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City partially lifts water restrictions

South Africa remains a water scarce country and the City of Joburg remains a net importer of water.
The City of Joburg welcomes the decision by the Department of Water and Sanitation to lift water restrictions in Gauteng municipalities.

However, in an effort to maintain a culture of water conservation, the city has only partially lift Level-2 water restrictions, according to section 44 (3) of the Water Services by-law:

  • On an annual basis, between 6:00 and 18:00 from September 1 to March 31, and between 8:00 and 16:00 from April 1 to August 31, all consumers are prohibited from watering and irrigating their gardens.
  • All consumers are prohibited from using a hosepipe to clean paved areas and driveways with municipal water.

The JMPD has issued a total of 665 fines to consumers who contravened the Water Services by-law and consumers are urged to report non-compliance by phoning the JMPD 24/7 hotline on 011 758 9650.

The current water footprint for the City of Joburg is 309 litres per capita per day, compared to the national and world averages of 274 litres and 175 litres, respectively. At the height of the restrictions, the demand reduced to 289 litres per capita per day.

As per the Government Gazette Notice No. 910 of Monday, March 13, the Director-General of the Department of Water and Sanitation withdrew the water restrictions within the Integrated Vaal River System.

However, South Africa remains a water scarce country and the City of Joburg remains a net importer of water.

Residents are, therefore, urged to maintain vigilance in conserving this scarce resource.

The risk of demand outstripping supply in the intervening period between now and the commissioning of Phase II of the Lesotho Highlands Project (2025) remains a real threat.

According to the 2009 Phase II feasibility report, the full yield is expected to be utilised by approximately 2030.

Source: southerncourier

Kenya: Food Crisis to Worsen, Agency Warns

An agency monitoring drought has warned of a worsening food crisis in the country should the dry spell being experienced persists.

“If the (short) rains are below average, as currently forecast, or the onset of the season is late, then the situation will become significantly worse, with impacts on health and nutrition, household purchasing power and security,” the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) says in its latest bulletin.

The document further says: “The implications of a poor season are particularly worrying for marginal agricultural counties, which are short rains-dependent.”

The authority issued drought alerts for 10 counties and an alarm for one.

The authority said Narok, Kajiado, Taita-Taveta, Kilifi, Kwale, Tana River, Kitui, Makueni, Marsabit and Garissa counties were experiencing a decline in food and livestock production as well as water supply. The drought status of Lamu was moved up from alert to alarm.

In its October bulletin, the authority says only one county — Kilifi — was in the alarm drought phase, with the rest in the alert phase.

The authority’s chairperson, Ms Agnes Ndetei, said in parts of Kilifi, Garissa, Lamu, Kwale, Taita-Taveta, Tana River, Makueni, Kajiado, Narok and Marsabit, there are now significant shortages of pasture and water.

“Areas in the south-east and the Coast are the most affected since they received below-average rainfall during the long rains season,” said Ms Ndetei.

According to the agency, the food shortage has been aggravated by conflict in some counties, the most serious case in the previous month being along the border of Isiolo and Garissa, where pastoralists’ convergence is common.

DROUGHT CONTINGENCY PLANS

“NDMA, in collaboration with county governments and other stakeholders, has activated drought contingency plans in seven counties and is supporting all devolved units to coordinate their response and plan for a possible La Niña event,” says the bulletin.

The authority says it has disbursed Sh53 million of drought contingency finance provided by the European Union in seven counties since the beginning of July.

The onset of the dry spell in the North Rift has sparked fears of conflicts in the scramble for scarce resources among pastoralists in the region.

A spot check by the Nation revealed that many water sources in the area had dried up and pastures depleted, prompting pastoralists to move with their livestock to neighbouring areas.

This has been witnessed in Mochongoi Forest, Baringo; and Laikipia Nature Conservancy, where Pokot herders have moved with hundreds of their livestock.

Baringo county commissioner Peter Okwanyo said they were in talks with elders in the region for pasture committees to be constituted to avoid conflicts.

A report released by the Kenya Food Security Steering Group and Early Warning Systems Network in January indicates that families in Samburu, Marsabit, Isiolo, Garissa, Mandera and Wajir faced food shortages and inadequate pasture and water for their animals due to the dry spell.

Thousands of families in parts of Baringo, West Pokot and Turkana counties in the North Rift region are also experiencing food shortages that are likely to be complicated by the drought.

Source: allafrica

African Leaders to Put Effort in Water Availability

As the sixth African Ministries Council on Water and Sanitation (AMCIOW) meeting draws close, African leaders have been urged to double their efforts to make sure the continent achieves universal safe water access by 2030.

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The historic meeting to map the way forward to achieve accessibility of clean water and basic sanitation is expected to be held in Dar es Salaam next week. Water Aid Country Director, Mr Ibrahim Kabole, speaking to reporters in Dar es Salaam yesterday on the importance of the upcoming meeting, said African leaders need to add more effort to make sure the problem of availability of clean water becomes history in the continent.

“Our African leaders should undertake important measures in making water, sanitation and hygiene play an important role in economic development of the continent,” said Mr Kabole. According to available statistics, of the 1.2 billion people in Africa, 695 million people, which is more than half of the population, are without basic sanitation and 395 million are without clean water.

The statistics are expected to be worse if urgent measures will not be taken because by 2030 African’s population is expected to reach 2.2 billion. In Tanzania, 27 per cent of people do not have access to safe water, 66 per cent lack basic sanitation and hygiene and more than 33 per cent of our health centres are without safe water and sanitation facilities.

“Lack of water in health facilities puts the patients at risk of being attacked by communicable diseases, particularly women and children, therefore resulting in loss of lives of the children, the very future of any country,” noted the Water Aid Director.

He, however, applauded the government efforts to make sure the people of Tanzania have access to clean and safe water. “Water Aid is calling for a roadmap that will result in reaching everyone everywhere in Africa with safe water, improved sanitation and hygiene by 2030, in line with Sustainable Development Goals.

I believe that the government has made good progress and given the efforts of the current leadership, Tanzania can do more to achieve universal access by 2030. All African governments and stakeholders must seize the moment and make this transformation change for the poorest being achieved,” he noted.

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Source: allafrica


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Africa: Food Crop Breeding Programmes are Being Outpaced by Climate Change

ANALYSIS

The most extreme El Niño weather current in history has officially been declared over, but has left some 100 million people facing severe food and water shortages in its wake. But we cannot rest easy as another, less headline-grabbing phenomenon, is already underway.

Gradual yet steady warming of the planet is posing an equally significant threat to our food supply. Our crop breeding programmes, which develop crops that will survive in high temperatures, are simply not keeping up.

