Zimbabwe

Consecutive years of record below-average rainfall affecting crops in Zimbabwe - Updated February 20, 2020

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Highlights

• The 2019 October to December (OND) rainy season in Zimbabwe was one of the worst on record and rainfall deficits remain across much of the country (Figure 1). • Three of the past five OND seasons have been among the worst rainfall on record since 19811 (the worst year on record was 2015/2016). This has reduced farmer resilience and impacted their access to inputs and seed. • In the south and west of Zimbabwe, planted area is critically low and over areas that did plant, germination is poor and permanent crop wilting resulted in some areas.
• Rainfall improved in mid-January, primarily in the main producing areas including Mashonaland provinces, reducing accumulated rainfall deficits. This was followed by a large rainfall system in the first week of February, which brought heavy rains across the country and resulted in flooding in some areas.
• Recent rains will improve rainfall deficits and replenish water supplies, notably in the main producing north. However, the rains came too late and are insufficient to offset the rainfall deficits and recovery is unlikely due to below-average planted area and cumulative impacts of seasonal rainfall deficits.

Overview

In Zimbabwe, record below-average October to December (OND) rainfall has severely impacted crop prospects as a result of below-normal planted area, permanent and near-permanent crop losses, persistent water and pasture challenges, and livestock losses. A main driver of this season’s below-average rainfall was the October to December 2019 Indian Ocean Dipole which was recorded as the strongest of the 20th and early 21st century and long-lasting, causing abnormal sea surface temperatures and driving the suppressed rains in Southern Africa and enhanced rains in East Africa.

Matebeleland South province has been the worst affected by low planted areas with reports indicating that in some parts of the province up to 70 percent of households did not plant. This reduction in planted areas can be seen from satellite imagery where even compared to last year’s 2018/2019 poor season, active vegetation is significantly reduced (Figure 2; Figure 3). Planted area in Masvingo and Matebeleland North provinces is also estimated to have declined. This is also the case (although to a lesser extent) across Southern Midlands and Manicaland. When considering all provinces, planted area is reported to be below the five-year average and less than the previous 2018/2019 season. Fall Armyworm is being reported across most of the country with African Armyworm incidences reported in parts of the Midlands Province.