Zimbabwe to face drought during upcoming farming season

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Men attempt to get a malnourished cow on its feet in rural Masvingo, Zimbabwe. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

Zimbabwe will likely experience an El Nino phase, which will result in erratic rainfall during the 2018/19 farming season, a government official said on Wednesday.

Men attempt to get a malnourished cow on its feet in rural Masvingo, Zimbabwe. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

This will be the second drought for the country in three years, following an El Nino-induced drought in 2016 that left a quarter of the rural population in need of food aid.

That drought was Zimbabwe’s worst in 30 years.

“The 2018/19 rainfall season is pointing towards an El Nino phase,” said Grace Mutandiro, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate.

“El Nino is associated with above-average warming of the surface temperature of the Pacific Ocean and in most years is usually associated with reduced rainfall activity over the sub-region,” Mutandiro said.

“We are informed by science that approximately 62 percent of El Nino phases have resulted in below-normal rainfall in Zimbabwe, leaving us with less than 40 percent chance of good rains during this coming season,” Mutandiro told the media.

Zimbabwe’s farming season usually runs from October to March.

Agriculture is the mainstay of the country’s economy, contributing 10.46 percent to its gross domestic product (GDP) in 2017.

Zimbabwe’s largely under-mechanized agriculture sector is mostly rain-fed.

Zimbabwe produced 2.15 million tons of maize in 2017, the highest yield in two decades, due to favorable weather conditions and a special program for import substitution.

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