moisture; drought; Zambia

Moisture deficit threatens early crops across Africa

The Southern African region needs “above average” rains over the next few weeks to eliminate early season moisture deficits in agricultural zones that include the maize triangle of South Africa, Botswana and the Indian Ocean coastal areas of Madagascar.

In a rainfall pattern analysis published in the 1 to 7 December edition of its Weather Hazards Bulletin, the Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWSNET) said despite improvements in the early seasonal rainfall pattern, Southern African still faces a serious moisture deficit.

“Over the past several weeks, the lack of early season rainfall over South Africa has resulted in the development of widespread moisture deficits, particularly in the western portion of the maize triangle. Rainfall received last week did help to provide moisture relief on the short term.

“However, several local areas in the North West, Gauteng, Free State and Limpopo Provinces of South Africa, and neighbouring regions in Botswana remain below average (estimated between 25% to 80% of normal rainfall) since the end of October. Above average rainfall is needed in the next few weeks to further eliminate early season moisture deficits,” reads part of the rainfall analysis.

Apart from South Africa and Botswana, the below average rainfall pattern that settled over the region in mid-October has caused considerable moisture deficits in Lesotho and Swaziland.

The disaster alert said although heavy rains continued up to last week in the central and eastern provinces of Madagascar, “persistently poor rains during September and October have left many coastal areas in the south at below average” since the start of the season.

However, recent weather forecasts suggest that Madagascar could record improvements in the seasonal rainfall pattern starting early in December.

Also read: Food security outlook deteriorates in Southern Africa


According to FEWSNET, the threat of famine remains despite the above average seasonal rains that have helped eliminate early-season moisture deficits across parts of Somalia and Kenya.

“Dryness remains in parts of the northern Somali region of eastern Ethiopia. Moisture recovery is unlikely in the northern regions, as seasonal rains are expected to be concentrated towards the south throughout November,” FEWSNET said.

The analysis also noted a slight increase in rains across central and southern Somalia and reported a persisting moisture deficit over south-western Ethiopia.


FEWSNET said the East African region remains dry with continued low rainfall amounts recorded throughout Kenya and in some parts of north and north-western Tanzania.

“According to satellite rainfall estimates, the highest weekly accumulations were recorded over the Lake Victoria region, with well distributed, moderate amounts (of up to 25 mm) over north-western Tanzania. Lighter amounts (of between 2 mm and 25 mm) were recorded over south-western Ethiopia, Somalia and southern Kenya,” read part of the assessment.

The East African rainfall pattern analysis for November indicates persisting dry conditions in the Isiolo, Marsabit, Southern Wajir, Garissa, Tana, Kitui and Makueni regions of Kenya. In Tanzania, the Arusha, Kilimanjaro and Tanga regions are most affected by moisture stress.

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