Preparations for 2014/15 farming season begin


Southern Africa has begun preparations for the 2014/15 agricultural season to ensure that there is adequate food for its people amid preliminary indications that the bulk of the region could experience normal to above normal rainfall.

Regional weather and climate experts made the prediction at their recent meeting in Windhoek, Namibia.

Before the experts met, there had been indications that the region could experience extreme weather conditions such as an El Niño.

Earlier, SADC Director for Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Margaret Nyirenda had said there had been  indications that the region could experience the El Niño phenomenon during the forthcoming agricultural season that runs from October this year to March next year.

The El Niño effect has been associated with previous drought periods in southern Africa. The phenomenon causes the sea temperature to rise significantly in the Pacific Ocean off South America and the air becomes dry, affecting the rain-formation process.

<p> But she had said weather and climate experts from the region would come up with a climate outlook for southern Africa at their Windhoek meeting.

The 18th Southern Africa Regional Climate Outlook Forum (SARCOF-18) held on 27-29 August in Windhoek, Namibia gave a climate outlook for the upcoming rainfall season covering the period October 2014 to March 2015.

The SADC climate experts forecast a normal to above normal rainfall season for the bulk of the region.

A statement from the 18th Southern Africa Regional Climate Outlook Forum (Sarcof 18) says the bulk of the SADC region will receive normal to above normal rainfall from October 2014 to February 2015.

“Central Mozambique, southern half of Malawi, north eastern half of Zimbabwe, the bulk of Zambia, south eastern half of Angola, bulk of Namibia and western half of Botswana have increased chances of normal to above normal.

“South western half of Zimbabwe, extreme south western Zambia, Zambezi area of Namibia and most of northern parts of South Africa have high chances of receiving normal to above normal rainfall in the first half of the season.

“However, northern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), northern Madagascar and Mauritius are more likely to receive normal to below-normal rainfall during the first and second halves of the season,” reads the report.

The forum also discussed the potential impact of the consensus seasonal climate outlook on other socio-economic sectors including disaster risk management, food security, health, water resources and hydropower management.

In addition to this, the forum reviewed the October 2013 to March 2014 rainy season for the SADC region.

According to Nyirenda, it is important that farmers and other stakeholders in the region prepare for such natural phenomena.

“We encourage our farmers to be ready,” she said, adding that farmers could plant crops that do not take long to mature.

She urged farmers to be on the lookout for information on how to go about their business to ensure that they do not totally lose out in the 2014/14 farming season.

            “We are monitoring the situation, and will constantly give updates on the situation,” she said.

Over the past few years, SADC has received favourable rainfall that has contributed significantly to improved yields.

Zimbabwe’s Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Joseph Made has urged farmers in the country to speed up preparations as the summer cropping season was already underway.

The SADC Director of Infrastructure and Services, Remigious Makumbe has also urged SADC countries to boost their early warning systems to detect and prepare for natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes.

He said a robust information network is needed to disseminate information on such events well in advance so that citizens are able to cope with the disasters.

The SADC region is generally not prone to disasters such as earthquakes. 

However, the earthquake in South Africa in early August has illustrated the need to develop vibrant strategies to deal with such disasters.

The 5.3 magnitude earthquake shook buildings in South Africa, with at least one person reported to have been killed while several others were injured.

“We have been in the comfort zone for quite some time and it is time SADC develops a robust early warning mechanism to detect and disseminate information,” Makumbe told journalists ahead of the 34th SADC Heads of State and Government Summit that was held on 17-18 August in the resort town of Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.

At the summit, the SADC Heads of State and Government reviewed the regional food and nutrition security situation and noted increases in food production during the 2013-2014 farming season.

However, humanitarian assistance and malnutrition remain a challenge. “To this end, summit endorsed a Regional Food and Nutrition Security Strategy for 2015 to 2025 to ensure improved food availability, accessibility and utilisation in a more sustainable manner,” read the communique issued at the end of  the summit.

The SADC Council of Ministers meeting  mandated the Joint Committee of Ministers responsible for Agriculture and Food Security and Ministers of Health established under this Strategy to oversee implementation and review of the Strategy and report to Council biennially. Council considered and endorsed the Regional Agricultural Policy.

The Council of Ministers meeting also considered reports of the Ministerial cluster for Agriculture and Food Security. 

The Council also reiterated its decision to urge member states to continue implementing the Plan of Action of the Dar es Salaam Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security, which has partly been the reason behind the increase in food production in the region in recent years. – Herald

September 2014
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