UN raises alarm on drought crisis in SADC
By Mpho Tebele Gaborone- The United Nations has warned of a looming crisis as delayed rains and below-average precipitation since October have reduced cereal production prospects and lowered pasture yields in Southern Africa.
This is contained in the latest report of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) detailing the impact of reduced rains, which is expected to have caused a contraction in the area planted and lowered yield prospects in most parts of the region.
The report states that “Since the start of the 2018/19 cropping season in October, anomalous dry conditions have developed across parts of Southern Africa, with more intense moisture deficits registered in Botswana, Namibia and South Africa, in addition to the western parts of Madagascar.” In Botswana, the report says, rainfall in October and November was about 60-65% below average.
The report says rangeland provides the bulk of feed requirements and the use of supplementary feed is not a common practice among the majority of households in the traditional farming sector.
Some of the lowest cumulative rainfall was registered in central and southern parts of Otjozondjupa Region, the bulk of Omaheke Region, eastern parts of Hardap and //Kharas regions, several pockets in Erongo, Kunene, Khomas (eastern parts) and the north-eastern regions (including the regions of Omusati, Oshana and Oshikoto), where a significant proportion of communal farming households are located.
In the large cereal‑producing provinces of Free State and North West, reduced rains delayed plantings and are expected to have curbed the area sown; cumulative rainfall at the provincial level has been 40‑50% below average since October.
As a result, the area sown to cereal crops is estimated to have contracted for the 2018/19 cropping season to an average or below‑average level in these countries.
Overall, the 2019 cereal production outlook in most parts of Southern Africa has diminished since the start of the season and average to below-average harvests are foreseen,” the report says.
“It further warns that livestock production is also expected to be curtailed by the dry weather conditions.
Reports indicate that South Africa’s agricultural industry body AgriSA will approach banks, agribusiness and government to raise R3 billion (US$220 million) to help farmers hit by severe drought.