June 20, 2003

Tanzania faces real famine

Drought looms large in Tanzania indicating that the country is going to face famine in the coming season. According to a Review of Rainfall in Tanzania and Outlook for the remainder of 2002/03 by the Tanzania Meteorological Agency (TMA), the performance of ongoing seasonal rains is poor over most parts of the country.

Driest conditions on record have been experienced over some parts of central and coastal areas. For example, in April Dar es Salaam recorded a total of 13.7mm- the lowest rainfall for the past 50 years- while Kilimanjaro International Airport, Arusha and Zanzibar recorded below ten per cent of their respective normal monthly rainfall.

Moshi, Same, Pemba, Tanga, Morogoro, Singida, Dodoma and Mtwara also received between ten per cent and 40 per cent of their respective mean rainfall. "It is advisable for farmers, livestock keepers and water supply authorities to harvest rainfall and use the water sparingly. This is a necessary adaptation measure to cope with the expected climate variability," it says. It notes that in Mara, Mwanza, Shinyanga, Kagera and northern parts of Kigoma regions the rains will be conducive to normal agricultural production. According to the report signed by the TMA acting director general, Martin Lukando, in southern coastal regions (Mtwara and Lindi), only drought resistant crops like cassava will benefit from the little rains received.

In Ruvuma region it is expected that maturity and average yields will be realized from crops. On the other hand, in the central regions of Dodoma, Singida and Tabora, western parts of Iringa and Mbeya, Rukwa and southern Kigoma, early planted crops are expected to make it to maturity. "The late planted crops have been adversely affected by lack of moisture at critical growth stages and reduced yields," goes on the Report. It is only regions in lakes Victoria and Tanganyika basins comprising Mwanza, Mara, Kagera, Shinyanga, Kigoma and Tabora regions which had normal to slightly above normal rainfall, it says, noting: "Overall seasonal rainfall performance indicates that worst affected areas are the whole coastal belt, central areas and northeastern zone." It says regional atmospheric circulation patterns indicate that the unfavourable rainfall conditions in much of the country are due to the existence of a warm pool of sea surface temperature anomalies in southeastern Atlantic ocean. These surround the coast of Namibia and South Africa, with the most affected areas being the inland regions.

"However, warm sea surface temperature anomalies emerging in southwestern Indian Ocean to the east of Madagascar will slightly improve rain activities along the coast and hinterlands after mid May. The rainfall situation will remain better in the northwestern regions," it says.

The review observes that the rainfall season is over in the southern part of the country and is now evolving into the cool season. It observes that the rains in the northern sector were expected to end last month. However, northern coastal areas will continue to receive occasional rains this month.

In the Lake Victoria basin (Kagera, Mwanza, Shinyanga, Mara regions and northern parts of Kigoma) the long rains (Masika) are expected to be near normal. They also ended last month. In the Northern coast and hinterland (Tanga, Dar es Salaam, Coast region, Morogoro north, isles of Zanzibar and Pemba) the long rains are expected to be below normal and lasted until the end of May. Occasional rains will continue this month.

The review notes that in the Southern coast and hinterland (Mtwara and Lindi regions) the rainfall season is over. A few occasional rains were expected in May. Below normal rainfall is expected in the Northeastern highlands (Kilimanjaro and Arusha regions). Rains were expected to recede towards the end of May. In Western areas (Tabora and Kigoma south) the rainfall season is over. However, a few occasional rains were expected during the remaining period of last month..

The review also observes that in the Singida and Dodoma regions the rainfall season is over. Dry conditions are expected to prevail with very few occasions of rains, it says. It notes that in the Southwestern highlands (Rukwa, Iringa, Mbeya and Morogoro south) the rainfall season is also over. A few incidences of rainfall over high grounds were expected in May. For the South western (Ruvuma and Morogoro south), the review shows that the rainfall season is over and mainly dry conditions prevail. TMA has assured the public that it will continue to monitor the evolution of global atmospheric circulation and the associated rainfall patterns. It adds that updates and relevant advice will be issued regularly. (Business Times, Dar es Salaam)

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