Friday, May 8
Region-wide drought in southern Africa? If so, where's major media on this story?
I took a much-needed break from drought/water shortage issues yesterday but now it's back to the salt mines. This headline dateline May 6 caught my eye: Zimbabwe will not declare national food disaster over drought ... fom the Zimbabwe Daily.
From the report:
But in a maize production report for Southern Africa 2015 released recently, FAO said nearly 300,000 hectares under maize in the country were a write-off because of the dry spell, and the estimated 35 percent decline in maize output was the highest in the region.
South Africa and Namibia are forecast to record 33 percent decline, Botswana 29 percent, Zambia 14 percent, Malawi 25 percent, Lesotho 30 percent, Swaziland 20 percent while Mozambique and Madagascar have the lowest declines of five and four percent.Now wait just one minute. That's most of southern Africa, isn't it? Which countries, exactly, are in the region? [tap tap tap]
"Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe." (Encyclopaedia Brittanica) Okay, Madgascar isn't technically part of southern Africa because it's not on the continent; it's an island nation.
Now, is the drought limited to Zimbabwe? If there's a wider drought in southern Africa the New York Times or Associated Press or BBC oor some major press outlet would be reporting on it. Right? But I don't like those maize stats so lemme double check.
[tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap. tap.]
Huh. Nothing about a larger drought. But that doesn't make sense measured against the production numbers for maize. Especially the Madagascar statistic. There's a good reason Madagascar's maize production didn't drop that much. In 2014 the country was hit with the double whammy of severe drought and massive locust swarms. The country's crops were virtually wiped out -- to the point where tens of thousands of citizens were facing imminent -- and I mean imminent -- starvation. The 'international community' rushed food aid to the country to stave off the worst.
So there wasn't that much maize production left in Madagascar to drop.
[muttering to herself] Do I look like the Associated Press? Well there's no help for it; I'll have to go country by country. Let's see what I get by typing "Angola drought 2015" [tap tap]
Big drought there in 2013 and slow recovery in 2014; that from the last entry (Aug 2014) at the Lutheran World Federation, which does a lot of relief work in the country. They seem to be okay this year, so far, or there would have been some news item somewhere. I hope.
Bloomberg Business, March 17, 2015: Botswana Experiencing ‘Drought Year’ as Heat Damages Crops
Worst drought in 30 years. [muttering] would they please get the stupid facebook and twitter logos out of the way so I can see the year the report was published. 2007. [tap tap tap tap tap tap] [cussing out google and bing bots]
All right, we'll come back to Lesotho because they just had a big election there in February and the government is putting on a happy face.
The Africa Report, April 1, 2015: Malawi will see a "substantial decrease" in the maize harvest of its staple maize crop in 2015 due to a combination of floods and drought, Agriculture Minister Allan Chiyembekeza said on Wednesday.
Well at least they have water.
"Farmers in the Zambezi Region in the far north of Namibia are bracing themselves for a drought probably worse than the 1970 one, this as crops wither due to poor weather patterns in the area."
"According to some small-scale farmers, the sporadic rainfall and high weather temperatures will likely translate into food insecurity as bad as in 1970 when harvests were recorded as the poorest ever."
Times Live; March 12, 2015: Half of country facing drought.
Swazi Observer; January 31, 2015; Drought Disaster Looms
"Early estimates suggest Zambia’s 2015 corn production will exceed consumption, despite sporadic cases of drought in some provinces, Agriculture Minister Given Lubinda told lawmakers March 17."
Here I'll fall back on the report I mentioned earlier:
May 6, 2015
HARARE– Agriculture minister Joseph Made on Wednesday said government will not declare the drought that has ravaged mainly the southern parts of the country a national disaster and will instead import grain to avert hunger.
Zimbabwe on Monday announced it would import 700,000 tonnes of maize, which will cost the cash strapped government in excess of $200 million, to avert a food crisis following a drought that affected crops in most parts of the country this season.
The country is holding 150,000 tonnes in reserves against a national requirement of 1,8 million metric tonnes.
Responding to a question in Parliament on why the government has not declared a national disaster to allow donors to assist it with food aid, Made said the drought had mainly affected the southern part of the country and it was too early to declare an emergency.
“We are not at a stage yet to indicate whether this is a disaster or not,” he said.
He said government would issue permits to the private sector, non-governmental organisations and World Food Programme to import grain.
“We will be dealing directly as government with the rural areas and the vulnerable groups,” he said.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture has forecast Zimbabwe’s maize production for the 2014/15 season at 950,000 tonnes, over a third lower than the previous season due to a prolonged dry spell.
[...]Sure looks as if big parts of Southern Africa are facing drought this year.