One evening, while taking a walk down a narrow path, I met an old man who asked why insects such as nsenene (grasshoppers) no longer flew during the anticipated season and time of the year? I laboured to explain until the old man narrated a story of how they used indigenous knowledge to determine when to plant, harvest and predict rainfall and bad omen.
A recent World Bank publication, New Frontier of Social Policy, explicitly talks about cultural institutions and their importance in shaping natural resource management. For a relatively long period, cultural institutions have played an important role in the context of climate change adaptation and mitigation such as implementation of forest protection policies and passing of information to generations.
However, only limited knowledge is available on the role of cultural institutions in the context of climate change. It is worth noting that indigenous peoples play an important role in adaptation to climate change by promoting the incorporation of experience with new and previously known phenomena such as changing climate, nature and form of plants and animals. In some parts of the world such as the Caribbean countries, cultural institutions have been involved in programmes aimed at generating benefits in terms of reducing emissions from degradation.
Recalling that part of Mpanga Forest Reserve in Mpigi District used to be a burial ground for some heads of cultural institutions, clearly shows that such institutions respected natural resource management. Further recalling the 'no touch' rule in the sacred forests and for sacred trees with the help of taboos, indigenous knowledge has continued to be produced and maintained.
However, when the conditions change, knowledge production may also change, thus stressing capacities to adapt to climate change. On the other hand, indigenous people have to adjust their livelihood strategies to cope with an altered environment (altered in form of disruption of agricultural calendar, droughts and heavy rains).
The combined effect of climate change and the loss of trust in cultural knowledge threatens traditional set-ups and norms. However, access to information, mutual understanding of the role of knowledge systems for interpretation of the effects of climate change improves early warning systems.
The current processes through which traditional knowledge is lost are rapid. The current generation of farmers jeopardise adaptation to climate change. For example, today few farmers remember how to use indicators such as behaviour of birds and insects, locality of weeds- indicators that guided our predecessors in the agricultural calendar.
Incorporating cultural institutions with other actors in climate change management will enhance probabilities of success and cost effectiveness since such institutions over time, may be the main contributors in developing adaptation and mitigation strategies based on their cultural values that deal with uncertainty and variability.
Mr Bakiika is the deputy executive director, Environmental Management for Livelihood Improvement