El Niño causes climate concern

El Niño conditions have caused the lowest recorded rainfall between October and December across many regions of southern Africa in at least 35 years, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has reported. There are indications that the below-normal rainfall will continue.

The current drought could become one of the worst on record, according to the WFP’s latest report. El Niño conditions have caused the lowest recorded rainfall between October and December across many regions of southern Africa in at least 35 years, it says.

The agency found that short-term forecasts from January to March indicated a high probability of continuing below-normal rainfall in the south.

“The current growing season, which spans from October 2015 to April 2016, is developing under the peak of the El Niño, with the first phase of the growing season characterised by severe and widespread rainfall deficits,” the report states.

It adds that El Niño’s impact on rain-fed agriculture is severe. Poor rainfall combined with excessive temperatures creates conditions that are not conducive for crop growth.

Although El Niño’s impact on people’s livelihood varies according to response capacities, rain-dependent smallholder farmers – who make up at least 50 per cent of the population in southern Africa – are the hardest hit.

In Lesotho, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe, WFP is highlighting that delayed planting of up to two months or more severely impacts maize yields.

The UN food agency underscored that the climate outlook is particularly worrying as it follows a poor harvest in 2014 and 2015.

Photo credit: International Institute of Tropical Agriculture/ CC BY-NC 2.0

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