News and Information

Flood fears rise in the Caprivi Region
January 24, 2005

FLOODS are looming in the east of Caprivi, while the food security situation, compounded by dry weather conditions, makes this year's expected crop harvest "generally unfavourable".

A team from the early warning unit in the Ministry of Agriculture predicts that heavy rains in Zambia and Angola are expected to cause flooding of the Zambezi River and damage to crops planted thus far.

The Early Warning Bulletin said the Zambezi River increased by 0,02m a day compared to 0,03m a day last year, but that had "no indicative meaning" as the overflow of the river and subsequent flooding occurred in different months last year.

"Localised flooding of some crop fields has been reported at Impalila islands already," the bulletin, released at the end of last week, said.

Farmers and locals in Eastern Caprivi are still recovering from last year's severe floods that affected tens of thousands and displaced many others.

The bulletin said sufficient planting material was provided to last year's flood victims but the area with planted coarse grain was below average because of dry weather.

"The total coarse grain area has declined while weather and crop conditions suggest that the per cent of abandonment may be higher and yields are lower than average in most parts of the eastern Caprivi Region," said the bulletin.

Land preparation has not been completed for sowing of coarse grain, mainly because of inadequate rainfall while pastoral lands in the area, particularly the upper land, have received poor rains resulting in water and pasture stress.

"The overall food situation in most parts of the Caprivi Region, however, has generally improved with above normal harvests last season's crop. Nonetheless, the food security situation of large number of people affected by floods last year is precarious as a consequence of the destruction of crops and disruption of activities of the farmers," said the bulletin.

The weather and crop situation will be closely monitored in the coming weeks.

The crop assessment team only visited the eastern Caprivi because that part of the region becomes inaccessible during the normal crop assessment mission because of flooding and heavy rains.

The normal crop assessment of all regions will be conducted in February and March.

The mission found that the cropping season started almost two months late and had been characterised by dry spells up to mid-January.

As a result, planting was delayed, while replanting was necessary elsewhere.

At the beginning of the agricultural season in October very few farmers were able to plant maize due to insufficient and scattered showers.

The ensuing dry spell also destroyed many first plantings.

The bulletin said although rains in February were expected to bring some relief from the prolonged dryness, its effect on crop harvest was "doubtful".

"The mission estimates that only 30 to 40 per cent of the total crop area has been planted thus far. In most of the highland areas, crops are still at an emerging stage with signs of severe wilting because of water stress. Also, by reason of prolonged dry spells, maize planted at the river fields showed signs of retarded growth and development," it said.


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