Southern Africa Suffers the Driest February in Decades

A large portion of Southern Africa saw the driest February in decades, which destroyed crops, caused power outages, and raised the possibility of already high food prices becoming even higher.

Southern Africa Suffers the Driest February in Decades
Southern Africa Suffers the Driest February in Decades

Southern Africa Suffers the Driest February in Decades

The driest February in decades tore through much of Southern Africa, causing shortages of electricity and inflation.

According to preliminary statistics from the Climate Hazards Centre at the University of California, Santa Barbara, last month saw the least amount of rainfall or nearly the least amount across major portions of Zambia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe since records began in 1981.

The center mostly used satellite-based rainfall estimates for its preliminary evaluation. Additional rainfall gauge readings will be included in the final assessment, which is scheduled for release next week.

The El Niño-caused dry spell is the most recent example of how severely extreme weather events which scientists think are growing more frequent and severe due to climate change are affecting Africa.

Less Than 25% of the Water Flows in the Zambezi River Last Year

A national disaster, according to Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema, was declared last week due to the drought, which has damaged an estimated 45% of planted fields just as the staple corn crop is supposed to be mature.

Some farmers in Zimbabwe have given up on cultivating and harvesting their crops, letting cattle graze on what’s left.

Less than 25% of the water flows in the Zambezi River last year were used to operate the turbines that provide electricity to both countries. In February of last year, the price of maize increased by an average of 76% in Zambia.

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network reports that since December alone, the price of grain in US dollars has increased in neighboring Zimbabwe. Within three months, prices quadrupled in some places.

The crop in 2024 might be half of the previous year’s, the Zimbabwean government has warned.

According to a report published on February 28 in the state-owned Herald newspaper, the local grain millers’ association intends to import up to 1.1 million tons of corn from South Africa and South America during the upcoming year.

The Drought is Expected to Reduce Output

According to the World Food Programme, over 25% of people living in rural areas will not have enough grain in the first quarter.

El Niño has also burnt large portions of Botswana; according to Botswana Meteorological Services, the great bulk of the country was receiving much less rain than usual. Less than half of the land planted by farmers receiving government assistance was in comparison to the previous season.

Dam water levels in Namibia are currently dangerously low. Andries Kok, a representative for the National Water Service, claims that the primary reservoir feeding the capital, Windhoek, is just 11% full and is beginning to decline.

Beyond agriculture, the drought is expected to reduce output. About 85% of Zambia’s electricity is produced hydroponically, and since the water level at Kariba, the largest dam in the world and a dam supplied by the Zambezi, has dropped to 15% of its storage capacity, power will need to be rationed. Zimbabwe’s rolling blackouts have already become more severe.

The government organization that oversees Kariba said that because inflows are so low this season, they may rank among the lowest ever.

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