Many SADC Member States recorded normal to above-normal rainfall during the 2017/18 rainfall season, as predicted by the SADC Climate Services Centre (CSC) in August 2017 at the 21st Southern African Regional Climate Outlook Forum (SARCOF-21). In contrast, the approaching October 2018 - March 2019 rainfall season is forecasted to be normal to below-normal throughout the season over most of the region.
During SARCOF-22, which took place in Lusaka, Zambia in August 2018, the community of climate information users discussed and formulated mitigation measures for the sectors of Agriculture and Food Security; Water and Energy; Livestock; Disaster Risk Management; Health; and Early Warning and Conflict.
The forecast presents a concern for agriculture. Districts affected by dry conditions will require the optimal use of available resources to safeguard agricultural production. Recommendations include:
• Diversify crop production with drought- and disease-tolerant crops; early maturing crops; and high-yield varieties;
• Make available agricultural inputs to farmers before the onset of the rains;
• Employ water conservation and harvesting techniques for improved accessibility and availability;
• Adopt staggered planting dates for crops;
• Increase investment in irrigation; and • Employ post-harvest techniques to avoid loses.
The sector(s) of Water and Energy should see normal to below-normal river flows. Recommended mitigation measures include:
• Prioritize the charging of depleted reservoirs;
• Undertake a simulation exercise to test water allocation guidelines;
• Develop water management scenarios; and • Continue with the importation of power and expedite the completion of internal power projects.
Regarding Disaster risk reduction (DRR), the worse-case scenario will be uneven rainfall with sudden heavy rains that can lead to flooding, displacement, destruction of property and infrastructure, and loss of life. In such a situation, access to basic social services could be disrupted, including to schools, health facilities and markets. Affected areas may also face outbreaks of water- and vector-borne diseases.
The key recommendation is that prevention is better than cure. It also contributes to resilience-building. Planning for extreme events is an essential way forward for all SADC Member States to implement mitigation and adaptation measures.