Southern Africa has historically been at high risk of droughts. Since the start of the 2018/19 cropping season in October, anomalous dry conditions have developed across parts of the region with more intense moisture deficits registered in Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. Due to the intensity of these dry conditions, Botswana has declared 2018-2019 a drought year.
Livestock accounts for 80 percent of Botswana’s agricultural earnings and though there are a few months remaining in the cropping season, which usually commences in April, the impact of the reduced and unevenly distributed rains have caused dry spells, resulting in crop failure and a deteriorating livestock condition in the country.
In 2018, an El Niño event disrupted Southern Africa’s annual rainfall. The first effect of this disruption was a delayed sowing date, which was pushed back from late October to early November. Between October 2018 and April 2019, the number of severely food insecure people in Southern Africa rose to an estimated 9.6 million at the start of the lean season, the season with reduced rainfalls.
Meanwhile, in Botswana livestock condition has decreased from good to fair and the condition is expected to deteriorate further, with the livelihoods of a significant number of rural households vulnerable and in need of the government’s intervention.
According to the country’s Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government, Boipelo Khumomatlhare, who noted that the 2018/2019 drought year declaration was based off consideration of the Drought and Household Food Security Assessment and Analysis Report said, “the assessment indicated that the 2018/19 rainfall season was characterised by rains which were poor both in space and time over most parts of the country during the first half of the season. Some districts did not even receive their onsets.”
Experts also predict that the next lean season will most likely start early in August/September in several areas of the Southern African region, including Botswana, and households will have limited purchasing power due to lower incomes. Households will also lack access to milk, no thanks to poor livestock body conditions and the high levels of acute food insecurity are likely during the 2019/20 lean season.