For agriculture sectors the 2016/17 annual SADC rainfall outlook represents a good opportunity to farmers to maximise agricultural production, particularly for areas that normally receive good rainfall, and where the forecast is for normal with a bias towards above normal rainfall.
From a crop production perspective, farmers can comprehensively utilise the forecast by committing a larger portion of their cropland to medium to late maturing high-performance varieties, but some percentage of the cropland should also be put to early maturing and drought-tolerant crops and varieties, as a contingency measure to guard against the outside possibility of below average.
Crop diversification, especially planting of some drought-tolerant crops in relevant areas, as well as nutrition-rich crops, is encouraged.
This is some of the advice contained in the SADC Early Warning Bulletin for the 2016/17 rainy season released yesterday.
According to the report, water and energy sectors are foreseen to expect normal river flows, with priorities to fill up the low reservoirs, plans to undertake a simulation for water allocations guidelines, to develop the management scenario, continue with importation of power and to expedite the completion of internal power projects.
For the disaster risk reduction sector, the forecast suggests a likelihood of normal to above normal rains, which have the potential to lead to incidences of flooding. In a worst case scenario, flooding may lead to loss of lives, displacement of populations, destruction of properties and infrastructure, and interrupt access to basic social services such as schools, health facilities and markets. Affected areas may also face outbreaks of water and vector-borne diseases.
In order for end-users to be able to take full advantage of the forecast of normal rains to above normal conditions, all suppliers and agencies involved in the production and distribution of inputs such as seeds and fertilizer need to ensure that these become available to farmers on time, well before the onset of rains.
The key recommendation is that planning for extreme events is an essential way forward for all SADC member states to mitigate and adapt to the threat of the adverse effects of climate variability.
The outlook for the 2016/17 is the opposite of the last season. According to the last season’s (2015/2016) records, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) received below-normal to normal rainfall for the period October to December, 2015, and January to March, 2016. Whereas according to this current season (2016/2017) forecast, most parts of the SADC region are expected to receive normal to above-normal rainfall for the bulk of the central and southern part of the region, and normal to below over the northern parts.
The user community that participated at SARCOF-20 discussed and formulated the mitigation measures for water resources and energy, agriculture and food security, livestock, disaster risk management, and communications, among many other sectors.