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SADC Regional Early Warning Bulletin Update of the 2018/19 Southern Africa Rainfall Season (December 2018)

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Executive summary

The SARCOF-22 Review and Update held in Maun, Botswana from 13-14 December 2018 confirms that many SADC Member States have recorded normal to below-normal rainfall during October-November 2018, as predicted by the 22nd Southern African Regional Climate Outlook Forum (SARCOF-22) which took place in Lusaka, Zambia. Due to the dynamic nature of the climate system, SADC CSC convened the Midterm review and Update. The updated climate outlook depicted the persistence of normal to below-normal rainfall conditions during January to May 2019 in most parts of the region with the exception of the northern and south-western part of the region, which are expected to be normal to above normal.

During SARCOF-22 Update meeting, the community of climate information users discussed and updated the mitigation measures for the sectors of Agriculture and Food Security; Water and Energy; Livestock; Disaster Risk Management, Health; and Early Warning and Conflict.

The updated forecast confirms a concern for agriculture. All the measures and recommendations proposed during SARCOF-22 remain valid. Amongst them are:

  • Diversification of crop production with drought- and disease-tolerant crops; early maturing crops; and high-yield varieties;

  • Making available the agricultural inputs to farmers before the onset of the rains;

  • Employing water conservation and harvesting techniques for improved accessibility and availability;

  • Adopting staggered planting dates for crops; and increase investment in irrigation; and

  • Employing post-harvest techniques to avoid loses.

The sector(s) of Water and Energy have recommended the following mitigation measures due to the normal to below-normal rainfall conditions outlook impact on river flow for the period January to March 2019:

  • Prioritize the charging of depleted reservoirs;

  • Undertake a simulation exercise to test water allocation guidelines;

  • Develop water management scenarios; and

  • Continue with importation of power and expedite the completion of internal power projects.
    Regarding Disaster risk reduction (DRR), the updated climate outlook depicts the shifting from

  • normal to below normal to normal to above-normal rainfall – over northern and southwest part of the region

  • normal to above-normal to normal to below normal –over central belt of the region

In the worse-case scenario there will be uneven rainfall with sudden heavy rains that can lead to flash 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 to devise measures to cope with normal to above-normal conditions, which cover most of the remaining period of the season.