Sifelani Tsiko Agric, Environment & Innovations Editor
Regional climate experts drawn from all 16 SADC member states are expected to meet in the Angolan capital Luanda from August 28-30 to generate and develop a consensus outlook for the coming rainy season within the region.
Zimbabwe’s Meteorological Service Department (MSD) acting director Rebecca Manzou told The Herald yesterday that the 23rd Southern African Regional Climate Outlook Forum (SARCOF-23) would be held in the coming two weeks to disseminate the seasonal rainfall and temperature forecast for the 2019-2020 cropping season.
The forum will be held under the theme “Understanding the Earth system to build resilience against recurring extreme weather and climate events in SADC region”.
Climate experts are expected to issue a warning statement for the upcoming rainfall season on August 30.
Zimbabwe will issue its own national forecast on September 4 this year.
The Sadc climate experts were also expected to rigorously analyse climate data and come up with a season forecast for the coming cropping season.
Zimbabwe hosted the 20th Southern Africa Regional Climate Outlook Forum (SARCOF) conference in 2016.
After analysing climate data, weather experts will then draw up a seasonal forecast which is expected to be issued by the Sadc Climate Services Centre at the forthcoming main SARCOF conference.
“The recent extreme climate variation associated with El Niño event led to impacts to agriculture,water resource and hydro power generation in several member states in SADC region which are still fresh in our memories,” read part of the SARCOF-23 statement.
“These climatic variations had resulted in adverse impacts on economic, social and environmental conditions in the SADC region.
“It is, therefore, critical to review and make analogue analysis of the potential impacts of these large-scale climate variability and associated extremes for the upcoming season by providing timely early warning of hydro-meteorological hazards for multi-sectoral policy decision towards socio-economic development to our community.”
Climate experts from all SADC countries usually meet every year to analyse climate data and share the information with all weather scientists and user communities.
The forecast for the 2018-2019 cropping season was largely accurate as predicted.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) region recorded the lowest rainfall in nearly four decades in the 2018-2019 cropping season, sparking fears of increased food insecurity and water shortages in the region.
A strong drought affected central and western parts of the region during the previous rainfall season.
“Many parts of southern Angola, northern and southern Botswana, northern Namibia, north-western South Africa, southern and western Zambia and north-western Zimbabwe received their lowest seasonal (October-March) rainfall totals since at least 1981,” a SADC Agromet report said.
The low seasonal rainfall totals observed in the region, the report said, were primarily the result of delayed and erratic onset of rains in several areas that resulted in reduced area planted and poor germination.
A mid-season dry spell of varying duration also resulted in moisture stress and wilting of crops, while an early cessation of rains across central areas further exacerbated pre-mature wilting of crops.
Furthermore, in mid-March, Cyclone Idai destroyed hundreds of thousands of hectares of cropland in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
In the 2015-2016 season, the region experienced the dreaded warmer-than-average weather pattern — El Niño — which caused a devastating drought in the entire sub-region.
However, in the 2016-2017 season, SADC experienced La Nina, which was characterised by better rainfall and climate conditions.
The 2018-2019 drought has affected water supplies for domestic, industrial and agricultural — irrigation and livestock — usage.
Forage for livestock was also negatively impacted and reductions in pasture availability was being experienced in the worst affected areas as the dry season progresses.
The poor grazing and water conditions are negatively affecting livestock and reports show that well over 30 000 drought-related cattle deaths have been recorded in Namibia between October 2018 and April 2019.
Only a few areas in the SADC region received good rainfall for much of the season.
United Nations agencies estimate that more than six million Zimbabweans face hunger between now and the next harvest in 2020.
The UN has already launched an appeal for food assistance to the country.
Zimbabwe has 800 000 tonnes in its reserves against a consumption of 1,8 million tonnes.
Poor rains across eastern Africa, southern Africa and the Horn of Africa have led to another desperate season for farmers reeling under severe water and food shortages as well as rising food prices.
Millions of people are vulnerable across the three regions and the UN estimates that more than 45 million people will struggle to find enough food across 14 countries in these regions this year.
This is for the second time in three years that an El Niño weather phenomenon has caused adverse weather conditions in these three African regions.
In 2017, the UN estimated that more than 38 million people were in need of food assistance after two consecutive years of drought.