A new book: Willay. Measuring weather without instruments

The book speaks to us of a fundamental and yet totally contemporary issue: climate change. This is a view of the climate from a perspective of the cosmovision of the indigenous peoples of the Andes, who because of their need to survive and with their ancestral knowledge, are forced to study climate behaviour and get ready for phenomena.

Last Thursday 25 May, the Peruvian Meteorological and Hydrological Service (SENAMHI) hosted the presentation of the book entitled Willay. Midiendo el tiempo sin instrumentos”, a book produced in the framework of the Climandes Project, an initiative technically and financially supported by the Global Programme Climate Change and Environment of Swiss Cooperation (SDC).

The presentation took place during the Cultural and Linguistic Diversity Week, run by the Ministry of Culture, and was attended by Miguel Mesones, chief aide at the Ministry of Environment; Margarita Delgado Arroyo, Director of the Ministry of Culture; Amelia Díaz Pabló, Chair of SENAMHI; Martín Jaggi, Director of Swiss Cooperation (SDC); Juan Torres, research coordinator for the book Willay and specialist in traditional knowledge and native agro vegetal biodiversity of the Andean montane ecosystems; and Hilda Araujo, Doctor in Education and researcher with over 20 years’ experience in cross-cultural work in peasant farmer communities in Peru and Bolivia.

The book promotes dialogue between the community of researchers and the local Andean society, and enriches scientific knowledge and ancestral wisdom about the climate, aligned with the objective of providing timely and reliable weather services for taking decisions”, said Miguel Mesones in his speech. He also highlighted that Willay “…like ‘la Nueva Crónica y Buen Gobierno’ by Guamán Poma de Ayala, makes a great effort to join the worlds of Western science, Western religion, with the Andean culture and cosmovision, so that these two worlds should mesh and from there produce good government (…) these two cultures could converse, recognise each other and appreciate each other”.

Juan Torres commented that “This book has given us the chance to show one same view from different angles, multidisciplinary approaches, which provides us with a content that can be understood at all levels. Willay is the product of the meeting of two cultures, of two theories of knowledge, each with its truths. They need not be compared in terms of methodologies, each one has its own particular ones.”

Hilda Araujo noted “Congratulations to Senamhi for their efforts and for this recognition of ancestral knowledge, and we hope that these initiatives keep coming, so that this knowledge can be developed more comprehensively, there is still such a need for cross-cultural dialogue and for working to find joint answers from different sources of knowledge”.

She was followed by Martin Jaggi, who said “In Switzerland we have much history, tradition, academic and popular knowledge, we share, as in Peru, scientific and ancestral knowledge. One  example is the calendars of the peasant farmer, who make meteorological and climate predictions; another is the traditional weather forecasters known as the prophets of Muotathal, in central Switzerland, a group of mountain farmers who make predictions based on phenomena like the movements of the ants, in other words they read signs, they read Willay.”

“In view of the weather variations that are so irregular above all in the Andean region, the peasant farmers have to adapt, and so providing them with reliable weather information for taking effective decisions to get ready for these phenomena is necessary for driving a resilient development given the risks linked to the climate. This is the objective of Climandes, which for SDC represents a reference project for placing climate information at the disposal of users for decision-making”, he stressed.

Finally, he pointed out that “ … from the perspective of international cooperation, we highlight that we are presenting “Willay” on Cultural Diversity Day; because the “Willay” are precisely an example of this Andean diversity. They are an effort to build bridges between modern science and ancestral knowledge, with emphasis on cross-cultural dialogue which means to appreciate and respect all sources of knowledge on the same level”.

Amelia Díaz Pabló, emphasised that “Senamhi recognises the ancestral knowledge about the climate as a source of information for climate risk management in Peru’s Andes. This process of exploration into knowledge, the scientific observation of the weather and the climate conducted by Senamhi builds bridges towards the traditional observation of local weather, and the Climandes project, sponsored by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) which provides support to this institutional policy, which is now up and running.”

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About Willay.
This book is an initiative of the Climandes project (Climate Services for Development), which is part of the Global Programme of Climate Change and Environment of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). The aim of the initiative is to provide timely and reliable weather services for decision-making in the quest for a more resilient development in the face of climate variability, in an alliance with the meteorological services of Switzerland (MeteoSwiss) and  Peru (SENAMHI), academics, the private sector and the public. It is implemented in the context of the Global Framework for Climate Services of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO)”.

Links of interest:
Flickr Gallery of pictures
CLIMANDES project, Project fiche, Swiss Embassy, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC)
Web Climandes
Web S
ervicio Nacional de Meteorología e Hidrología del Perú
Web Universidad Agraria La Molina
Web World Meteorological Organisation
Web MeteoSwiss



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