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In recent years, our ability to predict future climate scenarios has improved greatly. For example, we now know that mean temperatures in Africa are expected to rise faster than the global average, and may reach as high as 3°C to 6°C greater than pre-industrial levels. This is the good news: at least we know what is coming.

The bad news is that we have much less time than we might think to get our food systems prepared to adapt to these latest projections. In fact, research out this week shows that maize crops currently being bred will be out of date by the time they get into the field, in terms of their response to rising temperatures. 1.2 billion people in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America depend on maize as a staple food. Yet climate change is advancing quicker than we are able to breed and disseminate heat resistant varieties. As if breeding was not already complicated enough – needing to respond to complex cultural and market preferences – we now need to pay closer attention to future climate scenarios to ensure these improved seeds are fit for purpose.

As we face our eighth consecutive hottest month on record, we should be feeling the heat both literally and figuratively and accelerate the pace of our crop research accordingly.

A range of solutions are available to rectify this worrying situation. First, there are several opportunities for reducing the amount of time it takes to breed new crop varieties and get them into circulation – which currently stands at up to thirty years. Using marker aided-selection for example, that allows certain traits to be identified and used, as well as involving the farmers who will use the new seeds in a “participatory” breeding approach, have both shown promise for achieving this. New varieties could also be bred in warmer temperatures, so that they develop more heat stress tolerance along the way. This efficient solution is now being tested by teams in Zimbabwe, Kenya, and Ethiopia and shows much promise. Mitigating future climate change to within the agreed “safe limit” will also ensure that new crop varieties can survive. This will become particularly important in the second half of this century, when changes we make now in reducing emissions will begin to show their effects.

But none of this will be possible without significant funding. The Green Climate Fund was set up at the Cancun climate talks in 2010 to help developing countries adapt to and mitigate future climate change, yet it still has not supported agricultural research (instead focusing on clean energy, water and land restoration projects). This could be one so far untapped resource.

Of course, we cannot claim that breeding alone will solve the food shortages that record temperatures are causing; indeed some crops will simply not be suitable for cultivation in some areas of the world by as soon as 2050. Improved seeds can only contribute to food security and farmer incomes if other challenges such as access to finance and market access are also addressed in tandem.

With this in mind, existing heat and drought tolerant crops can have tremendous impact on rural livelihoods especially for smallholder farmers. For example, the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa project is now being used by two million farmers in 13 African countries, helping them grow enough food to feed their families and sell on the surplus – even at times when rains are erratic or scarce.

We cannot let the next phase of breeding efforts become futile. While this research only examines maize crops in certain regions of the world, it should raise alarm bells for many other global staple crops, which are also at risk of being outpaced by our changing climate. We urgently need to link climate scientists, crop modellers and breeders to identify which traits will be needed where over the next 30 years, and work collaboratively to ensure that they are successfully bred into the future crops on which we will rely.

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Source: allafrica


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Climate-Proofing Agriculture Must Take Centre Stage in African Policy

KIGALI, Rwanda, Jun 14 2016 (IPS) – After over a year of extreme weather changes across the world, causing destruction to homes and lives, 2015-16 El Niño has now come to an end.

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This recent El Niño – probably the strongest on record along with the along with those in 1997-1998 and 1982-83– has yet again shown us just how vulnerable we, let alone the poorest of the poor, are to dramatic changes in the climate and other extreme weather events.

Across southern Africa El Niño has led to the extreme drought affecting this year’s crop. Worst affected by poor rains are Malawi, where almost three million people are facing hunger, and Madagascar and Zimbabwe, where last year’s harvest was reduced by half compared to the previous year because of substantial crop failure.

However, El Niño is not the only manifestation of climate change. Mean temperatures across Africa are expected to rise faster than the global average, possibly reaching as high as 3°C to 6°C greater than pre-industrial levels, and rainfall will change, almost invariably for the worst.

In the face of this, African governments are under more pressure than ever to boost productivity and accelerate growth in order to meet the food demands of a rapidly expanding population and a growing middle class. To achieve this exact challenge, African Union nations signed the Malabo Declaration in 2014, committing themselves to double agricultural productivity and end hunger by 2025.

However, according to a new briefing paper out today from the Montpellier Panel, the agricultural growth and food security goals as set out by the Malabo Declaration have underemphasised the risk that climate change will pose to food and nutrition security and the livelihoods of smallholder farmers. The Montpellier Panel concludes that food security and agricultural development policies in Africa will fail if they are not climate-smart.

Smallholder farmers will require more support than ever to withstand the challenges and threats posed by climate change while at the same time enabling them to continue to improve their livelihoods and help achieve an agricultural transformation. In this process it will be important that governments do not fail to mainstream smallholder resilience across their policies and strategies, to ensure that agriculture continues to thrive, despite the increasing number and intensity of droughts, heat waves or flash floods.

The Montpellier Panel argues that climate-smart agriculture, which serves the triple purpose of increasing production, adapting to climate change and reducing agriculture-related greenhouse gas emissions, needs to be integrated into countries’ National Agriculture Investment Plans and become a more explicit part of the implementation of the Malabo Declaration.

Across Africa we are starting to see signs of progress to remove some of the barriers to implementing successful climate change strategies at national and local levels.  These projects and agriculture interventions are scalable and provide important lessons for strengthening political leadership, triggering technological innovations, improving risk mitigation and above all building the capacity of a next generation of agricultural scientists, farmers and agriculture entrepreneurs. The Montpellier Panel has outlined several strategies that have shown particular success.

Building a Knowledge Economy

A “knowledge economy” improves the scientific capacities of both individuals and institutions, supported by financial incentives and better infrastructure. A good example is the “Global Change System Analysis, Research and Training” (START) programme, that promotes research-driven capacity building to advance knowledge on global environmental change across 26 countries in Africa.

START provides research grants and fellowships, facilitates multi-stakeholder dialogues and develops curricula. This opens up opportunities for scientists and development professionals, young people and policy makers to enhance their understanding of the threats posed by climate change.

Sustainably intensifying agriculture

Agriculture production that will simultaneously improve food security and natural resources such as soil and water quality will be key for African countries to achieve the goal of doubling agriculture productivity by 2025. Adoption of Sustainable Intensification (SI) practices in combination has the potential to increase agricultural production while improving soil fertility, reducing GHG emissions and environmental degradation and making smallholders more resilient to climate change or other weather stresses and shocks.

Drip irrigation technologies such as bucket drip kits help deliver water to crops effectively with far less effort than hand-watering and for a minimal cost compared to irrigation. In Kenya, through the support of the Kenya Agriculture Research Institute, the use of the drip kit is spreading rapidly and farmers reported profits of US$80-200 with a single bucket kit, depending on the type of vegetable.

