Victoria Falls — Southern Africa has begun preparations for the 2014/15 agricultural season to ensure that there is adequate food for its people amid preliminary indications that the region could experience extreme weather conditions such as an El Niño.
SADC Director for Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Margaret Nyirenda said there are indications that the region could experience the El Niño phenomenon during the forthcoming agricultural season that runs from October this year to March next year.
The El Niño effect has been associated with previous drought periods in southern Africa. The phenomenon causes the sea temperature to rise significantly in the Pacific Ocean off South America and the air becomes dry, affecting the rain-formation process.
According to Nyirenda, it is important that farmers and other stakeholders in the region prepare for such natural phenomena.
“We encourage our farmers to be ready,” she said, adding that farmers could plant crops that do not take long to mature.
She urged farmers to be on the lookout for information on how to go about their business to ensure that they do not totally lose out in the 2014/14 farming season.
“We are monitoring the situation, and will constantly give updates on the situation,” she said.
She said weather and climate experts from the region will be meeting in late August to develop a consensus climate outlook for southern Africa.
The 18th Southern Africa Regional Climate Outlook Forum (SARCOF-18) to be held on 27-29 August in Windhoek, Namibia is expected to develop a climate outlook for the upcoming rainfall season covering the period October 2014 to March 2015.
The forum will also discuss the potential impacts of the consensus seasonal climate outlook on other socio-economic sectors including disaster risk management, food security, health, water resources and hydropower management.
In addition to this, the forum will review the October 2013 to March 2014 rainy season for the SADC region.
Over the past few years, SADC has received favourable rainfall that has contributed significantly to improved yields.
The SADC Director of Infrastructure and Services, Remigious Makumbe has also urged SADC countries to boost their early warning systems to detect and prepare for natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes.
He said a robust information network is needed to disseminate information on such events well in advance so that citizens are able to cope with the disasters.
The SADC region is generally not prone to disasters such as earthquakes. However, the earthquake in South Africa in early August has illustrated the need to develop vibrant strategies to deal with such disasters.
The 5.3 magnitude earthquake shook buildings in South Africa, with at least one person reported to have been killed while several others were injured.
“We have been in the comfort zone for quite some time and it is time SADC develops a robust early warning mechanism to detect and disseminate information,” Makumbe told journalists ahead of the 34th SADC Heads of State and Government Summit that opens on 17-18 August in the resort town of Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.
The 34th SADC Summit is being held on 8-18 August, with the SADC Heads of State and Government Summit running from 17-18 August. Prior to this, there are meetings of senior officials, followed by the Council of Ministers.
The theme for the summit is “SADC Strategy for Economic Transformation: Leveraging the Region's Diverse Resources for Sustainable Economic and Social Development through Beneficiation and Value Addition.”
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe becomes the SADC chair at this Summit for the coming year, taking over from his Malawian counterpart, President Peter Mutharika.