Malawi farmers smile as weather office predicts normal rains

Penelope Paliani -Kamanga

LILONGWE – Farmers in Malawi are keeping their fingers crossed and preparing for a good harvest following a forecast by the Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services (DCCMS) that the country might have normal rainfall in the 2017/18 rainy season.

Speaking during the dissemination of the 2017/18 seasonal rainfall pattern this week, DCCMS director, Jolamu Nkhokwe said the trend to the season’s forecast was due to the absence of El Nino and La Nina conditions which are associated with normal to above normal rainfall amounts over a greater part of Malawi.

Nkhokwe said the first rains were expected to start in October 2017 through to March 2018, noting that sporadic episodes of extreme weather events such as prolonged dry spells and floods may occur in some areas of the country. But he did not indicate which parts of the country were likely to experience dry spells and floods.

“The department would still be producing daily and weekly weather updates. The public is encouraged to be following the seasonal updates religiously in order to be prepared for any extreme weather events which may occur,” he said.

“It should be noted that this forecast is relevant for relatively large areas and seasonal time scales and therefore may not fully account for all factors that influence localised climate variability, such as daily, weekly and month-to-month variations,” he said. He stressed that the forecast also takes into consideration the fact that tropical cyclones that develop in south-western Indian Ocean may have either adverse or favourable effects on Malawi rainfall.

The period from October to April is the official rainfall season in the country.

The main rains start from November in the southern region and progressively spread northwards.

Farmer’s Union member from Lilongwe, Christopher Phikani, was all smiles and said he was putting his fingers crossed to the news.

“I will make sure that I prepare my garden early so that I achieve maximum results. This year, I was able to harvest more tonnes of maize just because I followed the expert’s advice and I am looking forward to doing the same this year and with this positive news, I am all smiles. I just hope it will not be a false,” he said.

Dokani Mwale, a farmer from Blantyre, said she was waiting patiently for the rains.

“Most of these climate guys tell us that we will have good rains only to receive less rains. I just hope this time around their prediction is for real,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Southern Africa Regional Climate Outlook Forum (SARCOF-21) has predicted that the SADC region is expected to record varying rainfall patterns for the upcoming agricultural season.

According to a statement by SARCOF-21, the region will receive less rainfall in the period October to December, while high rainfall will be experienced from January to March 2018.

In developing this outlook, climate scientists who met at the SARCOF-21 annual meeting held last month in Gaborone, Botswana, took into account oceanic and atmospheric factors that influence climate over the SADC region and in particular, the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) which is currently in its neutral phase, thus unlikely to cause drought conditions. Areas with a likelihood of receiving high rainfall both in the first and second half of the season are the northern-most Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), northern Tanzania, the islands states, eastern half of Botswana, south-western half of Zimbabwe, southern Mozambique, eastern-most Madagascar, most of northern South Africa and Swaziland.

Other areas with a likelihood of receiving high rainfall in the period October to December include the extreme south-western Zambia, the Zambezi Region of Namibia, south-eastern Angola and eastern Lesotho. The rest of southern Africa, except areas mentioned above, has increased chances of receiving below-to normal rainfall.

The 2017/18 rainfall forecast was formulated by climate scientists from the national meteorological and/or hydrological services of member states in the region and the SADC Climate Services Centre, with additional inputs from other global climate prediction centres.

 

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