SEATTLE, Washington — Over the last few years, Africa has experienced a significant decline in rainfall. During the previous wet season, rain was delayed for weeks, resulting in the current drought in Africa.
Cause of the Drought
From November to March, Africa experiences its wet season. These months are typically the hottest of the year, and the rainfall contributes to the extreme humidity. Although the heat can cause its issues, South Africans rely on the wet season’s rain for their crops and livestock.
During the wet season, South Africans collect rainwater through cisterns which are capable of holding hundreds of gallons of water. With the delayed rainfall and increasing global temperatures, Africans have been unable to collect enough rainwater to fulfill essential household duties.
Late rainfall during the wet season has been an ongoing issue in Southern Africa for the last few years. The most recent wet season in 2019 escalated the persistent problems plaguing the people, leading to the drought in Africa.
Effects of the Drought
The most recognized complications that arise from a dry season are the impact on farmers and their livelihoods. Without adequate water, crops are unable to grow and livestock can become malnourished. Farmers who rely on their crops for both food and income also heavily rely on rainwater. To combat the loss of revenue, many farmers sell their livestock. However, this has also harmed the economy.
Due to the insufficient amount of rainfall during the 2019 wet season, grain production in Africa dropped 30%. In Zimbabwe, the output of its predominant crop maize has decreased to less than half of its regular supply.
Crops and livestock are not the only things suffering from the historic drought. Africa’s natural assets are also diminishing. The Zambezi River, located between the countries of Zambia and Zimbabwe, has reached a record low water level. Other bodies of water such as Lake Kariba and Victoria Falls are also deteriorating. Lake Kariba has reached its lowest water level in over 20 years, being at less than 20% capacity. The famous Victoria Falls located on the Zambezi River has subsided enough to reflect a simple stream.
Even power has been affected by the lack of rainfall. The Kariba Dam is the hydroelectric source of energy for half of the people in both Zambia and Zimbabwe. With the water levels significantly declining in the dam, electricity in different areas of the two countries has been affected.
Overall, the drought in Africa is estimated to have affected 11 million people. With this number increasing, there is a potential for more disastrous outcomes.
Poor Water Management
A majority of the countries are suffering from the drought in Africa. However, South Africa is continuously making headlines.
When the South African government realized that there was a likely chance for rain to be delayed until December, they established a series of emergency measures to conserve water. The recent drought has brought attention to the ongoing need for improved water management. It was estimated that in South Africa, about 60% of conserved water was used for agricultural purposes, while 27% was used in the homes.
When a consequential drought occurs, the government will often cut the taps of homes to conserve water. The country of South Africa is one of the driest countries in the world, making the recent drought in Africa especially severe.
Looking For Solutions
The people of South Africa blame the government’s poor long-term water management for their current conditions. Although the government is still working to improve these systems and infrastructure, they are also able to look to other countries for guidance. For example, Israel is a country widely renowned for its water management improvements. To combat droughts, the Israeli government converted the nation’s sewage system into an alternate water source. To date, 90% of the country’s sewage water is treated and used for agricultural purposes.
The drought in Africa has created several problems affecting both the people and the land. The lack of available water supplies has also brought light to the importance of long-term water management and alternative ways to pursue water conservation. The governments in Africa can look to other countries for guidance and find a way to combat the drought, raise people’s standard of living, and aiding farmers’ livelihoods.