Crisis looms as rain stays away

18 February 2019 | Weather

The wetter climatic conditions that marked the start of February in Namibia are likely to cease and make way for dry conditions for the rest of the month and into the first week of March.

“Rainfall conditions remain negative for the next months for the southern and western parts but could improve in the second week in March for the central to northern parts,” South African climatologist Johan van den Berg writes in his latest climate outlook report.

The report points out that the wide spread of rainfall that occurred in the first two weeks of February, with heavy rainfall especially in the southern parts of Namibia, was “not expected in terms of the long-term rainfall forecasts”.

While some of the rainfall was sufficient to alleviate drought conditions, many areas have still received little to no rain. Last week, following heavy rains in the south, the Naute Dam's floodgates were opened.

NamWater started releasing water when the level of the Naute Dam reached 104% of capacity.

The previous week, the level had stood at 61.7%.

Despite the good rains in some pockets since the beginning of February, Van den Berg warns that more rain is needed to ensure sufficient winter grazing in many places. He explains that the development of a strong low-pressure system over Mozambique and the Indian Ocean from yesterday will disrupt rainfall patterns for the rest of February.

“It seems at this stage that the system can produce heavy rainfall over the inland areas of Mozambique and north-eastern parts of South Africa, Zimbabwe, and even parts of Botswana.”

However, drier conditions are expected elsewhere, including Namibia, until at least the second week of March.

At the beginning of February, the Namibian Agricultural Union (NAU) and the Namibia Emerging Commercial Farmers' Union announced that an emergency action plan had been compiled to reduce the impact of the ongoing drought, which they described as a “national crisis”.

According to them the current drought is the worst in recent years, as no part of Namibia had received good rains by the beginning of the month.

“During recent drought conditions, such as in 2016, some parts of the country received good rains, which allowed for the build-up of fodder and hay. This was then donated to drought-stricken farmers. However, currently this is not the case as there is very little hay on the market.”

The unions said that since 2013, Namibia had experienced below-normal rainfall for five of the seven years. This depleted the growth reserves of rangelands, as well as carryover fodder on the veld.

A joint NAU and NECFCU statement said it was of utmost importance that livestock exports not be limited, in order to enable producers to market their animals as soon as possible in order to reduce the impact on grazing.

They suggested that the ministry and Meat Board of Namibia should remove all policies restricting livestock exports in order to minimise financial and livestock losses.

The state of the dams is also dismal, with the Swakoppoort Dam standing at 20.1% last Monday, compared to 38.3% last season. Von Bach was at 49.3%, following transfers from Omatako Dam. The Hardap Dam was at 30.2% of capacity, compared to 50.4% last season.


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