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11 November 2010

Zimbabwe may face Hunger Season without NGOs

In what is considered a likely scenario, Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe may throw NGOs out of Zimbabwe in the run up to next years constitutional referendum. Climate and weather will be a significant factor in how this impacts the people of Zimbabwe.

First the bad news: Zimbabwe does not produce enough food to feed its own population. It once was the breadbasket of southern Africa, but a disastrous land redistribution policy removed those who knew how to farm, and replaced them with city dwellers who did not know how work the land. These people were given no training and food production suffered. Without NGOs to provide and distribute needed food, a crisis could be triggered. The hunger season, the time when food begins to run out before the next harvest, doesn't end until May.

Now the good news: This coming year should not be a drought year. Current rainfall forecasts are showing a wet year across southern Africa. What is causing this is the current La Niña in the Pacific Ocean. Ignoring the details, there is a long established trend when there is warm water across the equatorial Pacific it is almost certain that southern Africa will get soaked to the point of flooding.

The above forecast from IRI at Columbia University is about as La Niña-like as it gets for the November - January period. The odds are favoring bone dry conditions in the east, and flooding rains in the south. (Note: This is a probability forecast not a forecast of the amount of rainfall.) However, my experiance in watching La Niñas in Africa tells me that this is shaping up to be a wet season.

It is important to keep in mind, however, that the crops grown with this rainfall will not be ready to eat until May, when the harvest occurs, and it could be before then that aid workers are sent home.

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