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22 April 2011

Africa Update #26: Rains Spread in GHA, but not Enough

Rainfall has improved significantly in the Greater Horn of Africa, but not nearly enough to make up deficits from earlier in the season. Early season rainfall continues in west Africa as a late season front pushes through southern Africa.

The failure of the second consecutive rainy season in the Greater Horn of Africa is a pending disaster. We are now more than halfway through the March-April-May rains, during which time the Somali Region of Ethiopia has received almost no rain. Things are only marginally better in southern Somalia, where the south is getting by with rainfall that has only begun occurring in any measurable capacity during the last week. Kenya, away from Lake Victoria, has also watched rainfall deficits grow, with day after day of below average precipitation. Water and food are running out as a hunger season, which should have ended around December, must now last until the next successful harvest. That harvest will not come in May or June, as it normally would, but instead at the soonest in October.

The western and the southern parts of the continent have done much better. In the west preseason rains have been generally been gentle, allowing the softening of the soil, helping with sowing activities, without causing any large scale flooding. Rainfall has picked up significantly in the Gulf of Guinea area, where the Côte d'Ivoire crisis is still winding down. The ending of the conflict before the rains has prevented what could have been a more regional and/or more severe conflict. Moderate showers will continue here, as will lighter rains in the Sahel.

Southern Africa's wet season is coming to a close. The season has been fairly good across most areas, with the exception of Zimbabwe. Damage to crops here will likely result in the import of large amounts of maize from surrounding countries. Some dryness in southern Mozambique and northern parts of the Maize Triangle in South Africa may cause localized problems in those countries. Flood waters have continued to recede along the Zambezi River, as well as along the Namibia-Angola border. Recessional agriculture may take place in some of these areas, especially those areas that had crops damaged by the floods.

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