Africa has been hit by unpredictable climate change in recent years. From the late 1990s up to 2016 the rain and winter patterns have changed significantly.
The change is not for the better, but rather for the worse. In Southern Africa time for rains have changed; significant rain falls in late January, the winter has also prolonged its stay. Winter is now earlier in the calendar, and can be seen to start as early as March and last up until as late as September.
Parts of Southern Africa are experiencing the worst drought in more than a century. There is need to increase grain imports to meet demand as farmers are deeply disappointed by the latest crop hauls.
Nations in the region, which includes Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Namibia, Zambia, Botswana, South Africa and Swaziland, will need to find at least 14.9 million metric tons of grains such as corn, wheat, and soybeans.
South Africa, which is usually a net exporter of the commodity was last a net importer in the 2008 season. Last year, rainfall in South Africa was the poorest since records began in 1904, the weather service said on Thursday last week.
El Niño, a movement of warm water in the Pacific Ocean that typically leads to a rise in temperatures and a drop in rainfall for the country, has left farmers with what’s expected to be the most meagre corn crop since 1995.
Farai Mukukudze, a farmer in Zimunya, a small community near Mutare city, expects to have to rely on food handouts due to the drought ravaging his maize. “Crops are wilting right in front of our eyes. The situation is worsening by day,” said the 45-year-old father of four.
The maize planted in November in this part of eastern Zimbabwe is wilting fast, while some crops planted in late December never even germinated. “We are not expecting much help from our government because it’s broke,” he said. “We hope NGOs will chip in with food aid for us to survive through the year.”
There is fear and anxiety among Zimbabwe’s farmers as the country faces yet another damaging drought.
Drought conditions caused by the El Niño weather phenomenon are set to further worsen economic growth in Zambia, with economists saying this year’s figure will be below the 5% projected by the country’s finance minister.
Agriculture is important for Zambia, as most families depend on the sector for their income and could therefore be left in need of food aid, a further strain to stretched government coffers.
The World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said in a report on Friday that 8.7% of Zambia’s rural population is food insecure. According to the report, entitled Southern Africa Food & Nutrition Security Update, “current long-range rainfall forecasts for southern Africa are indicating below-average rainfall”.
Botswana has allocated emergency funds in response to the worst drought conditions in 30 years with agricultural land badly hit by the lack of irrigation.
A special budget of about US$44m was passed by parliament last year after President Ian Khama declared a general countrywide drought, the first since 1984.
“In general it is a bad year. That is why we cannot categorise the drought by each village and town like we have in the past,” deputy agriculture minister Fidelis Molao said.
In Namibia, the drought is intensifying, the soil has been turned into dust and animals scour the baked land for something to eat.
A villager, Monica, from Omagongati, in the far north of the country, a region notorious for extremes of weather. However, she says that the dry spell hitting her now has been longer and more severe than normal. “Four of my goats died – there was just nothing to feed them on,” she said. A few of her surviving goats, gathered around her bleated dejectedly.
Over the past two years, the weak or absent rains have left at least 500 000 people needing emergency food aid.
Many people wonder whether climate change will bring an even hotter and drier future. It certainly doesn’t look good for African farmers. Our elders in Africa don’t really know what climate change, since there is no ethnic vocabulary for it, as recited by popular poet, Mbali Vilakazi.
Author: Gesture Chidhanguro