‘Normal to below-normal’ rainfall for drought-hit Zimbabwe this season: SADC forecast

Zimbabwe drought
Zimbabwe faces its worst drought in years (pic: Howard Burditt/Reuters)

Zimbabwe and much of the region, which saw the lowest rainfall in 40 years this year, will receive normal to below normal rains in the coming season, a regional forecast released on Friday says.

Normal rains in southern Africa are expected in the coming months of October, November and December, the 23rd Southern African Regional Climate Forum (SARCOF-23) projected after a meeting of regional meteorologists in Luanda.

According to the SARCOF-23, Southern African Development Community (SADC) will have higher humidity levels due to more rainfall in comparison with the same period of last year. Normal and above average rainfall is expected for most of the region, with the exception of the southern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the northern parts of Angola and Mozambique, which will have normal rains.

“For the months of January, February and March, there will be, in almost every region, normal and above normal rainfall, except for west of Angola (Namibe province) and Namibia, southern South Africa, Zimbabwe, Eswatini and Madagascar, which will have normal rainfall with below normal trend,” the forecast says.

More than 150 meteorologists from Angola, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Botswana, DRC, Comoros, Eswatini, Lesotho and Madagascar attended the meeting.

In the 2018-2019 season, large parts of Southern Africa received their lowest rainfall since 1981, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

In Zimbabwe, the drought in the 2018-2019 has left up to 3.7 million people in rural areas and a further 2.2 million in urban areas at risk. The country in August issued a US$331 million relief appeal.

Government expects grain output at 852 000 tonnes in the 2018-2019 season, well below national annual consumption of 1.8 million tonnes. Treasury has budgeted Z$624 million for grain imports up to December.

The low rainfall has also contributed to Zimbabwe’s power crisis, as low water levels at Kariba have forced both Zambia and Zimbabwe to drastically cut power generation.

Kariba is designed to operate between levels 475.50 metres and 488.50 metrers for hydropower generation. Authorities have warned that power generation will have to stop completely when the water levels fall below those levels, and that this could happen in September.

As at August 26, the water level had fallen to 478.50m, according to the Zambezi River Authority. Last year on the same date, the Lake level was 486.31m. Kariba is currently 21% full; this time in 2018, the lake was 81% full.

Kariba’s vast catchment area sits astride eight countries in the region; Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.