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IRI Climate Digest   March 2004

Climate Impacts - February

Contributions to this page were made by IRI researchers
M. Bell, Dr. A. Giannini, E. Grover,
Dr. B. Lyon, C. Ropelewski, Dr. A. Seth

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Africa - Lesotho,Mozambique,Swaziland  Drought conditions are continuing to affect southern Africa, particularly portions of Mozambique, Lesotho, and Swaziland. Poor rains in southern Mozambique during the first half of the region's climatological rainy season increased the likelihood of a below-average harvest this year. (October-December 2003 Precipitation Index) While rainfall in January allowed for replanting in some areas, it also contributed to crop losses in others where the preciptiation was especially heavy. Maize and other staple crops have been hit particularly hard by the combination of ongoing drought and high temperatures. Poor rains in recent months have also been blamed for contributing to food insecurity for hundreds of thousands of people, particularly across the south. The dry conditions have caused water supply problems across the country, but may also have helped to keep the number of cholera cases under control during a recent outbreak. (IRIN, IRIN, FEWSNet, IRIN)

Significant rains did not arrive in Lesotho until late-December and early-January, nearly two months later than normal, exacerbating the ongoing drought conditions in that country. The drought began as early as April 2003 in some areas and settled into the region during the winter months. Ground water has been especially difficult to resupply due to the poor snowfall during the winter and consequent below-normal runoff during the remainder of last year. Soil erosion has also become a problem, partly due to the recent drought conditions. It is largely responsible for reducing the percentage of arable land in Lesotho from 10 to 9 percent in the past five years and is affecting the livestock sector with poor pasture conditions. While all areas of the agricultural sector have been affected by the drought conditions, the primary impact of the recent precipitation deficits is expected to be felt at the household level due to poor vegetable production in household gardens. Most families in the Mohale's Hoek district are expecting this year's crop production to last them only three months. Recent assessments indicated that the country as a whole may produce only 10 percent of its cereal needs in 2004, which prompted the government to declare a food emergency. It is estimated that 600,000-700,000 people will require 57,000 mt of food aid until the end of the 2004-05 harvest. (IRIN, IRIN, IRIN, IRIN, IRIN)

The government of Swaziland also declared a national emergency and issued an appeal for humanitarian assistance. Drought conditions over the past four years, recent heavy storms, and the prevalence of HIV, have combined to cause severe food shortages. Approximately 25 percent of the country's population, about 250,000 people, are in need of food aid. (IRIN)


Asia - Indonesia  During the current October-April rainy season, an outbreak of dengue fever has spread to 30 of 32 provinces in Indonesia (ABC), and has caused at least 455 deaths (DPA). Over 35,000 infections have been reported. Although there have been a large number of cases this year, there are reports of dengue every year during the rainy season in Indonesia. Heavy rainfall and flooding during the rainy season often leave pools of stagnant water which can serve as prime locations for dengue-carrying mosquitos to lay their eggs. There were just over 14,000 cases in 2003 and about 5750 cases reported in 2002 (DPA). Large outbreaks tend to occur about every five years, primarily among non-immune children born after the previous epidemic (BBC).

Above-normal precipitation fell in much of Indonesia in February and produced floods and landslides in several locations in Java, including Jakarta, where approximately 13,000 people were displaced, and about $60 million in damage was done. Flooding also affected Bali, and North Sumatra. Such flooding events are fairly typical of the rainy season in Indonesia. (DFO, DPA, OCHA)

The latest IRI seasonal forecast for April-June 2004 indicates an enhanced likelihood of below-normal precipitation in southern and eastern Indonesia.

