Southern Africa is expected to receive erratic rainfall in the 2018/19 as the rainfall forecast shows a normal to below normal outlook in the most part of the region. When presenting the forecast at the 22nd Southern African Regional Climate Outlook Forum (SARCOF), review held in Maun, the Coordinator for Resilience Hub for Southern Africa, Dr Lewis Hope, said the potential for normal rainfall presents an opportunity for good agricultural performance, while the possibility of below average rains presents risks that require adequate preparedness and contingency planning.
He said such forecats shows potential risks to the agricultural sector including limited water availability, poor grazing conditions , heat stress to crops and livestock, as well as increased fires due to high temperatures. There is also potential for false starts and dry spells, he said. “Since the situation may adversely impact on regional household food security and necessitate negative coping strategies, there is likelihood to increases in illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, deforestation and poaching,” he warned.
Dr Hope suggested that to counter these risks stakeholders need to encourage crop diversification, incorporating drought tolerant and disease varieties, facilitate timely availability of agricultural inputs to farmers, and advocate for appropriate and climate –smart agricultural practices.
He also stated that the 2018/19 season also presents a good opportunity to maximize agricultural production particularly in areas that normally receive good rainfall. From a crop production perspective, he said farmers can utilize the forecast by committing a portion of their cropland to medium to date maturing and high level varieties. He also encourage farmers to stagger their planting dates in consultation with extension and meteorological services. “The forecast also presents an opportunity for the Agro-Forestry sector, as the normal rains expected allow for tree planting and reforestation in relevant areas,” he said
SADC Secretariat representative, Dr Prithival Booneeady, said the provision of weather and climate services to the climate sensitive socio-economic sectors such as infrastructure, water , transport and energy sectors helps to prevent and minimize loss of investment from the impact of adverse extreme conditions and weather climate. Dr Booneeady also advised that improving regional Early Warning System (EWS) is a key factor in the concept of Weather ready and Climate smart. He says the concept implies the use of the meteorological information that sustainability increases productively, enhances resilience adaption, reduces Greenhouse Gas (GHS) emissions mitigation where possible, and enhance achievement of national and regional development goals. Climate smart is the underlying success factors for achievement of the SDAC sustainable regional integration development strategy, he said.
SADC region is frequently facing a wide range of hazards, among others storms, tropical cyclone, flash flood, heat waves, and drought. “All these hazards are being gradually exacerbated by climate variation and change”, he warned.