A key part of increasing small-scale farmer resilience to both climate variation and longer term climate change, both now amplified by anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions derived from the burning of fossil fuels, is to strengthen farmers’ adaptive capacity. Implicit in definitions of adaptive capacity is an increased ability to anticipate risk of shocks and stresses through forecasting and knowing how to respond to these forecasts. Understanding forecasts of future weather and climate conditions and applying this understanding, together with other complementary technical knowledge, to a range of decisions about on-farm operations will then build climate resilience. Farmer responses suggest that an initial rationale of a 10–20 per cent increase in output is valid and that increasing forecast effectiveness through combining seasonal and 7-day or 5-day forecasts, together with a focus on agroecological agriculture, may result in an even stronger impact. Long-term forecasts developed through applied climate models that can guide community-based resilience planning and farmer-generated data, e.g. through use of rain gauges, also increase their ability to make resilience-building decisions. Understanding local knowledge and local indicators are important parts of the process, providing a knowledge framework that works for farmers, indicating which decisions are likely to be enhanced by scientific forecasts and adding local context. Increasing access to climate services works particularly well when combined with agroecological advisory services, which deliver greater resilience and productivity compared with conventional, input-intensive methods.