Water Resources

Asia - Pakistan  Poor rains have allowed the two primary reservoirs in Pakistan to reach "dead levels". The water levels in the Tarbela and Mangla reservoirs are so low that there is no water available for irrigation channels. Both reservoirs are governed by the Indus River System Authority, which may eventually cut water shares to the provinces of Punjab and Sindh by 22 percent if the situation does not improve. The region climatologically receives most of its rainfall during January-May and July-August. Precipitation amounts during February were below-normal across most of Pakistan, including the Indus River System catchment areas in the north. The remainder of the spring rains are more important than usual due to these precipitation deficits as crops are in need of watering in their last stages of development. (IRIN)

Asia - India  Although the June-September 2003 monsoon season was near-normal for India as a whole, some states in southern India received below-normal monsoon rainfall in 2003. This followed an extremely poor monsoon season for most of India in 2002. As a result, in states such as Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Maharashtra, there are reports of falling reservoir levels, increasingly difficult access to drinking water, and effects on livestock. Some states have requested additional drought relief funds from the central government. (Times of India, AP)


Africa - Africa: North,Africa: West  FAO has made an urgent request for US $9 million to spray insecticide over approximately 500,000 hectares in Mauritania and other locations in West and North Africa, including Western Sahara, Mali, Niger, and Chad, to kill quickly-growing swarms of desert locusts. Spraying has been ongoing for several months in these areas, and also in Morocco, where large swarms have been laying eggs in the Draa Valley south of the Atlas Mountains. According to the Desert Locust Information Service of the FAO, locusts have been breeding in larger numbers than usual after the above-normal rainfall in the Sahel during the 2003 rainy season. Breeding and hatching will continue over the next several weeks, and FAO has warned that large swarms could heavily damage agriculture throughout the region this year, particularly if locust control operations are too late or unsuccessful, and if rainfall is plentiful. Swarms can contain as many as 5,000 locusts per square meter and can migrate extremely quickly. (IRIN, FAO)

Africa - Kenya,Tanzania  Areas of Kenya and Tanzania received above-normal precipitation in January and February. Although the rainfall improved pasture conditions in eastern Kenya, it came too late to help crops in Coast Province which had already wilted during the poor October-December 2003 short rains. An estimated 300,000 people in Coast Province continue to experience food shortages. After the disappointing short rains, there are also food shortages in Eastern Province and areas in the southwest. The Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture has estimated the maize harvest after the 2003 short rains at 360,000 metric tons compared to 540,000 metric tons last year (FEWS Net, IRIN). Preliminary findings by the Kenya Food Security Steering Group have suggested that a total of approximately 1 million people in Kenya may require food aid (FEWS Net).

Crops and pastures in eastern Tanzania benefited from above-normal precipitation in January and February. However, food shortages have been reported in isolated areas of central and northern Tanzania, particularly in the Shinyanga, Mara, Dodoma, and Singida regions, where drier-than-normal conditions have caused crops to wilt, and delays in food aid delivery have occurred. (IRIN, FEWS Net)

The latest IRI seasonal forecast indicates a slightly enhanced probability of below-normal precipitation in southern and western Tanzania during April-June 2004.

Africa - Angola,Botswana,Namibia,Zambia  Heavy rains and flooding have continued to affect regions in Angola after numerous roads, aid supply lines and bridges were destroyed during January. (Feb CID Report) Angola typically receives most of its precipitation between November and March, and large areas of the country received above-normal rainfall during November, December, and January. The rains and flooding have now begun to affect the agricultural sector as well, according to an assessment by the FEWSNet, WFP, and FAO. Maize and bean crops in the central province of Huambo has been most affected. Assessment estimates indicate that the flooding has destroyed 75 and 60 percent of the bean and maize crop, respectively, in Huambo. Approximately 390,000 people have suffered high or extreme losses due to the flooding. Assessments in April will determine whether damages in other provinces, such as Bie, Cuanza Sul, eastern Benguela, and northern Huila, are as extensive as in Huambo. According to a World Vision consultant, however, the loss of crops is not catastrophic. Some produce have thrived in the wet environment and the sweet potato crop, in particular, has done very well, partially compensating for the losses in the maize, bean, and cabbage crops. (IRIN)

