Staff Reporter Windhoek-Already concerned Namibian livestock and crop farmers had to hear it from the horse’s mouth last week that the devastating El Niño-induced drought, which affected about 40 million people in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in 2016, is likely to strike again during the 2017/18 season. The El Niño-induced drought in 2016 was the worst in 35 years after the rains failed for two consecutive seasons. Severe drought conditions claimed lives and means of subsistence. Experts from the SADC Secretariat last week expressed fear that although good rains have been received in the northern half of the region, the lack of rain in the southern half of the region has caused delays in planting and harvesting due to water stress in some areas, including Namibia. Experts reported in the Agromet Update of the Early Warning System of Food Security on the deterioration of vegetation conditions in the south and east of the region. They also noted that the budworm outbreak has affected 20 of the 28 districts in Malawi, while Namibia was battling with fresh lumpy skin disease breakouts as well as outbreaks of armyworms. Only the north-eastern parts of Angola, much of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, northern Zambia, northern Mozambique, northern and central Madagascar and much of Tanzania have received above normal rainfall since November 2017. In contrast, most places in the southern half of the region, like Namibia, have received below-average rainfall since October 2017. November was particularly dry in most of these areas, while Namibia, southern Mozambique, southern Zambia and Zimbabwe received little rains in the first half of December. The hardest hit areas include northern and north-western Namibia, south-western Angola, parts of southern and central Mozambique, and southern South Africa. SADC experts also warned that a prolonged delay in the onset of rainfall can adversely affect crop yields by reducing the number of days available for crop development, and crops may not reach maturity before the end of the growing season. These areas have already begun experiencing a timely onset of rains, except in parts of Lesotho, South Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zimbabwe, where the onset was delayed by 30 to 40 days. Due to the generally timely start, farmers in many areas have begun planting, with reports of crops that are in the early stages of vegetation in some areas, the experts in meteorology said. However, some areas that received rainfall below the November average in early December, particularly in Namibia, southern Mozambique, southern Zambia and Zimbabwe, crops have been affected by lack of sufficient moisture, and it has been reported that some farmers are yet to start planting. This was confirmed by crop producers in Namibia’s maize triangle, Grootfontein, Tsumeb and Otavi, who said crops are experiencing moisture stress due to the prevailing dry conditions. Because of the drought, vegetation conditions have deteriorated in many areas. The image of the vegetation satellite index shows that many parts of the region had vegetation conditions below the average for the first of December. In Namibia, low rainfall caused the deterioration of grazing conditions in several parts of the country. As a result, cattle are reported to be in poor body condition in some parts of the country, although the cattle are in good condition in other areas.
2018-02-20 10:13:07 7 months ago