. . . as normal rainfall expected in the next six months
GOVERNMENT has advised farmers to intensify preparations for the farming season, with normal rainfall expected in the next six months.
Addressing a press briefing in Maseru this week in which he outlined Lesotho’s six-month weather outlook, Energy and Meteorology Minister Selibe Mochoboroane said the drought conditions that characterised late 2015 and early 2016 would not affect the country in the summer season.
The drought was the worst in four decades and a result of El Niño – a periodic climatic phenomenon characterised by inadequate rain in some parts of the world and floods in others.
“The El Niño weather phenomenon of the 2015/16 summer season characterised by high temperatures and low rainfall greatly lowered agricultural yields in the country,” he said.
“However, average rainfall conditions can be expected from October to December 2016 countrywide with the likelihood of above-average rainfall which would support summer planting activities.”
Mr Mochoboroane said farmers should also take advantage of the moisture brought about by heavy snowfalls and rain during winter to start planting.
“The recent winter season was also warmer than usual with occasional cold episodes. In addition to the heavy snowfalls which were observed in the highlands, the country also received scattered to heavy rainfall which is above normal precipitation for the past three months. This means that there is enough moisture to allow pre-season planting activities,” he said.
“Furthermore, average rainfall conditions are expected countrywide from next month up to December this year with a likelihood of an increase in rainfall which will aid farmers.”
The minister, however, revealed below average precipitation was expected in the western and south-western parts of the country, namely Berea, Maseru, Mafeteng, Mohale’s Hoek.
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“From January to March next year, rainfall may decline in the southern and western areas of the country with a chance of rising to above average levels in other parts of the country,” he said.
“Lightning, thunder, hailstorms and strong winds are common weather incidents in summer so they can also be expected. Due to climate change, an increased frequency of these conditions is expected to increase their occurrence. There is also a chance of a weak La Nina developing during this season.”
La Niña, the direct opposite of El Niño, occurs when sea surface temperatures in the central Pacific Ocean drop to lower-than-normal levels. In the southern Africa region, La Niña brings wetter than normal conditions, and often leads to extensive floods.
Mr Mochoboroane said the government had employed an all-inclusive approach in mapping the framework to address climate change in Lesotho.
“Climate change has a direct impact on many productive sectors of the economy. This calls for better planning and alignment of productive economic activities with the prevailing and expected weather conditions,” he said.
“We have made great strides towards forming a climate policy which will help us handle different weather conditions. We already have a foreign expert, Dr Albert from Rwanda, who is currently working with a local team to develop strategies to be incorporated in the policy.”
Mr Mochoboroane added: “I also consulted farmers such as fellow Member of Parliament Ntate Litšoane Litšoane who had a good harvest despite the drought. The farmers told me their strategy was to ensure the soil retained its moisture for as long as possible.
“I believe it is high time we set aside our different political affiliations and unite as Basotho in fighting the challenges associated with climate change because they affect us all.”
He also said the ministry would continue to provide periodic weather updates to ensure the safety of people and property as well as for planning purposes.