El Niño puts further pressure on food security

Henry

The El Niño weather phenomenon, together with widespread drought, poses an increasing risk to food security in southern Africa.

So warned the United Nations (UN) World Meteorological Organization (WMO) on Friday.

Important agricultural regions in Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe received only 80% of the average rainfall during November and February for the Southern Hemisphere, the organization indicated in a report.

According to the report, “significant rainfall deficits” were recorded in February, a period when too little water has a greater impact on crop yields.

Above average temperatures and an “erratic” distribution of precipitation have worsened the situation.

South Africa, the region’s largest grain producer, also suffered from little rain and high temperatures in January and February, which is likely to result in a drop in the maize harvest compared to last year.

Grain production in the region is expected to decline overall this year, increasing the need for imports.

Access to food can be further affected by a drop in income for residents of rural areas and a possible rise in prices due to a shortage of supply.

The situation is exacerbated by the weakness of local currencies, which contributes to increasing the cost of living in several countries.

Zambia already declared the drought a “national disaster” at the end of last month.

El Niño is a weather system that results from the large-scale warming of surface temperatures in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean.

The WMO says the El Niño weather phenomenon peaked in December, but above-average temperatures can still be expected up to and including May this year. According to the WMO, this weather phenomenon was one of the five strongest ever recorded.

The weather phenomenon occurs on average every two to seven years and can last between nine and 12 months.