This note examines the effects of climate variability on natural–resources management in East Africa. The bimodal rainfall regime in much of East Africa brings rainy seasons from March to May and October to December with greater interannual variability from October to December. We discuss the impacts of rainfall extremes in 1961 and 1997 and explore three examples of natural–resources management in the context of rainfall variability: inland fisheries in East and southern Africa; fluctuations in the level of Lake Victoria; and lake–shore communities around Lake Kyoga in Uganda. The discussion reflects the complexity of linkages between climate, environment and society in the region and highlights implications for natural–resources management. These range from benefits due to improved seasonal rainfall forecasting to reduce the damage of extremes, to improved understanding of existing climate–society interactions to provide insights into the region's vulnerability and adaptive capacity in relation to future climate change.