Providing climate information services

Risk mitigation tools, such as providing reliable climate information services, insurance policies that pay out to farmers following extreme climate events and social safety net programmes that pay vulnerable households to contribute to public works can boost community resilience. Since 2011 the CGIAR’s Research Programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), the Senegalese National Meteorological Agency and the the Union des Radios Associatives et Communautaires du Sénégal, an association of 82 community-based radio stations, have been collaborating to develop climate information services that benefit smallholder farmers.

A pilot project was implemented in Kaffrine and by 2015, the project had scaled-up to the rest of the country. Four different types of CI form the basis of advice provided to farmers through SMS and radio: seasonal, 10-day, daily and instant weather forecasts, that allow farmers to adjust their farming practices. In 2014, over 740,000 farm households across Senegal benefitted from these services.

Now is the time to act

While international and continental processes such as the Sustainable Development Goals, COP21 and the Malabo Declaration are crucial for aligning core development objectives and goals, there is often a disconnect between the levels of commitment and implementation on the ground. Now is an opportune time to act. Governments inevitably have many concurrent and often conflicting commitments and hence require clear goals that chart a way forward to deliver on the Malabo Declaration.

The 15 success stories discussed in the Montpellier Panel’s briefing paper highlight just some examples that help Africa’s agriculture thrive. As the backbone of African economies, accounting for as much as 40% of total export earnings and employing 60 – 90% of the labour force, agriculture is the sector that will accelerate growth and transform Africa’s economies.

With the targets of the Malabo Declaration aimed at 2025 – five years before the SDGs – Africa can now seize the moment and lead the way on the shared agenda of sustainable agricultural development and green economic growth.

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SADC’s regional situation update on El Niño-induced drought

The SADC region is experiencing a devastating drought episode associated with the 2015/2016 El Niño event which is negatively impacting on livelihoods and quality of lives. The region experienced a delayed onset of the 2015/2016, rainfall season, followed by erratic rains. Analysis of rainfall performance shows that the October to December 2015 period, which represents the first half of the cropping season, was the driest in more than 35 years in several southern parts of the region. During the same period, higher than average temperatures were consistently experienced across the region. These dry conditions mostly affected Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

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Following the dry conditions from the beginning of the season in October 2015, heavy rains set in across most parts of the region for close to 30 days, between 21 FebruarySADC Regional Situation Update 15 May 2016
while in northern Botswana, parts of southern Angola, northern South Africa, southern Zambia and western Zimbabwe, rainfall was close to twice the normal amount. Despite this improvement in rainfall, water availability for hydro-power generation for Zambia and Zimbabwe is still below normal. Most areas received above-normal rainfall during this period. The rains received helped to increase the amount of water available for human and livestock use, as well as improving pasture conditions. These rains were, however, too late for crops which had already wilted and died or were not even planted due to earlier dry conditions.

Although national, regional and international forecasts had by September 2015 predicted poor rainfall performance and high temperatures for the 2015/16 season, the severity of the drought conditions has been such that it has overwhelmed the disaster preparedness capacity in most of the affected Member States.

The 2015/16 El Niño follows closely on a previous poor

Rainfall: 21 Feb – 20 Mar 2016 expressed as a percent rainfall season. The effect of the previous drier-than-normal of average rainfall for the same period.
season for most SADC countries resulted in reduced crop production, increased use of stored food reserves and savings used to buy food and non-food (such as seed and other agricultural inputs) commodities, reduced water levels, reduced pasture availability and increased strain on the revenue of most governments that were in the process of recovering from the earlier effects of global financial crises. The situation was further compounded by the fall in prices of commodities on the global market, an aspect that has reduced the revenue base of most governments, thereby increasing the strain on the revenue of most governments and their capacity to support socio protection programmes for the people affected by the drought. Cereal supply and demand analysis for the 2015/16 marketing year showed that the region recorded an overall cereal deficit of about 7.8 million tonnes. The 2015 regional food security and vulnerability assessments showed that the number of food insecure people during the 2015/16 marketing year was more than 27 million people, which is about 9% of SADC’s total population.

The already serious problem of acute and chronic malnutrition in the region is expected to worsen, increasing risks of mortality of young children and the elderly. Steep food price hikes are expected in the 2016/17 marketing year due to poor grain production and the depreciation of the regional currencies against the US dollars. This El Niño event has seriously crippled agricultural production including crops and livestock; and dried up many water sources and reservoirs, with serious impacts not only on agricultural but energy supplies. Increased incidences of diseases are likely due to water shortages, lack of safe drinking water, and inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene practices; all which contribute to higher risk of preventable waterborne diseases. Additionally, the drought heightens financial constraints caused by food price increases that have recently been recorded. Furthermore, the production and supply of seeds, fertilizers and other inputs have also been adversely affected. These factors will constrain recovery in the medium term for the affected communities and thereby negatively impacting on agricultural plans for the next cropping season. The welfare of millions of households is in serious jeopardy due to the current crippling food shortages and future recovery input shortages.

The number of people at risk of food insecurity during the 2015/16 marketing year is estimated at 1.25 million, which represents a 65.8 per cent increase compared to the previous marketing year. The most affected provinces are Cunene, Huila, Benguela, Kwanza Sul, Namibe and Cuando Cubango. The figures are expected to continue rising as we move through 2016. Crop losses are expected to be as high as 75 per cent in parts of the south.

The country is battling an outbreak of foot and mouth disease, which is adding to livestock deaths. A yellow fever outbreak is also proving difficult to contain. Since the yellow fever outbreak began in December 2015, 1,975 suspected cases of yellow fever (618 laboratory confirmed) and 258 deaths have been reported, the majority of them in the capital, Luanda, and in 2 other provinces, Huambo and Huila. Amid concerns that the virus will spread to other urban areas and to neighboring countries, a large-scale vaccination campaign was launched in February 2016 and has so far reached almost 7 million people.

Coordination and Response
An inter-ministerial Drought Emergency Commission has been established, led by the Ministry of Planning, to support emergency efforts. To strengthen the international cooperating partners’ humanitarian coordination, the United Nations has established an Emergency Country Team to complement Government’s coordination efforts
The Ministry of Agriculture is planning to conduct a quick assessment of the situation that will provide additional details of the progress of the season so far

Botswana: Most parts of the country received below average rainfall since the season started in October 2015. Normal to above normal rainfall amounts received in central and western parts of Botswana in December helped to reduce water deficits and to improve vegetation conditions in some areas. However, many of the eastern areas, which include the primary crop growing areas of the country, received below normal rainfall. Some of the areas have not been planted due to lack of rains.

This has negatively impacted on crop production prospects with permanent wilting reported in some parts of the country. A few exceptions are in the northern and north-western parts of the country where slightly above average rainfall was received during the last two months. The poor rainfall conditions have also affected the availability of drinking water and pasture for livestock. This has resulted in poor livestock condition with reports of livestock deaths in some areas. In response to the drought impacts on livestock, the Ministry of Agriculture has increased subsidies on certain livestock feeds to 50 per cent.

