La Niña could jeopardise food security

“Most notably, there is an increased chance of flooding due to excessive precipitation, which could damage or destroy standing crops, wash away seeds, increase livestock morbidity and mortality and cause population displacements,” a report read.

06 January 2021 | Agriculture

ELLANIE SMIT







WINDHOEK

The United Nations’ agency responsible for the promotion of food security has warned that the prevailing La Niña meteorological phenomenon poses a devastating threat on agriculture and food security.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s latest advisory report for southern Africa, La Niña is generally associated with a higher probability of above-average rainfall from around November to April.

This is a period that corresponds to the main cropping season for most countries in the region, including Namibia. It said although these conditions tend to be conducive for agricultural production, there are potential risks associated with La Niña.

“Most notably, there is an increased chance of flooding due to excessive precipitation, which could damage or destroy standing crops, wash away seeds, increase livestock morbidity and mortality and cause population displacements,” reads the report.

Namibia in recent days received heavy rains which forced the country’s water authorities to open the sluices at some of the country’s biggest dams. The rains also led to the destruction of private dwellings and several public infrastructures such as roads and bridges.

Risk of flooding

While the rains across the country came as a relief to many farmers whose pasture and crop yields were ravaged by the drought, there are fears that the phenomenon poses major flood risks.

The report noted that heavy rain brought on by the effect of La Niña caused the worst floods in four decades to hit Namibia in 2009.

Flooding can also damage agricultural infrastructure, such as wells and irrigation systems, and increase the risks of pest infestations.

Even without floods, wetter or more humid conditions raise the likelihood of an increased prevalence of crop pests and of crop and animal diseases. This means the forecast for normal to above-normal rainfall raises the risk of further African migratory locust outbreaks, if the current outbreak is not quickly brought under control.

Meanwhile, the report added that there is a higher-than-normal probability of increased cyclone activity between November 2020 and April 2021 in the southwest Indian Ocean.

Prevailing oceanic and atmospheric conditions also create an increased likelihood that cyclone trajectories will be westward, raising the chances of landfalls in Madagascar and Mozambique.

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