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Southern Africa Special Report - January 7, 2021

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Situation Report
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Illustrating the extent and severity of consecutive droughts, 2014/15 to 2019/20 seasons

This report details, through a series of maps, the extent and severity of drought during the 2019/20 agriculture season, the number of poor seasons[1] across the region since 2014, and their associated impacts on crop and rangeland conditions, food prices, and food security. Below-average and erratic 2019/20 rainfall marked the third, fourth, or fifth poor season since 2014 across much of Southern Africa. The moisture and rainfall deficits experienced early in the season, coupled with the erratic mid-season rainfall, resulted in agricultural drought[2] across parts of the region. For a more detailed narrative and analysis of the drought’s current and expected effects on food security, please visit https://fews.net/southern-africa.

The map above illustrates that much of Southern Africa experienced only one or two favorable main rainfall seasons since 2014, with three or more of the last six seasons registering as below-average throughout much of the region (Figure 1). Poor households are typically able to withstand one bad rainfall season; however, the compounding effects of consecutive poor seasons limit households’ capacity to cope. Due to consecutive poor seasons, agricultural-based casual labor opportunities and livestock productivity have remained lower than normal in some places over the last six years.

[1] A below-average season is defined as a WRSI value that was either 90 percent or less of average or did not receive sufficient rains for an onset.

[2] Agricultural drought is considered when the soil moisture availability to plants has dropped to such a level that it adversely affects the crop yield (Mannocchi et al. 2004)