The number of vulnerable people is estimated at over 30,000 or about 4 per cent higher than last season, according to the Botswana Vulnerability Assessment Committee. A national drought assessment is currently underway, earlier than usual this year, due to the severity of the current drought. This is expected to provide more details about the performance of the season across the country.

Lesotho: one of the worst affected countries in the region, with reports showing that the 2015/16 agricultural season has failed. For the May/June harvest period, 80 per cent of farmers are not expecting to harvest anything significant. Rain was received during the early months of 2016, which helped improve the water crisis that had been crippling the country. The Government of Lesotho on 22 December 2015 declared a state of drought emergency. The Government’s declaration was accompanied by a jointly developed response plan (ICPs and Government) as well as an appeal for international support. The response plan is asking for a total of US$40.3million.

The results of a multi-stakeholder Rapid Drought Assessment conducted in January 2016 show that about 534,502 (more than 1 in 4) people are at risk of food insecurity until June 2016, with the situation expected to worsen in the second half of the year and the beginning of 2017 due to poor 2016 harvest. Poor and very poor households are experiencing a 44per cent decline in their food and cash income compared to normal conditions. The current food and cash income is 31% below the survival threshold. This is exacerbated by the decrease in the number of people receiving remittances from South Africa mainly due to recent retrenchments, thereby affecting their ability to buy enough food. Despite recent rains, increasing difficulties are being experienced with regards to accessing water with rationing, increased waiting times and water purchasing widely reported. The elderly, people living with HIV and AIDS and/or TB, the disabled and the sick were indicated as the most affected by water shortages. Protection concerns were also highlighted in the report, including use of negative coping mechanisms and sexual and genderbased violence.

Coordination and Response
The UN and NGOs are working jointly with the Government of Lesotho to complete further assessments. A market assessment is being conducted to complement the rapid assessment. This exercise will further inform the programming of emergency response activities and targeting. An Inter-Ministerial Task Force has been established to support the coordination efforts by the Disaster Management Authority. To further strengthen the humanitarian coordination, the United Nations, together with NGOs has established a Humanitarian Country Team (HCT).

Madagascar: The south-western parts of the country are experiencing El Niño -induced drought conditions. Low rainfall and high temperatures in January intensified dryness in the southern half of Madagascar, especially over Androy, Anosy and Atsimo Andrefana regions. The drought, which has affected these regions since October 2015, ha negatively impacted on crops and livestock, water availability, food prices, livelihoods and nutritional wellbeing. Households food and nutrition situation has significantly deteriorated.
More than one million people in these regions are food insecure, of which 665,000 are severely affected. This represents 80 per cent of the population in the seven most affected districts of Amboasary, Ambovombe, Tsihombe, Bekily, Beloha, Betioky and Ampanihy. The communities’ coping strategies are weakened by successive years of shocks. They are adopting negative coping strategies such as the sale of assets (including livestock), increasing wood collection activities; reducing the number of meals per day; withdrawing children from schools; and migrating to other areas of the country. The deterioration of households’ food security affects the nutritional status of children under five. In February 2016, global acute malnutrition (GAM) levels reached an average of 8 per cent within this group. GAM rates were higher than the critical threshold of 10 percent in some areas. The district of Tsihombe is the most affected, with an average of 14 percent of children under five presenting signs of acute malnutrition.

Malawi: On 12 April 2016, the President of Malawi declared a State of National Disaster due to prolonged dry spells during the 2015/16 season, with an estimated 2.8 million people being food insecure. Second round crop estimates show an expected 1.07 million tonnes national maize deficit, nearly five times the registered deficit last year. This implies that the number of people in need of relief food assistance will significantly increase over the next 18 months.

A pre-harvest MVAC assessment (released in March) found that the country’s three regions experienced dry spells due to effects of the El Niño, with the central and southern regions hit harder than the north. At the same time, heavy rains continue in the northern region, and could last until June, exacerbating the current flooding situation. At least seven displacement camps have been established with more than 35,000 flood-affected people.

Food insecurity continues to aggravate Malawi’s fragile nutrition situation, with vulnerable groups and people on ART/TB treatment feeling the heavy consequences of drought. Admissions to health clinics for moderate acute malnutrition have risen four-fold since January. A nutrition survey planned for April/June will further inform the nutrition response. The annual MVAC (a rural vulnerability and food security assessment) will be conducted from early May.

The country is also experiencing a cholera outbreak that started in December 2015. According to the Ministry of Health, as of 31 March 2016, a cumulative total of 1,073 cholera cases were registered in 10 out of Malawi’s 28 districts. Twenty-one deaths have been recorded, representing a case fatality rate of 1.96%, which is above the acceptable rate of 1%, as per WHO standards.

Coordination and Response
The Government of Malawi is leading the response, through the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA), with support from humanitarian partners, including NGOs, the UN System and donors. The cluster system has been activated, and inter-cluster meetings are taking place to ensure proper cross-sector coordination. The Office of the Vice President, through DoDMA, convenes meetings of the Humanitarian Response Committee to monitor the implementation progress of the food insecurity response. In addition, DoDMA is facilitating the finalization of the 2015/16 National Contingency Plan as well as district level contingency plan reviews and coordination capacity strengthening.

Mozambique: Throughout much of the season, Mozambique has experienced well below average rainfall in the southern and central parts of the country, while above average rainfall has been received over the northern parts. Most parts of the country received good rains briefly in late January, as well as in late February through April. These late rains, while providing some moisture that contributed to pasture re-growth were insufficient to eliminate the prevailing rainfall deficits. Vegetation conditions remain well below average in most of the south.

On 1 April 2016, the Technical Secretariat for Food Security and Nutrition (SETSAN) released the results of the latest food and nutrition security assessment which indicated that 1.5 million people are acutely food insecure and in need of humanitarian assistance in the Central (Zambezia, Manica, Sofala and Tete provinces) and Southern regions (Gaza, Inhambane and Maputo provinces). An estimated 191,000 children are expected to be severely acutely malnourished in the next 12 months and GAM rates for children under 5 are 15.3% and 15.5 % in Sofala and Tete provinces respectively. Very few households have any cereal reserves for consumption and as a result, there has been a sharp reduction in the quality of diet between November 2015 and March 2016. Prices of the staple food, maize, have increased by almost 100 per cent in markets when compared to this time last year. The nutritional status of children is worrisome, particularly in Sofala, Tete and Manica provinces; there are very high GAM rates (over 15 per cent in two provinces) with additional aggravating factors (weak health systems and water and sanitation challenges). Increasingly, children, particularly girls, are dropping out of school to help fetch water and food or because families are moving to areas with better conditions. In view of this alarming situation, the Government of Mozambique declared on 12 April a 90-day institutional red alert, the highest level of national emergency preparedness, for the central and southern areas of the country. This measure aims to intensify and expand response actions, disburse additional Government funds planned for emergency situations and mobilize resources through cooperating partners.

