton
SponsorsUniversity of Roehampton
SupervisorGarry Marvin (Director of Studies) & Giovanna Capponi (Co-Supervisor)


  • Ethnography
  • Tanzania
  • local and indigenous knowledge
  • weather forecasting
  • Mafia Island
  • livelihoods
  • fishing

Cite this