Improved rainfall predicted

The forecast for the 2019/20 season means that large portions of southern Africa are likely to receive adequate rainfall that is sufficient to support crop germination and growth.

27 November 2019 | Agriculture

The regional rainfall pattern for the 2019/20 agricultural season is encouraging, as parts of southern Africa are expected to receive adequate rains in the first half of the season.

This is an improvement from the previous season where less rainfall resulted in adverse impacts on agriculture, water resources and hydropower generation in most parts of the region. The latest outlook produced by regional climate experts forecasts there will be “normal to above-normal” rainfall across most of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) between October and December 2019.

The consensus forecast was produced by the 23rd Southern African Regional Climate Outlook Forum (SARCOF) that met in Luanda, Angola. The SARCOF forecast is divided into two parts covering October/November/December (OND) 2019 and January/February/March (JFM) 2020. The forecast shows that most of SADC is likely to receive high rainfall between October and December 2019, although the forecast does not specify that the rainfall will be evenly spread in time or place, and could be responsible for flooding.

Areas likely to receive normal to above-normal rainfall in the last quarter of 2019 are the south-eastern half, easternmost and south-western parts of Angola, Botswana, the northern and southernmost parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), eSwatini, Lesotho and southern Malawi. Other areas that are expected to receive high rainfall are southern Madagascar, Mauritius, central and southern Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Seychelles, northern Tanzania and most parts of Zambia and Zimbabwe.

However, the north-western half of Angola, most of Comoros, the bulk of the DRC, northern Malawi, northern Madagascar, northern Mozambique, southern parts of Tanzania and the northernmost region of Zambia are projected to receive insufficient rainfall categorised as normal to below normal during the OND period.

Similarly, in the second half of the season from January to March 2020, parts of the region are expected to receive high rainfall, with others likely to receive normal to below-normal rainfall.

Normal to above-normal rainfall is expected in the first quarter of 2020 in most of Angola, the western half and north-western tip of Botswana, Comoros, most of the DRC, western Lesotho, northern Malawi, central and northernmost Madagascar, Mauritius, northern Mozambique, the northernmost and central to southern parts of Namibia, central South Africa, most of Tanzania, Seychelles and the northern and western parts of Zambia.

Areas that are forecast to receive normal to below-normal rainfall in the second half of the 2019/20 rainfall season are the south-western parts of Angola, the eastern half of Botswana, eSwatini, eastern Lesotho, southern Malawi, southernmost Madagascar, most of Mozambique, the westernmost parts of Namibia, most of South Africa, the eastern half of Tanzania, central Zambia and Zimbabwe.

While developing this outlook, the climate scientists took into account oceanic and atmospheric factors that influence climate over southern Africa, including the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), which now is in its neutral phase.

ENSO is projected to continue in the neutral phase during the entire forecast period. The forecast for the 2019/20 season means that large portions of southern Africa are likely to receive adequate rainfall that is sufficient to support crop germination and growth. The forecast provides relief to southern Africa, as the region is still rebuilding its food reserves after the 2018/19 drought, as well as the occurrence of tropical cyclones, which have resulted in adverse impacts on agriculture, water resources and hydropower generation.

Following the drought and floods in the 2018/19 season, the region has a cereal deficit estimated at more than 5.4 million tonnes this year, although some countries such as Tanzania have a surplus crop for export following good rains.

To prepare for future hazards, the 39th SADC Summit called on member states to implement comprehensive multi-year response plans to tackle recurrent droughts and food insecurity challenges.

STAFF REPORTER

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