Understanding public perceptions of changes in local weather patterns is fundamental to both climate science and policy, especially in sub-Saharan Africa where adaptation will be crucial to reduce the projected impacts of climate change. In this study, a nationally-representative sample of households in Niger is used to document how perceptions of 2007-2011 rainfall changes vary across households depending on their socio-economic characteristics and their location within the latitudinal rainfall gradient of the country. We further characterize the complex relationship between perceived rainfall trends and rainfall data derived from satellite data. We found that over the last five years, most people perceive less rainfall (76 %), worse distribution of rainfall in the year (78 %), more frequent droughts (83 %) and a rainy season delayed (71 %) and also finishing earlier (80 %). These perceptions are consistent with an observed worsening of rainfall conditions as seen from satellite data. Our results demonstrate that smallholders, commercial farmers, pastoralists and sedentary agro-pastoralists living in rural dry areas have a higher level of awareness of local changes than other respondents. Indeed, perceptions of these climate-sensitive households are more consensual and more closely related to observed local changes. We found that climate-sensitive households are able to detect very accurately changes in the beginning of the rainy season and to a lesser extent changes in rainfall distribution and drought frequency.
Perceptions of recent rainfall changes in Niger: a comparison between climate-sensitive and non-climate sensitive households
4 September 2017