Weather Hazards Impacts Assessment for Africa: March 29 - April 4, 2007

from Famine Early Warning System Network
Published on 29 Mar 2007
Drought conditions have resulted in crop failure across western parts of RSA's Maize Triangle, Lesotho and southern Zimbabwe, with crop stress in the eastern part of the Maize Triangle as well as central Zimbabwe and Swaziland. Drought conditions have developed in eastern Botswana and southern Mozambique as well.

Favorable growing conditions in northern Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia, Angola and Namibia have resulted from abundant rains. In Ethiopia, the Belg rains are off to a reasonable start.

1) Crop stress and crop failures in southeastern Africa. Below normal and poorly distributed rainfall throughout the area has hampered the growing season. The worst impacts are centered on the western Maize Triangle in South Africa and southern portions of Zimbabwe.

2) Heavy rains are expected along the Tanzania coast. This is the time of year when the heaviest rains normally fall in Tanzania, and conditions have been wetter than normal since February.

3) Plentiful, well distributed rainfall across Tanzania, northern Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, southern Angola, and northern Namibia has provided for good to excellent growing conditions. In some localized areas rainfall was excessive causing some flooding.

4) Steady Belg rains have returned to the Ethiopian highlands. Rains started early, and although there was a short break during March, rainfall has returned, and is expected to continue into the next period.

5) Water supplies across central Ivory Coast and Ghana are below normal as a result of low rainfall during the past several months. Rainfall has improved since mid-March and continued precipitation will replenish water supplies quickly.

Poor conditions will not improve this season in parts of RSA, southern Zimbabwe, southern Mozambique and the surrounding region. Hot, dry conditions in the region since the beginning of the New Year have devastated the region. The worst of the conditions are centered in the western portions of RSA's Maize Triangle, southern Zimbabwe and western Lesotho where crop failures have been reported. Crop stress across eastern parts of the Maize Triangle, as well as Swaziland and central Zimbabwe has also been reported, and crop yield reductions are likely. Those farms that employed soil moisture conservation techniques, such as deep soil ripping, and those that planted earlier are more likely to have a better crop. Conditions are also poor in eastern Botswana and southern Mozambique where erratic and light rains have resulted in poor conditions. The high producing areas in northern Zimbabwe received normal rains throughout the year, although conditions have dried out during the last week.

In the area north of the Zambezi River, water supplies, crops and pastures have all benefited from well distributed rainfall. Nearly ideal growing conditions throughout this region have greatly benefited crops, pastures and water supplies. Southern Angola, northern Namibia, including the Caprivi Strip, and Zambia have all had seasons with little or no dry spells and overall favorable amounts of precipitation. According to the latest issue of the Rainfall and Agromet Bulletin from Malawi, a bumper crop is expected once again this year. The maize crop in Malawi is at maturity or at the drying stage, signaling the end of the season. Favorable conditions are being reported across Tanzania as well. According to the most recent Weather Review put out by the Tanzania Meteorological Agency, pastures and water supplies are at or above normal. Meanwhile, crops are reported to be in good condition in the unimodal areas, with favorable early season conditions in the bimodal areas. According to a recent field report, the good rains have resulted in the early filling of the reservoir behind the Mtera dam in Rufiji basin this year. These good conditions are expected to continue, with season wrapping up in many areas, and in Tanzinia's bimodal areas continuing to see favorable conditions into the coming week.

The lower Zambezi and Shire rivers are slowly returning to normal after flood waters caused damage earlier this year. Hevay rainfall, as well as tropical cyclone activity in the area caused the most severe flooding since 2001. However with the wet season ending, rainfall has begun to taper off across the basin. Water levels along the river have begun to recede. Although the floods have washed away bridges, displaced people and inundated some crops, the abundance of moisture should result in favorable conditions for a flood recession crop this year.

Rainfall has had an early start to the season in Ethiopia. If these rains continue, it will benefit the crops grown during the Belg season in southwestern Ethiopia and the highland areas in the northern and central portions of the country. There was a brief break in the rains during the middle part of March, however rainfall was plentiful during the past week, and more moisture is expected during the next seven days. Rainfall has also made its way into southern and northern portions of Somalia.

During the past few weeks there has been heavy rainfall along the Tanzanian coast. Additional moisture during the next seven days could cause localized flooding.