Thursday, December 17, 2015

South African drought gives a glimpse of what future climate change may bring

Bill Corcoran in Cape Town
Nov. 25, 2015

The ongoing drought in South Africa, which has decimated harvests and livestock and forced urban water restrictions, is providing a frightening glimpse of the climatic future experts predict for the country unless appropriate adaptation measures are introduced.

The African continent’s most developed nation is suffering one of its worst droughts since the 1930s, and the unfolding El NiƱo climate phenomenon, which warms surface waters in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, is exacerbating the situation.

The ensuing lack of rain and soaring temperatures have crippled agriculture and revealed how ill-prepared government and citizens currently are to respond to the fallout from severe climatic shocks.

In recent weeks record temperature highs of nearly 40 degrees (104 F) have been reported in Gauteng province. In total five provinces have been declared drought disaster areas and some 2.7 million households are facing water restrictions.

Drought-induced crop failure is burning a multibillion-rand hole in the local economy, and threatening food security by making South Africa reliant on imports for staple foods such as wheat and maize to meet local consumption needs.

The government said recently that according to crop estimates, the maize production declined from 14.2 million tonnes in 2013 to 9.8 million tonnes in 2014 – a 31 per cent reduction – and the current season was looking worse still.


“Most large-scale farmers are looking at conservation agriculture systems to preserve moisture, but you still need rain or you will have nothing to preserve,” he said.


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