Missing: Research findings by our forefathers

16th April 2018


By Matshidiso Fologang

Having been born and bred in a traditional environment, I have grown to understand the general environment and the climate in this country. I have for too long observed changes in the climate and its resultant effect on the environment. As I left the village, I got the chance to be exposed to language relating to climate changes as described and explained by scientists. However, whatever knowledge I have is just basic and therefore I cannot claim anything more than the little inside I obtained through my rudimentary geography lessons from 45 years ago.

This weekend I joined bagaetsho on a Sunday afternoon as they hosted a team of international experts and authors at Ramotswa kgotla. These learned men and women from across the globe have descended on Gaborone as part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) delegates to the fourth lead author meeting. The meeting was opened by His Honour Slumber Tsogwane Monday 9th April 2018. These international delegates had on Sunday come to Ramotswa for an outreach event and knowledge exchange with a rural community on the special report on warming and strengthening the response to climate change. The IPCC is the leading international body for the assessment of climate change.

This body was established in 1988 jointly by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organisation basically to provide “the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of climate change and potential environmental and socio-economic impacts.” At the knowledge exchange meeting I was made to understand in their work on the climate change, that scientists (the ladies and gentlemen who have read big books) were actively working hard to understand the past and future climate by using observation and theoretical models. In order to fully explain these changes in climate these well read men and women look into climate, records accumulated going far back into the past and inclusive of those continually being gathered.

I sat there confused. How different is the knowledge accumulated by our ancestors in explaining the changes in our climate different? I listened to the elderly people share stories of the past on traditional methods of conservation and their general understanding of the climate. Batswana generally were able to predict the climate and weather based on the observation of the environment they lived in. Trees and the blowing of winds could be used to determine the rains and lack of rain. Like these climate gurus, our ancestors and their ancestors worked hard to understand the past and the future climate and weather patterns. The only difference between my people and these scientists is that we never recorded the changes we observed. We never had any theoretical models to refer to. At this exchange meeting I learnt that the understanding of climate changes across the globe was basically the same. Unfortunately in our tradition there was nothing written to be used as future reference. These changes remain known to a few. We don’t have a book to show for the climate changes in our society.

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