This paper investigates farmers’ perceptions of climate change and variability in southwest Uganda and compares them with daily rainfall and temperature measurements from the 1960s to the present, including trends in daily rainfall and temperature, seasonality, changing probability of risk and intensity of rainfall events. Statistical analyses and modelling of rainfall and temperature were performed and contrasted with qualitative data collected through a semi-structured questionnaire. The fieldwork showed that farmers perceived regional climate to have changed in the past 20 years. In particular, farmers felt that temperature had increased and seasonality and variability had changed, with the first rainy season between March and May becoming more variable. Farmers reported detailed accounts of climate characteristics during specific years, with recent droughts in the late 1990s and late 2000s confirming local perceptions that there has been a shift in climate towards more variable conditions that are less favourable to production. There is a clear signal that temperature has been increasing in the climate data and, to a lesser extent, evidence that the reliability of rains in the first season has decreased slightly. However, rainfall measurements do not show a downward trend in rainfall amount, a significant shift in the intensity of rainfall events or in the start and end of the rainy seasons. We explore why there are some differences between farmers’ perceptions and the climate data due to different associations of risk between ideal rainfall by farmers, including the amount and distribution needed for production, meteorological definitions of normal rainfall or the long-term statistical mean and its variation, and the impact of higher temperatures. The paper reflects on the methodological approach and considers the implications for communicating information about risk to users in order to support agricultural innovation.