Concrete measures needed to tackle droughts

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As was predicted by weather expects a few months ago, a drought is coming our way and it is time governments across the SADC region bite the bullet and take concrete measures to ensure food security.

 The region has a network of rivers where some countries have invested in dams to store water for irrigation and domestic consumption.

In view of the impending drought, we believe much more needs to be done to develop more irrigation infrastructure to sustain agriculture and crop development.

As we have said before, climate change is real and is here to stay and the Africa region is much more vulnerable.

This therefore calls for planning on the part of governments on the continent to mitigate the effects of the droughts.  

According to a statement released by the Southern Africa Regional Climate Outlook Forum (SARCOF) in Harare in September, most countries in the SADC are likely to receive normal to below normal rainfall for the 2018/2019 rainfall season amid fears the region will most likely experience the El Nino phenomenon again this year.

El Nino, a temporary weather phenomenon, causes shifting weather patterns across the globe and in Southern Africa, this largely results in devastating droughts. 

So once again, the SADC region, together with the rest of Africa, might be hit by another devastating drought, throwing member countries into a tailspin as lack of rains is a big blow to their agro-based economies.

This therefore calls for proper planning across the region to tame the drought.

Most countries in the SADC region are heavily dependent on agriculture, and poor rains spell doom for prospects for growth.  This also means huge amounts of money would have to be channeled towards importing food, money which would otherwise have been channeled towards other needy areas like health, education and infrastructural development. 

This is why we have always called upon leaders in the region to move away from over reliance on rain-fed agriculture.  

Countries like Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe have fertile soils which could be developed for irrigation.  In fact, the SADC region should no longer be relying on rain-fed agriculture.  

We reiterate the need for massive investment in dams and irrigation infrastructure so that when the region is hit by natural calamities such as droughts, it can still be able to produce food for its peoples.

We believe the region can adequately plan for droughts if there is political will by governments to invest in dams and irrigation systems that would ensure countries do not have to wait for the rainy seasons, but can plant crops year round.  

Examples abound elsewhere where arid countries have gone on to develop their agricultural systems such that they do not feel the effects of droughts. We have always maintained that if a country like Israel, which is largely desert, can develop its agriculture to a point of being a net exporter of food, what stops countries in Southern Africa from doing the same?

The region is endowed with good climate and has fairly large rivers which could be dammed for agricultural purposes.  We see no reason why year in and year out, countries watch millions of cubic metres of water flowing to the Indian and Atlantic oceans, but sit and mourn about poor rains.

We believe it is time for leaders in the region to think outside the box and stop relying on rain-fed agriculture.  

We once again call upon them to take proactive measures to tame the recurrent droughts.

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