Local Knowledge on the Effect of Climate Variability on Human Health and Livelihood in Southern Ethiopia: A Qualitative Study
Background: The systematic collection and understanding of the local knowledge of communities can be used to formulate appropriate sector programs and interventions. It also allows scientists, researchers, and policymakers to design and implement appropriate mitigation and adaptation strategies. However, there is a lack of studies that explored the available climate-related local health and livelihood-related knowledge in Ethiopia in general and in the current study area in particular. Thus, this study aimed to identify the indigenous knowledge on the effects of climate variability on human health and livelihood of rural residents in Sidama Zone, Sothern Ethiopia.
Methods: A qualitative survey was conducted in July 2013 in eight kebeles of Sidama Administration Zone, Southern Ethiopia. Eight focus group discussions, with 8-9 study participants per group, were conducted. Data were collected using open-ended interview guide questions with identified themes. Each interview was captured by an audio recorder. The saturation of information was assured when no new information and themes were observed in the data as indicated. Data recording and transcription were followed by coding and categorizing using the OpenCode Version 3 software.
Results: The study participants revealed that climate variability has happened as a result of the destruction of the natural forest cover. Change in the precipitation pattern and increment of temperature was recognized as the main signs of climate variation. The main consequences were mentioned to be loss of water sources, frequent droughts, and health problems such as malaria, diarrhea, vomiting, and gastrointestinal disorders. Sanitation facilities have frequently collapsed as a result of climate variation, inducing floods and decomposition. The community had been participating in the adaptation and mitigation activities by planting indigenous trees and constructing climate-resilient sanitation by carving locally available stones.
Conclusion: Climate variability has multifaceted effects on human health and the livelihood of the community. Society had made some adaptation and mitigation for the problem. Therefore, intervention strategies affordable by the poor and agropastoralist community need to be expanded with the inclusion of appropriate messages. Besides, strategies need to be designed taking into account existing local knowledge that can be leveraged for future adaptation and improvement strategies.
Keywords: Climate variation; Indigenous knowledge; Sidama zone; Southern Ethiopia