THE Meteorological Services Department (MSD) has warned that the El Nino weather factor, initially predicted to end in December 2015, is to continue until the end of March.
The effects of El Nino will therefore mean that the country will receive below normal rainfall for the 2015/2016 rainfall season, resulting in a drought season.
MSD head of public weather service, Tich Zinyemba, warned of flooding in some areas.
The impact of the drought is likely to result in food shortages.
MSD principal meteorologist, Linia Gopo, said the rainfall season, which normally begins in October and ends in March, started late and the first half of the rainfall season was very short.
“Region 1 comprising Harare, most parts of Mashonaland West, Mashonaland Central, north eastern parts of Midlands and parts of Manicaland had been forecast to receive normal to above normal rainfall, but this has since changed to normal to below normal rainfall,” she said.
The current El Nino is said to be the strongest to ever hit southern Africa as the poor rainfall has been observed across the region (in some areas less than 25 percent of the average), and South Africa has declared drought emergencies in some provinces.
According to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET)’s October 2015 to March 2016 report, the effects of El Nino will be felt across all sectors, including agricultural and livestock, food security, health, water and sanitation, and education, leading to economic contraction and changes in migration patterns as agricultural labour opportunities disappear.
“Even with the predicted El Nino, significant floods are still expected: during the second half of the rainfall season (January to March 2016), floods are likely to occur in Malawi (where 230 000 people were displaced by floods in January 2015), Mozambique, Tanzania and Madagascar.
“There is a 65 percent chance that a cyclone will hit Madagascar, a phenomena to which Mozambique also remains perennially at risk. Flash floods are also likely in urban areas characterised by poor infrastructure and drainage, and along major rivers, particularly the Zambezi. With the rains come water-borne diseases such as cholera, which is endemic in the region,” FEWSNET said.
El Nino will increase the country’s food inadequacy. The food situation between January and March 2016 largely depend on the performance of the rainfall season.
The country is already facing a cereal deficit for the rest of the 2015/16 consumption year. Total national cereal production from the 2014/15 cropping season was 49 percent lower than the previous year and 60 percent below the five-year average.
Most affected areas include Matabeleland South and Masvingo, where production was 24 percent and 35 percent below the five-year average, respectively. In Matabeleland North and Midlands Provinces, production was 43 and 41 percent below the five-year average.
“Zimbabwe continues to face one of the largest national maize deficits in the region, leading to significant import requirements for the 2015-/16 consumption year. So far, about 245 000 tonnes of grain was formally imported between April and August 2015, with over 99 percent of it coming from Zambia. According to ZIMSTAT, during the same period over 11 600 tonnes of groats (crushed maize) and maize flour were formally imported, with 95 percent of it from South Africa and the rest from Zambia. Informal imports of both maize grain and maize flour continue to flow in,” FEWSNET said.
The occurrence of the mid-season dry spell in January and February may have a negative impact on agriculture considering the late start of the rainfall season and the expected early cessation of the rainfall season in most areas.
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