Coordination and Response
The response actions to the current drought in the country are in Maputo, Gaza, Inhambane, Sofala and Tete provinces. The response activities include food assistance, drilling/rehabilitation of water boreholes and in some cases water trucking to affected communities.
The Government of Mozambique through the National Institute for Disaster Management (INGC) is leading the coordination of drought response in the affected provinces. The coordination meetings of the Technical Council for Disaster Management (CTGC) are being held at least once a week to continue monitoring the drought situation, response and gaps. The ICPs’ Humanitarian Country Team continues to ensure coordination among the partners responding to the situation in support of the Government.

Namibia: Poor rainfall in the first half of the rainfall season resulted in delays in planting and a lack of pasture and drinking water for both animals and humans. Namibia experienced an extended delay in the effective onset of rains, with little to no rainfall being received in October and November. In many areas, the onset was delayed by between 20 to 40 days. This extended dryness, combined with very high temperatures, and a poor 2014/2015 rainfall season, resulted in significant negative impact on grazing lands and water resources for both humans and livestock. Veld fires were also report and these contributed to a reduction in the availability of grazing. The situation improved in December as good rains were received throughout much of Namibia, while January was much drier, especially in the northern-central and north-western areas. The northeastern and central parts of the country received normal to above-normal rainfall. As a result of the mixed rainfall pattern, the vegetation is at mixed growth stages with the eastern half of the country showing above-normal vegetation conditions, and below-average conditions in the western half.

The number of people at risk of food insecurity is estimated at 370,316. The cabinet approved about N$350 million (US$22.5m) to support various kinds of interventions

South Africa: Rainfall improved in many parts of the country in January and continued through February to mid-March, after several months of very poor rainfall had prevented many farmers from planting. The protracted delays in the rains resulted in large reductions in the planted area. The rains were insufficient to eliminate rainfall deficits since October, and seasonal rainfall totals are still well below average in most parts of the country. Commercial maize production in 2016 is estimated at 7.44 million MT, 25 per cent down from 9.96 million MT in 2015, and about 40% below the 5-year average, while sorghum production remained almost the same as last year at about 0.12 million MT.

Demand and supply analysis for the 2016/17 marketing year shows that the country will face cereal deficits in maize and wheat of 1.61 million tonnes and 1.55 million tonnes respectively. Sorghum is expected to record a small surplus of 23.7 thousand tons. These deficits will be more than offset by net imports.

The Government declared seven out of the country’s nine provinces as drought-related disaster areas in November 2015, and set aside ZAR 236 million (approximately US$14.5 million) to alleviate the impacts of the drought.

Commercial beef slaughters have increased significantly due to culling influenced in part by the drought. Droughtrelated cattle deaths have also been reported. The country’s dams were reportedly at 55 per cent of full supply capacity by end of January, 27 per cent lower than what was observed at the same time last year.

South Africa continues to export maize to neighboring countries such as Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho, Botswana, Swaziland and Namibia, which is projected to amount to about 820,000 tonnes in the 2015/16 marketing year.

Swaziland: The El Niño-induced drought has seriously affected food and nutrition security and water availability across Swaziland. The Swaziland Drought Rapid Assessment Report estimates maize production of 33,000 tonnes, a 64 per cent reduction compared with last year’s season, which itself was below average. Results confirm that 320,000 people, about 30 per cent of the total population, are in need of immediate food assistance. The hardest-hit regions are Lubombo and Shiselweni. An estimated 64,000 cattle have already perished in the drought, threatening lives and livelihoods. Swaziland has a very high prevalence of HIV/AIDS: 26 per cent among the adult population (15-49 years). A comprehensive joint health and nutrition rapid assessment was conducted in late March and results show that lack of access to food is reducing adherence to anti-retroviral treatment (ART).

The next main harvest season is not until April 2017, meaning food and nutrition indicators can only be expected to deteriorate over the coming months, which is of great concern given the already high rates of chronic malnutrition (according to the Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) 2014 data, about 25.5 per cent of the children under age 5 are stunted in growth).

To address the impacts of the drought, the Government of Swaziland declared a National Drought Emergency on 18 February 2016. Following the declaration, Government published the National Emergency Response Mitigation and Adaptation Plan (NERMAP), which is requesting a total of US$80.5m. The comprehensive multi-sectoral response plan was developed by Government, with support from partners. US$16.5m was pledged by Government for both immediate and longer term interventions. The Government has requested the international community to assist though the provision of financial and technical support.

Coordination and Response
The Government of Swaziland has committed approximately US$7 million to meet the immediate needs of the most affected, which will cover around 25 per cent of health and nutrition needs and 20 per cent of rural WASH needs. The United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) approved US$3.14 million to commence immediate, life-saving humanitarian interventions. This funding will enable the World Food Programme and UNICEF to provide food and emergency water and sanitation services to 95,000 of the most vulnerable people.

Following the development of NERMAP, Government with partners is finalizing the development of a humanitarian needs overview (HNO), based on NERMAP, prioritizing critical humanitarian needs. A multi-sectoral drought rapid assessment was completed in February 2016 and results are being incorporated into the response. In addition, the UN is supporting the Ministry of Health to conduct a more comprehensive assessment on the health and nutrition situation, including the capacity of health facilities to respond to the drought emergency.

Government convenes an inter-sectoral coordination forum to deliberate on critical issues and provide strategic direction for the response. There are various sector coordination meetings, led by the Government, co-chaired by the UN. The forums provide technical support for the coordination mechanism. A UN Technical Working Group for Drought has been established and is actively coordinating UN agencies involved in the response, arranged by sectors (Food Security and Agriculture, Health and Nutrition, WASH, Education, and Protection).

Tanzania: Tanzania has been receiving good rainfall in most areas since the onset of the season. Crops and pasture were generally reported to be in good condition. High rainfall resulted in flooding in some eastern and central districts, causing damage to crops such as rice and maize. Pastures and grazing lands were reported to be in good condition, and water supply for livestock is sufficient. Livestock were also reported to be in good condition.

The country is experiencing a cholera outbreak that started in August 2015. As of 14
April, 20,810 cases have been reported countrywide, with 327 deaths, a case fatality rate of 1.6 per cent. The Ministry of health is leading the response, supported by ICPs.

