With temperatures beginning to soar, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has warned that water restrictions will remain in place in several of the country’s provinces.
With persisting drought conditions, the department said the majority of the country continues to report reasonable to poor veld and livestock conditions.
“According to the Seasonal Climate Watch, issued by the South African Weather Service (SAWS) dated 30 September 2019, below normal rainfall is anticipated over the central and south-eastern parts of the country during late spring,” said the department on Wednesday.
Above normal rainfall is expected during early summer to mid-summer in the central and eastern regions of the country.
The department also cautioned that the forecasting system is uncertain.
“Temperatures are expected to be above normal for the northernmost parts of the country,” it said, adding that the average level of major dams in the Western Cape has increased but decreased in other provinces.
The September 2019 Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) report, stated that certain parts of the African region continue to experience the impact of the poor 2019 harvest with poor households continuing to experience crisis (IPC Phase 3).
Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Lesotho were the most affected countries.
“Currently, most households across the region have exhausted own production and are relying mainly on market purchases for food with atypically high maize grain prices. Similarly, these outcomes are present in conflict-affected areas in DRC,” said the department.
Across the region there are no expectations of improvement through to at least January 2020.
FEWS NET further reported that national and international forecasts indicate the possibility of below-average rainfall for the first half of the season in southern parts of the region.
The forecasts indicate that central parts of the region are likely to receive near-normal rains from October through December, while northern areas may receive normal to below normal rainfall.
Cumulative rainfall for October 2019 to March 2020 is expected to be average in the northern parts of the region. It is anticipated that some central and southern areas will receive below-average rainfall.
Advice for farmers
The department has advised farmers to approach the season with caution.
“Dryland farmers are advised to wait for sufficient moisture before planting, consider drought-resistant cultivars and short-season cultivars. Farmers are also advised to consider other alternative crops such as sorghum.”
Farmers have also been advised to be conservative in their planting and those using irrigation to be mindful of the forecast.
“Farmers using irrigation should be mindful of the forecast. Dam levels might not be replenished as quickly while irrigating due to the expected high temperatures. They must also comply with water restrictions in their areas. All farmers should follow weather and climate forecasts regularly so as to make informed decisions,” said the department.
The department urged farmers to keep livestock in balance with the carrying capacity of the veld, and to provide additional feed such as relevant licks.
“Farmers are encouraged to implement strategies provided in the early warning information issued. All farmers should check continuous updates from the SAWS,” said the department.
Impact on livelihoods
As a result of these conditions, casual labour opportunities are expected to remain limited through to at least January 2020.
Currently, poor households are earning income through activities including land preparation, brick moulding, and the selling of thatching grass.
“However, as better-off households who normally provide these opportunities have also been affected by drought, opportunities are limited.”
“The possibility for a delayed and erratic start of the season in some areas is expected to delay normal agriculture labour opportunities and delay access to this income source,” said the department.