Windhoek — As livestock and crop farmers across Namibia fear another drought, the prospects for rain this week has improved, while the continuation of seasonal rainfall during February will be critical to crop development and production.
According to the UN's Famine Early Warning Systems Network Report, a weakening of the suppressed convective weather pattern, and a return towards a more seasonably rainfall distribution throughout much of Southern Africa in early February could translate into widespread moderate to locally heavy precipitation over several anomalous dry regions.
Since November, rainfall has been below average in Namibia but since last week significant moisture deficits have strengthened and expanded into several parts of Namibia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Zambia, and southern Angola.
Below-average rain during the past month has resulted in large moisture deficits and below-average vegetation conditions in north-western Namibia and Angola. Unusually high temperatures and dryness have been recorded in south-eastern Africa and are expected to continue.
Namibian farmers formed various prayer groups last week, asking for rain to alleviate some dryness in the country. Rainfall has been more seasonal in South Africa, Lesotho and Botswana, marking the first time in several weeks that these areas have experienced average to above average rainfall. Precipitation totals ranged between 5-50mm.
Above-average rainfall was also registered over the Zambezi region and northern Botswana and northern Namibia.
Many areas in Namibia, Zambia, Mozambique, southern Malawi, Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa are now experiencing less than 80 percent of their normal rainfall accumulation since the beginning of the rainy season. This dryness has led to increased concerns about possible drought, water availability and impacts on cropping activities. Ground conditions have degraded in parts of Namibia, Botswana, Angola, Zambia and western Mozambique.
The report assesses the potential impact of drought on crop and pasture conditions.
Much of Southern Africa has been under the influence of a suppressed convective pattern, which resulted in a mid-season period with significantly low monthly totals and an anomalously low frequency of rainfall.
The impacts of this past January can be felt on the long-term moisture anomalies, as many regions in Zambia, Mozambique, southern Malawi, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and South Africa are now experiencing less than 80 percent of their normal rainfall accumulation since the beginning of November
The dearth of seasonal rainfall throughout many regions in Southern Africa has led to increased concerns for drought, water availability and impacts on cropping activities. Analysis of remotely sensed vegetation health indices suggests a degradation of ground conditions in parts of Namibia, Botswana, Angola, Zambia and western Mozambique.
Deteriorating crop conditions have already been observed in some parts of South Africa, with wilting already taking place in Zimbabwe. Dry conditions intensified in the southern half of the region, threatening production prospects in several areas. Abnormally high temperatures accompany these dry conditions. Short-term rainfall forecasts suggest little respite in the near term.
Due to last season's above-average harvests, staple prices in Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique remain unusually lower than both the five-year average for the same period last season. These price trends have improved the purchasing power of poor households that have depleted their cereal stocks and are relying on market purchases. This is unfortunately not the case in Namibia, and the price of staple diets like maize products is expected to increase soon. As poor seasonal rainfall performance persists, households with surplus stocks will likely reduce the amount that they are selling, potentially triggering a maize price increase during the peak lean season.