Zambia: Following delayed onset of rains, most areas in the southern half of the country received below average rains and experienced delays in planting. This continued until the 3rd dekad of January when the situation improved. In several areas, the rains arrived in time to allow resuscitation of crops that had been affected by the preceding dryness. The rains continued consistently into late March (mid-April in some areas), resulting in average to good crop conditions in many areas. Recent crop estimates released in May put the expected 2015/16 maize production at 2.87 million MT, up 9.5% from last year’s production, and representing a surplus of 634,000 MT. The country has, however, currently banned export of maize.

A multi-sectoral impact and needs assessment is expected to be published by the Zambia Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZVAC) by the end of May.

The country is currently experiencing a cholera outbreak. As of 1 April, 5 districts were affected with 567 cumulative cases and 6 deaths reported. An analysis of the cases shows that the spread of the outbreak is mainly due to unsafe drinking water and fecal contamination. The affected areas are high densely populated residential areas served by unimproved pit latrines and mostly shallow wells. The Ministry of Health (MoH) is leading the cholera response using existing coordination structures for emergency preparedness and response. The frequency of coordination meetings is weekly at the national level and daily at the provincial and district levels. The National Coordination Committee is chaired by the Minister or Deputy Minister of Health. UNICEF and WHO are represented in all the subcommittees with high level representation from all relevant ministries, departments and other partners (Red Cross, Centre for Disease Control and University of Zambia).

The combination of a poor 2015 harvest, an extremely dry early-mid season (October to mid-February) and hotter-than-average conditions has led to a scenario of extensive crop failure and food insecurity in Zimbabwe. With some 2.8 million people, more than a quarter of the rural population, already estimated to be food insecure, the number is projected to rise significantly over the next year, with the main harvest period in May expected to bring minimal relief. The provinces with the highest prevalence of food insecurity are Matabeleland North (43%), Midlands (33%), Masvingo (32%), Mashonaland West (30%) and Matabeleland South (28%). Several interventions are underway to assist the affected households.

These projections prompted the Government to declare a state of national drought disaster on 4 February 2016, and subsequently issued an international appeal of $1.5 billion.

Zimbabwe: The Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) Rapid Assessment revealed a global acute malnutrition (GAM) rate of 5.7%, a level not reached in the country in 15 years. Nationally, 7,058 children with severe acute malnutrition (SAM) have been admitted to therapeutic treatment programmes between December 2015 and May 2016. Almost 17 per cent (1,162) of these admissions took place in emergency response districts where active nutrition screening is taking place. In these same districts the number of children admitted for SAM treatment has more than doubled compared to the same period last year.

An estimated 62,000 drought affected children, women and men were provided with access to safe water to prevent water and sanitation related diseases through the rehabilitation of piped water schemes and boreholes. There has been a significant decline in new typhoid cases comparing weekly epidemiological data. To date, 1, 206 typhoid cases have been reported, out of these 75 have been laboratory confirmed, with 5 typhoid related deaths reported.

Coordination and Response
Government established a Cabinet Committee on Emergency Response to the El Niño -induced Drought Disaster chaired by Vice President. This Cabinet Committee has been mandated to coordinate responses to meet immediate and medium-term needs of the current drought. The current response has been coordinated by coordination platforms, led by Government Ministries, supported by the United Nations. In order to provide strategic guidance, a Humanitarian Country Team was established in 2015 and an inter-sectoral coordination group established in April 2016 to coordinate between sectors and to provide a platform for inter-sectoral discussion. Sectoral meetings are ongoing among the 5 sectors identified as critical to this response i.e Food Security and Agriculture, Health, WASH, Education and Protection. An Early recovery Sectoral Working Groups has been established.
Regional Coordination and Response

• The SADC Council of Ministers meeting of 15 – 16 March 2016 approved:

 that the Region should declare a Regional Drought Disaster and prepare an Appeal of Assistance from International Cooperating Partners; and

 the establishment of a Regional Response Team at the SADC Secretariat to coordinate a regional response in close collaboration with Member States.

• The SADC Secretariat has since established a Regional Response Team with the main objective of effectively and efficiently coordinating the responses to the negative effects of the 2015/16 El Niño phenomenon in the region.

• The Regional Response Team is composed of staff from SADC Secretariat, Regional based United Nations’ Agencies and other International Cooperating Partners.

• While the Regional Drought Disaster Declaration is yet to be made, the Regional Response Team has already started compiling data and statistics for a possible Regional Appeal document. Meanwhile, the Team will continue to publish El-Nino Drought Situation Reports like the current one on a monthly basis.

• Member States are currently conducting their national vulnerability assessments for the 2016/17 marketing year which are expected to be completed by early June 2016. Information from these assessments will form the basis for a possible Regional Appeal.

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As Drought Grips South Africa, A Conflict Over Water and Coal

Facing one of the worst droughts in memory, South Africa’s leaders have doubled down on their support of the water-intensive coal industry. But clean energy advocates say the smartest move would be to back the country’s burgeoning wind and solar power sectors.

by keith schneider

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Until a ferocious drought withered crops, turned rivers to trickles, and dried up municipal drinking water supplies, one of Limpopo province’s distinctions was the ample sun and good soil that made it South Africa’s premier producer of fruits and vegetables.

Another distinction was that the province’s farmers made an informal agreement to share scarce water with coal companies developing the Waterberg Coalfield that lies beneath dry central Limpopo.

The drought, the most extreme in South Africa since the start of the 20th century, shattered the fragile equilibrium between the agricultural and coal sectors. Pitched street clashes between farmers and police, who back the coal interests, have broken out south of Musina, where Coal Africa proposes to build a $406 million mine in an area where some of the country’s most productive vegetable farms operate. The mine would consume 1 million gallons of water a day, according to company disclosures. Both the mine and neighboring irrigated farms are dependent on the Nzhelele River, which has dwindled to a shallow stream.

Higher temperatures and diminished rainfall, which many scientists attribute to climate change are wreaking havoc in two of South Africa’s largest economic sectors — agriculture and energy. Yet in the face of this growing crisis, South Africa’s leaders continue to display unyielding allegiance to the nation’s water-guzzling coal sector, whose 50-plus billion tons of coal reserves fuel 90 percent of the country’s electrical generating capacity and provide a third of its liquid fuels. Coal also generates hundreds of millions of metric tons of climate-changing carbon emissions annually that aggravate South Africa’s warming and drying.

President Jacob Zuma’s promotion of the coal sector, though, fails to recognize an emerging solution — the renewable energy initiatives that began during the previous administration of Thabo Mbeki. Today, 13 wind power plants and 31 solar generating stations are operating in South Africa and $6 billion has been invested in renewable energy installations. These projects, which do not pollute the air and use scant amounts of water, represent 75 percent of the new electrical capacity generated by South Africa this century, according to the most recent report by the South Africa Department of Energy.