The heavy rainfall in recent months in Angola contributed to extensive flooding during February and early March in the upper Zambezi River basin, and along the Okavango and Cuando Rivers, affecting western Zambia, southern Angola, and northern sections of Namibia and Botswana. According to the Dartmouth Flood Observatory (DFO), just over 596,000 square kilometers have been affected. In late February a section of the Okavango River reached its highest level since 1984. The Zambezi River flooded crops and buildings in the Lukulu, Kalabo, and Zambezi districts of western Zambia, and downstream, in the Caprivi strip of Namibia, the river continued to rise into early March, flooding villages that were previously flooded in April of 2003. (IRIN, SADC)

The latest IRI seasonal forecast for April-June 2004 indicates a slightly enhanced probability of below-normal precipitation in central Angola.

Africa - Somalia  Seven consecutive failed rainy seasons have led to widespread livestock deaths and increasingly severe food insecurity among pastoralists in northern and central Somalia, particularly in the Sool Plateau and surrounding region. The most affected areas include the regions of Togdheer, Sool, Sanaag, Nugaal, southern Bari, and areas further south into central Somalia. Although southern Somalia received good rainfall, precipitation was below average once again throughout most of central and northern Somalia during the most recent Deyr rainfall season (October-December 2003 accumulated precipitation estimate). Even before the failure of the Deyr rains, there were reports of livestock deaths and growing food insecurity earlier in 2003. The continuing lack of rainfall has made water increasingly difficult to access or afford, and has continued to cause pasture conditions to degrade. After the Deyr rains, the region typically experiences a dry season from January to March, and a return of seasonal rains beginning in April. Therefore, pasture conditions are not expected to improve until April, at the earliest. Most people living in the region are pastoralists and depend upon livestock for their livelihoods. About 89,100 pastoralists in the region are in a "humanitarian emergency" and 113,900 others in a "livelihood crisis", indicating, among other things, that global acute malnutrition rates are high and rising, large percentages of livestock have died, large-scale migration is underway, and outside assistance is required (FSAU/FEWS). Those who have been able to do so have migrated to surrounding areas in Somalia and Ethiopia where rainfall has been somewhat more plentiful. In the Togdheer region, on the western side of the Sool Plateau, several schools had closed by the end of December 2003 due to the large numbers of students who had migrated with their families. (FSAU/FEWS, IRIN, IRIN)

Africa - Africa  Twenty-three of Africa's 53 countries are currently suffering from serious food shortages, of which a significant portion can be attibuted to drought, according to the FAO Secretary General, Jacques Diouf. (Precipitation Index March 2003-February 2004) Africa is very dependent on rain as 60 percent of its workforce is employed by agriculture and 93 percent of the its arable land depends on rainfall. A recent FAO study indicated that nearly 18 million people in Africa are experiencing food shortages due, in part, to insufficient rainfall. The bright spot in the report was the Sahel, which has produced above-average cereal harvests in recent years. (UNWire)

Australia and New Zealand - New Zealand  A series of strong storms during February produced heavy rainfall (February 2004 WASP Index) and damaging floods, particularly in the southern parts of the North Island. Flooding closed several highways and damaged bridges, water and sewer systems, and other infrastructure. Initial government estimates of damage range from NZ$ 204 million to about NZ$ 265 million, which includes damage suffered by sheep, beef, dairy, and crop farmers, and damage to roads, bridges, and other infrastructure. Produce prices were reportedly on the rise for consumers in Taranaki on the North Island as a result of the flooding. (IFRC, The Daily News, DFO, New Zealand Herald)

South America - Argentina  The wheat harvest in southern Argentina's Buenos Aires province exceeded expectations in mid-January. Beneficial rainfall in the delegations of Tandil and Tres Arroyos during the last few months of 2003, which coincide with the grain fill stage for wheat, has been credited with the good harvest and helped compensate for drought in the western grain areas. (October-December 2003 Precipitation Index) Climatologically, the province of Buenos Aires receives most of its precipitation between October to March. (FAS/USDA)

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