By Sharon Atieno

Deliberations held during the 51st Greater Horn of Africa Climate Outlook Forum (GHACOF 51) that provided seasonal climate outlook for the next three months indicate that much of the equatorial region is expected to receive near normal rainfall with higher likelihood of low rainfall in the eastern parts of the region.

The eastern parts to be affected by low rainfall include central and coastal areas of Somalia, eastern Kenya, and much of northern segments of South Sudan and Ethiopia; Southern Sudan, southern Tanzania, Eritrea and Djibouti.

However, higher chances of wetter conditions over parts of Tanzania, much of Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, western Kenya, western Somalia, south-western Ethiopia, parts of southern and south eastern Ethiopia are also forecasted.

Moreover, the GHACOF 51 predicts earlier than normal seasonal onset of the March to May (MAM) rains with early withdrawal over most parts of the equatorial region.

An analysis of the MAM 2019 season on agriculture indicates that the regions with above normal rainfall are expected to have good crop and pastoral prospects as well as a reduction in fall army worm infestation thus, high prospects for food security. For areas that experienced moisture deficits in the October to December 2018 rainy season, the expected enhanced rains are likely to bring some relief.

On the other hand, there is a likelihood of flash flooding, waterlogging and landslides in some localized places. Though crops that cannot tolerate too much water are likely to perform poorly, there is also likelihood of fertilizer and pesticides being washed away, high incidences of hailstones and lightning as well as deterioration of road infrastructure thus affecting transport and trade of agricultural produce.

In most of the areas with normal rainfall, early onset (by 10-20 days) and early withdrawal (by 10 days) is expected with minimal impacts generally. There is also a slight improvement in food security conditions of agricultural produce.

In the regions experiencing below normal rainfall, there will be early withdrawal in Somalia and early to late withdrawal in Tanzania. Though in Tanzania there is likely to be minimal impact on crops and food security as the crops will have passed critical stages and provided that there is no prolonged dry spells. In Somalia where food insecurity already poses a major challenge, further shocks would worsen the situation.

Several mitigation measures are recommended for each region. Early land preparation and planting is recommended for regions with above normal rainfall. In addition, water harvesting and storage for future use is expected, as well as investment in post-harvest technologies to avoid loses in areas where harvesting is likely to take place.

Not only is house-hold level cereal storage and regional trade encouraged but also stocking of pesticides and disease treatments will help in handling the menace of pests, diseases and weeds.

In regions experiencing normal rainfall, early warning information should be availed to farmers and agro-dealers about the expected rains with smallholder resilience building advised.

Livestock off-take from smallholder livestock farmers is encouraged alongside water trucking, and food and nutrition assistance in the regions affected by below normal rainfall.

An analysis by the regional consensus on climate for the MAM 2019 on the livestock sector, looks at individual countries and provides tailored mitigation measures for them.

In Ethiopia, there should be general monitoring of the season’s performance for areas with above to normal rainfall.  For other areas especially in lowland areas such as Afar and Somali regions where there is a likelihood of diseases, vaccination, surveillance and treatment of sick animals is recommended. Capacity building in vaccination and surveillance, close monitoring of performance and resource utilization is encouraged as well as cultivation of animal feed.

In South Sudan, pastures and water will be increased though the area has few livestock. The lower lands of Juba will likely flood if heavy rains in Uganda will cause flooding. Livestock in Toch (dry season grazing) will return home hence there is need for vaccinations and deworming. In addition, proper coordinated animal movements and vaccination is to be conducted to avoid disease outbreak as livestock is expected to move southwards from Sudan.

With most of Uganda receiving above to normal rainfall, flooding is expected in both the country and lower south Sudan areas. With improved pastures expected, vector-borne diseases outbreaks are also expected, therefore, vaccination, surveillance and treatment of sick animal are key mitigation measures.

In Kenya, conditions are already poor in some areas, with a likelihood of further deterioration of pasture if season underperforms. As livestock move in search of pasture and water there is likely to be disease outbreaks as well as resource based conflicts in areas such as Tana delta, Kitui, Turkana/Karamoja area, West Pokot/Turkana.

Some of the mitigation measures recommended include: close monitoring of rainfall performance and pastures/water, enhanced data collection of early warning data, activating the pastoral risk management committees to facilitate peaceful migrations, disease surveillance, prevention and treatment as well as investment in water infrastructures.

In Sudan, outbreaks of pneumonia and foot and mouth diseases are expected, therefore, disease surveillance and monitoring is recommended. Other recommendations include: government to release national strategic stockpile, the government policy to utilize 30 percent of fodder for export locally to be effected and vaccinations for priority diseases pneumonias, sheep and goat pox especially for sheep and goats to secure live exportation to the gulf states.

In Somalia, areas which receive less than normal to normal rainfall, mostly sheep and goat zones will be expected to move in for pasture. The likely livestock movements on pocket areas could lead to conflicts around Hiraan and Galgadud. Close monitoring of season’s performance is required.