Roughly 45 sizable wind and solar projects are in various stages of construction, financing, and permitting. Indeed, the country appears well on its way to reaching the national target of 6,000 new megawatts of renewable generating capacity by 2020 and 18,000 new megawatts by 2030.

During the nine-year administration of President Mbeki, who succeeded Nelson Mandela as the nation’s second black president, South Africa seemed to be preparing for an economy that discouraged carbon emissions and resource waste, and encouraged conservation. Even as Mbeki criticized global environmental summits as Western efforts to impede development in poor nations, he nevertheless encouraged elevating ecological principles to prominence in South Africa’s economic development strategy. In 2008, the year Mbeki left office, South Africa adopted a national framework for sustainable development, which called for lowering carbon emissions and water consumption.

Although the South African private sector has been steadily expanding wind and solar power, President Zuma has shown no such enthusiasm for renewable energy. The president’s last two years in office have generated fierce criticism and public protests because of his government’s faltering response to dwindling supplies of water for drinking and irrigation. Critics also have attacked his proposals for new water-consuming coal, uranium, and nuclear projects.

Activists argue that neither the coal-based energy strategy nor nuclear power are suitable for the ecological conditions and market opportunities of this century. They cite the example of the Karoo Desert south of Johannesburg, where South Africa’s uranium reserves lie. The Karoo is one of the driest landscapes on the planet, yet the first big mine proposed there would consume 1 million gallons of water a day.

“Energy is the biggest threat to South Africa’s environment — it’s a threat to our water and our economy,” said Bobby Peek, founder and director of groundWork, one of the country’s premier environmental organizations. The group is working with community organizations to stop the Colenso coal-fired plant in KwaZulu-Natal, which would siphon off millions of gallons daily from the headwaters of the Tugela River. “There’s a drought happening,” said Peek. “It’s serious. But it’s as if our government is stuck deep in the sand and doesn’t want to see what’s going on.”

Just this week, the Zuma administration announced a new program to collaborate with Iranian financiers to address water scarcity by building desalination plants in coastal cities. Critics noted that the announcement ignored the reality of the plants’ many billions of dollars in costs, or that South Africa’s credit rating is near junk status.

Some officials are acknowledging South Africa’s growing water problems.

“There are significant difficulties from this drought,” said Dhesigen Naidoo, the chief executive of the National Water Commission, a research and science agency in Pretoria. “The drought cannot be managed the way previous droughts have been managed. In previous droughts we hadn’t factored in climate change. We are convinced that this drought is not part of a normal drought cycle that we’ve had in the past. This one is quite different. So we regard this as a drought in the climate change scenario, and our planning is working around that.”

Limpopo, about the size of Louisiana, borders Zimbabwe in South Africa’s north. In the town of Lephalale, farmers and other rural residents are locked in battles to protect water supplies from new power plants, as well as from plans to expand mining in the Waterberg Coalfield.

Eskom, South Africa’s state-owned electric utility, is building one of the new coal-burning plants, the 4,800-megawatt Medupi coal-fired power station, on a stretch of dry land west of Lephalale. When its six generating units are fully operational, perhaps by the early 2020s, the plant will consume 6.9 billion gallons of water annually.

South Africa anticipated the need for a torrent of processing water for the Medupi plant by spending $1 billion to build pumping stations, water supply and storage infrastructure, and 130 miles of pipeline to tap the distant Crocodile and Mokolo rivers. But the ongoing drought is producing fresh evidence that the two rivers may not have sufficient water in the 2020s and beyond to sustain agriculture, a fast-growing population, existing industries, and a gigantic power plant now estimated to cost $16 billion to complete.

The president’s devotion to coal has prompted intensifying civic resistance, which is showing some results. The administration’s environmental approval of the proposed 1,200-megawatt Thabametsi coal-fired station, to be built near Medupi, has been suspended following a formal appeal by groundWork and Earthlife, another prominent South African environmental organization.

In April, following an appeal by Vhembe Mineral Resources Stakeholders Forum — a group of Limpopo farmers and residents — the South Africa Water Tribunal reversed a January ruling by the Department of Water Affairs and suspended COAL South Africa’s water use license to develop the Makhado mine. The ruling halted indefinitely the development of the mine.

Such defiance is not persuasive to South Africa’s president, nor to those in his administration charged with reviewing and approving Limpopo’s new mine and power plant projects. Last August, Zuma traveled to Limpopo to attend the commercial opening of the 794-megawatt Unit 6 at Medupi, the first new coal-fired generator to start in South Africa this century.

He praised the big new plant and emphasized the need to meet the country’s demand for electricity. “The energy shortage is a serious obstacle to growth,” said Zuma. “In this regard, the opening of Unit 6 is a significant achievement for the country.”

Zuma has never attended the opening of a wind or solar installation. Three months after his appearance at Medupi, Zuma delivered an address at the G20 gathering of heads of state in Turkey. In his speech, Zuma could not remember how much money is being invested to develop the first 6,000 megawatts of renewable energy in South Africa, which is 1,200 more megawatts of generating capacity than Medupi. Zuma told the G20 leaders it was $14 million. The accurate amount is $13.4 billion, or $3 billion less than the current estimated cost of completing Medupi.

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South Africa: Budget Debate On Vote 36 – Water and Sanitation

As this Department is a new department and has the added function of delivering sanitation services, and as South Africa is still in the midst of a water and sanitation crisis, we would have expected the department to have received a greater budget.

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Drought conditions continue to ravage our country. Our dams are at critically low levels. Livestock and agricultural produce are suffering. We have had to import millions of tonnes of maize just to ensure sufficient food security levels for our people over the coming months.

Yet we are not being pro-active about maintaining the little water we do have. Alien plants exist in abundance and research advises they consume inordinate amounts of water. We continue to pollute our surface water and the fact that we are even considering ‘fracking’ which could pollute our entire underground water table, is just ludicrous.

Mines are another source of large scale water pollution. We have been warning this government about the dangers of acid mine water for years now, only to be met with ridicule from Ministers and Departments. Well now we have a serious problem and no effective solution to deal with it.

 Another grave source of pollution is from our local municipalities who are failing dismally at the maintenance, upkeep and management of sewage pipes which often burst and lead to waste effluent entering our streams and rivers. This contributes greatly to both human and livestock illnesses.

Honourable Chairperson, why is it that we do not maximize and conserve the water we have? Precious water is simply allowed to flow into the sea. Why are we not building more dams?

This Department also has the responsibility of building or funding the building of bulk water reservoirs to assist local municipalities with the storage of water.

Without water business cannot prosper. Water is key in terms of agricultural irrigation which is the leading sector in water usage followed by mining and industry and then human beings. Water is life, yet it is not being prioritized and safeguarded by government.

Greater planning, oversight and accountability will ensure proper service delivery.

