By AXEL ROTHAUGE
ODI-Pastoral Development Network ; Livestock: Coping with Drought
Drought is a regular occurrence in the Namibian environment. Some droughts are limited to certain areas of the country, e.g. the south only. These "local" droughts are mainly due to deviations in the local weather pattern. They can occur as frequently as every two years but are of relatively short duration (part of a rainy season). Accordingly, they have a comparatively small impact on our national agriculture.
In contrast, droughts of a regional nature affect large parts of the southern African subcontinent and are mainly due to changes in global weather patterns. Not only are regional droughts more severe than local droughts, usually with a devastating effect on the agricultural sector and the Namibian economy, but they also last longer. However, they are less frequent, occurring cyclically every two to seven years. The major cause of regional droughts is the "El Niņo" weather pattern that develops sporadically over the western Pacific Ocean. The importance of this phenomenon was realized only a few years ago.
Whatever the nature of a drought, it follows a certain pattern to which drought management must adapt if the farmer wants to successfully negotiate the dry spell. The central issue is to plan for reducing the risks, or minimize the damage, associated with a drought. Contingency drought planning should be a major obligation of every Namibian livestock farmer.
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