Drought

The chances of another El Niño weather pattern this summer have risen to about 70%.

03 September 2018 | Weather

The chances of Namibia suffering yet another drought year has grown immensely, with the probability of another El Niño occurrence increasing to about 70% for the summer cropping season - from December to February next year.

This is the period during which most parts of southern Africa receive their highest rainfall, and it also coincides with the next summer cropping season.

In the SADC region, El Niño has historically been associated with the occurrence of below-average rainfall in the central and southern parts of the region, while the north-eastern parts of the region have historically experienced a higher frequency of above-average rainfall during El Niño years.

The El Niño in 2015/16 caused the worst drought in 35 years leaving 14.1 million people in need of emergency assistance across the region. Namibia was also not spared from the impacts of the El Niño during 2015/16 and experienced one of its worst droughts in the country's history, with a state of emergency declared.

Thousands of people in Namibia suffered from food insecurity, while the country's dams ran dry, water restrictions had to be implemented and farmers suffered from deteriorating grazing and livestock conditions.

The latest Southern Africa Food and Nutrition Security report says another El Niño this year could have devastating food security implications.

According to the latest figures provided by SADC countries the total number of food insecure people in the region is expected to increase this year by approximately 14% from 26.9 million in 2017/18 to 30.7 million in 2018/19.

According to the report Namibia experienced the biggest rainfall deficit in the SADC region, particularly in the western and southern parts of the country. Many of these areas are still trying to recover.









“In contrast flooding was recorded in the north-east and north-western parts of the country. Being an arid country, most Namibians depend on markets for their food, and due to production shortfalls staple prices increased.”

It however says that the number of people who are food insecure declined by 68% to 257 383 compared to 2017 when the number stood at about 800 000.



It is indicated that 24.6% of rural Namibians are moderately food insecure and 10.5% severely food insecure. In urban areas, 12.6% are food insecure and 6.3% severely food insecure. About 3% of children under five are severely malnourished.



“Overall the food insecurity situation is highly likely to deteriorate. The number of severely food insecure is likely rise by more than 70% to 9.6 million people in Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe,” says the report.



Meanwhile the SADC Region Food and Nutrition Security Strategy 2015 to 2025 emphasises that the regional food and nutrition security situation remains unstable and unpredictable.



It says almost 16% of SADC's rural population have been consistently designated food insecure over the past five years. This is despite improved production in some countries.



It says that in Namibia between 200 000 and 800 000 people are at risk of food insecurity.



Furthermore the food security report highlights the fact that the 2017/18 was characterised by a late start an extended mid-season dry spell during December and January and heavy rains from February into April.



Available data indicates that the dry spells that characterised the 2017/18 rainfall season have resulted in reduced cereal harvests compared to the 2016/17 bumper crop.



Namibia harvested 135 770 tonnes in 2017/18. This indicates a self-sufficiency of a meagre 39% for the country.



With the El Nino conditions that are expected for the 2018/19 rainfall season it will likely result in delayed harvests and reduced maize production levels. “Thus maize grain prices in deficit countries such as Namibia may stabilise between March 2019 and April 2019 instead of declining as is typically the case prior to harvests.”



The report says that poor pasture conditions was also observed in much of Namibia, western South Africa, south-western Botswana, and south-western Angola. Some of these affected areas have also reported low-to-critical water availability. A lack of pasture and water available for livestock may have adverse impacts on livestock, particularly if the 2018/19 season experiences poor rainfall in the affected areas.



Currently the total of Namibia's dams stands at 39.4% in comparison to last year when it 53.4%. The capital has again implemented water restrictions to reduce consumers' water use in Windhoek.



ELLANIE SMIT

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