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Source: allafrica


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South African wines could be smoked out by fire and lack of rain

Drought, fire, high temperatures and strong winds have wreaked havoc in the Western Cape’s farming sector, with the fruit and wine industries suffering substantial losses. The province will need a substantial bailout if its farmers are to survive, it was revealed at a briefing on Wednesday. By MARELISE VAN DER MERWE.

The Western Cape government needs over R80 million to assist drought-stricken farmers, while the regional fruit production sector has suffered losses amounting to R720 million, journalists and members of the province’s Standing Committee on Economic Opportunities, Tourism and Agriculture heard on Wednesday.

The wine industry, which contributes R36 billion to the national economy and makes over 4% of the world’s wine, has suffered losses of a further R20 million. The combination of heat, strong winds, low rainfall and fires have played havoc with the province’s farms, prompting calls for the national government to declare the region a disaster area. The season’s fires have burnt well over 60,000 ha of farmland, with over 6,000 citrus trees and 8ha of rooibos tea destroyed in the Citrusdal/Cedarberg area alone. Vineyards, pipelines, orchards, electric cables and other infrastructure were also destroyed, incurring massive costs for farmers and municipalities alike. Hortgro told the standing committee that the R720m loss would have a “devastating humanitarian impact”, as food prices would rise beyond the reach of the most vulnerable.

The Ceres, Wolseley and Berg River areas were the worst affected, suffering water shortages, major heat waves and crop losses, the committee heard. The drought, extreme heat and strong winds resulted in small fruit – and therefore a decrease in packable fruit – as well as sunburn and a change in pest control and diseases, which led to increased costs. Proposed long-term solutions included regaining access into Thailand, increasing dam sizes, and increasing investment in production infrastructure. According to a presentation by Western Cape Director of Sustainable Resource Management, Andre Roux, August and September 2015’s rainfall, the lowest recorded in 83 years, resulted in crop failure in many areas in the West Coast District. Crop losses varied from 50% to total crop loss in some areas. Agricultural output and employment was likely to drop, and consequently more people would be exposed to food insecurity and vulnerability, Roux added.

Meanwhile in the West Coast and Central Karoo, livestock production is seriously affected due to lack of grazing, and feeding needs to be supplemented with purchased fodder. An assessment is underway in the two districts to determine exactly how much financial aid is needed, although current projections estimate around R88 million for five months.

Stellenbosch, which has around 170 wine farms – the greatest concentration of wine farms in South Africa – has experienced a 33% drop in rainfall during the winter of 2015, with surrounding regions experiencing similar conditions. VinPro told the committee that the South African wine industry, which employs some 300,000 people, saw a 15% decrease in production in 2015, and that although wine producers managed to keep the increase in the cost of wine production to 8%, it would most likely rise to 10 – 15% in 2015. This – in combination with drought and the series of recent fires – was likely to result in further losses. In addition, the fires have a potential impact on the international reputation of South African wines.

“The international demand for South African wines has declined owing to fears of smoke damage,” Beverley Schäfer‚ chairperson of the Standing Committee said in a statement. “This, despite the fact that local winemakers have the facilities to treat the grape for smoke damage, thus eradicating the impact on the flavour. It is critical that government communicates this to international consumers.”

Oenologist, Viticulturist and SAWIS Wine Judge, Lieze Norval, told Daily Maverick that smoke taint was not necessarily a nail in the coffin for South African wines, and that fire damage should be the primary concern for now. Firstly, she said, it’s important to note the areas that were recently affected. Simonsberg, for example, is a prominent wine area – Tokara, Thelema, Simonsig, Muratie, Rustenberg and Glenelly – which are all internationally known, and Elgin is a wine area that is rapidly gaining respect for its Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and is also the home of Appletiser. According to Norval, there have been serious fires that affected well-known wines in the past, and these wines have remained in demand.

“These top farms will not release wines that will damage their reputation,” she said. “Smoke taint is something real – grapes absorb the smoke into the thin waxy layer that is there to protect the grape. I have not heard of removing it, though I know that as a winemaker you can work with it. Think coffee Pinotage, where the flavour is not from smoke taint, but from oak barrels being exposed to flame. As a winemaker it is possible to work with the flavour, unless it is extreme. But I think the physical loss which translates to financial loss to replace equipment or a completely ruined vineyard is of far greater concern than the possible taint from smoke in the wine.”

The good news, said Schäfer, was that there was not an immediate threat to farm worker employment, although in the long term jobs could be on the line if indebted farmers exited the industry. In order to qualify for additional funding from the national treasury, however, the province must be declared a disaster area by Cabinet. Thereafter, Treasury will determine the budget for assistance. Cabinet has declared droughts in five provinces: Mpumalanga, Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal, the Northern Cape and the Free State. Until then, the Western Cape is reliant on its own budget. Provisionally, a budget of around R1.5 million has been made available to support individual farmers. Financial support will be given to 30 qualifying smallholder grain farmers who have lost more than 50% of their crop, as well as to their workers. Recovery, Schäfer said, would not be fast, as some affected regions could take years to recover.

Source: dailymaverick


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South Africa’s drought is bad for hippos, great for lions

KRUGER NATIONAL PARK, South Africa — At South Africa’s biggest national park, wildlife officials are warning of difficult weeks ahead: unless significant rains come, animals will start dying.

This is the harsh reality of life in a country suffering its worst drought in decades. Cattle are already dying, and crops have been destroyed. Many South Africans are dealing with drinking water shortages, and volunteers have been delivering emergency water supplies to communities in dire need.

William Mabasa, spokesman for the Kruger National Park, says that visitors to the park may be upset to see wildlife suffering, but drought is a natural cycle like fire and floods.

“Those with strong genes will survive,” he said.

Hippos will be among the first animals affected. They typically stay cool in rivers and water pools during the heat of the day, going to graze at night — but are now spending more time grazing during daytime as they struggle find enough food.

Kruger is a vast park in South Africa’s northeast, bordering Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Animals here rely largely on rivers, though water holes are supplied by park management in some places.

Park officials say they are working with communities and farms outside Kruger’s boundaries to manage water usage in the five major rivers that flow through the park.

But rangers say they won’t be making any major changes to save plants and animals from the drought, seeing it as a natural process.

According to Mabasa, in the 1990s a drought reduced the park’s population of Cape buffalos by more than half, to around 14,000. The number of buffalos has since recovered and now stands at more than 40,000.

While hippos along with buffalo will suffer, larger predators including lions and leopards are expected to benefit from the drought, by giving them an advantage on weaker prey.

According to the South African Weather Service, 2015 was the country’s driest year since 1904 when record-keeping began.

The drought, during what is normally the summer rainy season in most of South Africa, has been exacerbated by a strong El Niño. The weather phenomenon brings drier conditions to southern Africa.

Source: usatoday


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