Kunene still in the grip of drought

Prolonged drought in the northwestern region has left many farmers without any cattle, while even the drought-resilient goats and sheep have died in large numbers.

10 March 2021 | Disasters

ELLANIE SMIT

WINDHOEK



The hydrological service in the agriculture ministry has warned that contingency planning must be done to help users of the Kunene River.

“The Kunene River flow is critically low; a hydrological drought is forecast for the Kunene River if the rainfall situation doesn't improve,” the department said.

The flow of the river at Ruacana on Monday was 41.82 cubic metres per second, while last year it was 760.40 cubic metres per second.

Cabinet secretary George Simataa said in a statement last week that the Kunene Region had not received adequate rainfall for the past six years.

He said the prolonged drought has left many farmers without any cattle, while even the drought-resilient goats and sheep have died in large numbers.

He added that in most parts of the region no grazing was available, while groups of families had relocated in search of grazing.



Still hopeful

Independent meteorologist Johan van den Berg says although drier conditions have persisted in Namibia over the past few weeks, forecasts still favour average to above-average rainfall for most of the country during April and May. Van den Berg says the central and northern parts of Namibia are more likely to receive rain than the south-western parts.

This is due to the impact of the current La Niña event, which has started to weaken but will remain at moderate levels and will last until April or May, he says.

Van den Berg explained that tropical low-pressure storms in and around the Mozambique Channel were responsible for less rain over the central to western interior.

He said that tropical cyclones (rising air) in the area of Madagascar are responsible for the development and presence of high-pressure systems (falling air) over the western parts of South Africa and Namibia, dominating the upper air conditions with unfavourable conditions for rain.

“Tropical depression/cyclone activity temporary inhibit rainfall conditions since the middle of February over the central to western parts.” He said with changes in the Indian Ocean expected, it is likely that rainfall conditions will improve in April and May.

“Less tropical storm activity will assist in tropical moisture once again shifting back over Botswana and Namibia before the end of the rainy season and improving conditions for rainfall over South Africa again.

“Longer term forecasts favour a return to La Niña or neutral levels from about August/September with a very low probability for the development of El Niño.”

Warm to hot weather will remain prevalent for most of March. Minimum temperatures are not expected to drop below 10 degrees before the middle of April.

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