It is time to use historical data to predict drought in Africa to benefit farmers


Photo credit: SciDevNet

Copyright: Petterik Wiggers / Panos

Time is ripe to predict drought to help African farmers

by Esther Ngumbi

Speed read

  • Drought is ravaging Africa, thus resulting dire need of food
  • One strategy in fighting drought is using historical data to predict the future
  • Such a strategy could help reduce drought risk and aid emergency response

The scorching heat of Kenya’s south coast is causing nightmares to many farmers. Just two months ago, after the rains arrived, Kenya’s south coast was lush with green scenery. The maize fields were thriving and the tomatoes and bell peppers were flourishing. Farmers were happy and looking forward to a bumper harvest.

Today, however, the green is gone, the maize is withered and the situation is grim.  A drought is looming.  Even the drought-tolerant crops such as Syngenta’s Kilele F1 tomato variety and amaranth greens are being affected by the extreme heat.  The farmers are asking themselves hard questions about what they could have done differently to avoid losing their crops.

The farmers at the Kenyan south coast are not alone. Drought is ravaging crops and destroying harvests in countries across Africa and Asia [1].  In Malawi, as many as 6.5 million people are in dire need of food aid as a result. According to the World Food Programme, the number of people expected to need food aid by the end of the year in southern Africa alone is 14.1 million. [2]

“The farmers are asking themselves hard questions about what they could have done differently to avoid losing their crops.”

Esther Ngumbi

Where are we failing? What can farmers, governments, and non-governmental organisations do differently to cope with recurring droughts, and ultimately mitigate the effects of climate change?

Measures against drought

Many countries are already taking active measures to cope with drought. For instance, the government Kenya has established a National Drought Management Authority — a specialised institution to ensure coordinated, high-quality interventions and generate credible early warning information. [3] In Malawi, the government has implemented disaster forecasting and risk modelling measures — efforts aimed at reducing the impact of drought and other natural disasters. [4]

Read the full article: SciDevNet

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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