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09 September 2011

Africa Update #46: Rainfall Pattern Flips

Thus far this season, precipitation has been plentiful from the Nigeria-Benin border westward, with a few isolated exceptions. Meanwhile, eastward from that point, rainfall has been generally lacking, with a few exceptions. This arrangement of precipitation has flipped around this axis suddenly, and for the most part, that is a good thing.

Precipitation has generally been favorable in west Africa, at times there have been flooding events, but they have been widely scattered and remained localized. The last seven days have seen what had been abundant rainfall turn into light to moderate rains across the region. This, if it is short lived, will be good for crops. It allows people to get into the fields to conduct weeding and other work that is better done during dry weather. A few areas, however, continued to see week-long surpluses, mainly in central Mali and nearby areas of Burkina Faso. Also, seeing a less severe drop off in moisture, are the west and south coasts. Here moisture has been slightly off, especially along the Gulf of Guinea coast, and so maintaining near normal rainfall in these areas is more important than an opportunity to do field work.

The eastern areas of the Sahel have generally had below average precipitation this season, but in concert with the west, here too there has been a u-turn. Heavy rain blanketed most of the region with the exception of eastern North Sudan extending into much of Eritrea, as well as a swath of central Chad southward into northern Central African Republic. The rains are likely too late to help out with long season crops, but shorter cycle grains will greatly benefit from this precipitation.

One area of ongoing concern that has been on the dry side for much of the season is western Niger, along the river of the same name. This region, the breadbasket of Niger, has had below normal rainfall all season long. Although the greater regions abundant rainfall this season will mitigate things, this will put upward pressure on markets in the region. Also of concern is secretive Eritrea, where season-long below average rains have likely caused crops to fail, but because the government does not broadcast such information, and few outsiders are allowed in, there have been no ground reports on crop conditions. Eritrea having problems with food availability could compound, complicate and allow for the spread of the Somali Famine.

In the north, moisture remains plentiful in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia as seasonal light rains continue. Libya remains seasonably dry, although the sowing season is approaching, and a continuation of the civil war into that period will complicate farming activities.

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