As a result of global warming, the world’s climate is changing and its effect is being felt the world over. And one of the most important parameters of climate is rainfall. Just as there is a direct relationship between climate and agriculture, so is there one between rainfall and agriculture. So, when rainfall patterns change, its effect is directly felt on cropping patterns worldwide.
An important aspect to be understood regarding the relationship between rainfall and agriculture is that rainfall is the major factor in the growth and production of food crops both at the germination and fruit development stage.
But with a change in the world’s climate, temperatures have risen and rainfall has increased in some places. In other places, rainfall has decreased. Other than the effect of high and low rainfall on cropping patterns, experts predict that phenomena such as drought and flooding will reduce the amount of land available for agriculture.
Farmers are already finding it difficult to cope with these environmental changes, as almost all crops are season-dependent and rainfall-dependent. Temperature and rainfall changes induced by climate change are likely to further react with other parameters of plant growth like fertilizers, insects, and weeds, amongst others, pundits argue.
Overall, in those parts of Namibia where water availability is set to increase due to higher rainfall, there would not be much problem. This water can be stored efficiently through earth dams, ponds and reservoirs. It will help irrigation in the surrounding areas and increase crop production.
Unfortunately, a good proportion of this excess rainfall comes with more damage than good. This is what happened in northern Namibia in 2009 when mainly the ‘Efundja’ from Angola flooded the area.
Many farmers in that area lack post-harvest storage and drying facilities and spread their unhusked grains on mats and canvas streets to dry in the sun. Due to this, the grain was of poorer quality and fetched lower prices. To add to it, the damage and excess rain made it impossible for them to plant the next crop.
Climate change being a continuous and long-term process, its effects and solutions are also time and effort consuming. Agricultural adaptation options for this can be grouped as technological developments, government programmes, farm production practices and farm financial management.
Agricultural policies and investments need to be more strategic in Africa and Asia, where most of the world’s poor communities live, and where there is a large yield gap in rain fed agriculture.
Rainfall, as we know, is an uncontrollable phenomenon. Managing the problem of low rainfall, however, is nearly possible through irrigation, but only if dealt with efficiently and without degradation to the water table, by ensuring groundwater recharge practices.
Farmers have begun falling back on traditional ways, such as reusing water from washing utensils to irrigate kitchen gardens. Many communities are also reviving traditional water harvesting, a method of storing rainwater. In some cases, farmers changed their crops to suit the prevailing conditions.
dealing with low rainfall propel us to build innovative, scientific methods to deal with such changing rainfall patterns.