The majority of the country is currently reporting poor to reasonable veld and livestock conditions. Summer rainfall areas began receiving some rain, mostly later in October and farmers are preparing land for planting. Parts of the Western Cape, extreme western areas of the Northern Cape and the Sarah Baartman District of the Eastern Cape continue to experience dry conditions. The average level of major dams remains high in most provinces.
According to the Seasonal Climate Watch issued by the South African Weather Service, dated 1 November 2022, above-normal rainfall is expected for most parts of the country for the summer season. Minimum temperatures are expected to be above-normal countrywide, however, maximum temperatures are expected to be below-normal over large parts of the country during the entire summer.
The October Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) reported that Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to become more widespread in areas of southern Madagascar, Malawi and Mozambique, as well as areas of Angola and much of Zimbabwe due to compounding impacts of poor 2021/22 rainfall, tropical cyclones, and domestic economic declines that started in October. Food security outcomes are expected to be most severe in southwestern Madagascar, where Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes also started in October. The population in need is likely to steadily increase through early 2023. Conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and northern Mozambique remains the primary driver of acute food insecurity with the disruption to livelihood activities. In Mozambique, the Cabo Delgado and Nampula provinces experienced an escalation of militia attacks in September. According to the International Organization for Migration, more than 15 400 people were displaced between late August and late September. In the DRC, the security situation in the eastern provinces continues to deteriorate, especially in Ituri. Households in conflict-affected areas continue experiencing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes and face difficulty engaging in the upcoming agricultural season.
FEWS NET further reported that across the region, poor households are engaging in off-season income-earning activities. While opportunities are currently limited, they were expected to improve to near-normal levels in October as land preparation started in most areas. November through December will likely see further improvements in agricultural activities, including planting. Predicted La Niña conditions are typically associated with average to above-average rainfall in Southern Africa. They will likely improve the availability of agricultural labour opportunities in most of the region. However, in areas like southern Madagascar, income from agricultural labour opportunities will remain lower than normal as better-off households have lower liquidity following consecutive droughts. Food prices are increasing as more households rely on markets for food, especially in areas where production deficits were observed in 2022.
This year, price increases have been accelerated by high fuel prices linked to high global prices, according to FEWS NET. Prices of maize grain are 70% to 180% above the five-year average in Malawi and up to 42% higher than the average in Mozambique. In the DRC and Zimbabwe, food prices are expected to remain above the five-year average throughout the lean season. In Madagascar’s southern drought-affected areas, dried cassava prices are 67% higher than average. In most countries, inflation has also been increasing, likely triggering more price increases for food. Poor households in the most deficit areas will continue struggling to access food commodities on the market due to weak purchasing power.
[The IPC is a set of standardised tools that aims at providing a “common currency” for classifying the severity and magnitude of food insecurity.]
With the current conditions in mind, as well as the seasonal forecast, dryland farmers are advised to wait for sufficient moisture before planting and remain within the planting window. Farmers in areas that have been constantly experiencing dry conditions should prioritise drought-tolerant cultivars. In regions that are in reasonable condition, farmers are advised to prepare in line with the expected conditions, i.e., in line with the seasonal forecast. However, they should not expand planting land unnecessarily. In addition, farmers should note that rainfall distribution remains a challenge, therefore not all areas might receive the anticipated above-normal rainfall that is well distributed.
Farmers are also advised to put measures in place for pests and diseases associated with wet and hot conditions as above-normal rainfall is anticipated. Moreover, it is important for farmers to follow the weather forecast regularly so as to make informed decisions. Farmers using irrigation should comply with water restrictions in their areas. Farmers must continually conserve resources in accordance with the Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act, 1983 (Act No. 43 of 1983).
Farmers are advised to keep livestock in balance with carrying capacity of the veld, and provide additional feed such as relevant licks. Livestock should be provided with enough water points on the farm as well as shelter during bad weather conditions. Winter rainfall areas are becoming drier, increasing favourable conditions for veld fires. Therefore, the creation and maintenance of fire belts through mechanical means should be prioritised along with adherence to veld fire warnings.