By Anthony Muchoki
In East Africa, a potent blend of nature’s forces is stirring the skies. The atmosphere, taking cues from the prevailing El Niño conditions, is gearing up for an eventful rainy season across seven countries, from October to December 2023. These downpours, although a boon in many respects, also bear the potential for destructive challenges. This feature looks into the predictions, implications, and prudent courses of action for the region.
Kenya: Rain’s Early Knock on Eastern Doors
In Kenya, a nation revered for its contrasting landscapes, from sun-baked savannahs to verdant highlands, the impending El Niño effect is set to bring about marked variations. The eastern counties, including Garissa, Wajir, and Kilifi, brace for a bountiful rainfall, with over an 80% probability of receiving above-average showers. The silver lining? The onset is expected as early as mid-October, blessing the soil in time for the crop cycles.
Conversely, the western terrains, while also anticipated to enjoy enhanced rainfall, might experience an average or slightly belated onset. This divergence in patterns within the same country exemplifies the capricious nature of weather systems.
According to Ward et al. (20/10/2014), ‘By the end of 2023, flood risk is anticipated in the coastal areas of East Africa. Eastern Ethiopia, northern Kenya, western Madagascar, northern Mozambique, Somalia, eastern Tanzania, and Yemen are some areas where floods have historically been higher than average during El Niño
Uganda & Tanzania: Nature’s Bounty Beckons
Uganda, often dubbed the ‘Pearl of Africa’, is poised to glitter even more under the anticipated rainfalls. Almost the entirety of the nation can expect a hearty spell of rains, save for certain pockets in the southwestern region, which might remain relatively parched.
Tanzania, Kenya’s southern neighbor, mirrors a similar climatic trajectory. The southern regions, especially Mtwara and Lindi, are set for a drenching dance of the monsoons, with an over 80% likelihood of rains exceeding yearly averages. The eastern areas might hear the rain’s melody even before the traditional onset time. “Strong El Niño conditions are expected to support above-average rainfall which in turn support above-average crop production and improved livestock productivity” in Uganda, notes AGRA Food Security Monitor: Edition 40, Released in September 2023.
Rwanda, Burundi, and South Sudan: A Mixed Bag of Showers
Rwanda and Burundi, the twin jewels nestled in the heart of Africa, prepare for a complex weather tapestry. The central and western expanses anticipate generous showers. However, the southeastern pockets might have to contend with a slightly stingier rain cloud cover.
South Sudan, a nation already grappling with multifaceted challenges, is on the precipice of receiving a mixed meteorological message. While a majority of its terrains can expect copious rains, the southwestern realms might remain an exception. The onset, especially in the western zones, is poised to play a waiting game.
Ethiopia: The Highlands’ Resplendent Refreshment
Ethiopia, the roof of Africa, prepares to usher in a season of abundant rainfall. The southern highlands, including the SNNPR and Oromia regions, are particularly spotlighted, with predictions hovering above an 80% chance of above-average showers. An early onset in mid-October might rejuvenate the landscapes, breathing life into its famed pastures.
The Double-Edged Sword: Blessings and Challenges
While the predictions spell a series of advantages – from reinvigorated agriculture, bolstered livestock conditions, and replenished groundwater sources to a decreased drought risk – the rains are not without their caveats.
Flooding, especially in areas already vulnerable due to their topography, is a looming concern. Mountainous terrains also run the risk of landslides, a menace that can disrupt lives and livelihoods.
Navigating the Rainy Maze: Recommendations for the Road Ahead
- Agricultural Advisory: To harness the rain’s fertility, farmers are urged to consider early-harvesting crops. Furthermore, implementing dykes, trenches, and other flood-protection measures will be paramount to safeguard yields.
- Livestock Management: Animal husbandry will need to be adaptive. Ensuring livestock are relocated from flood-prone zones, and have consistent access to nourishment, will be crucial.
- Community Cohesion: Knowledge is empowerment. Communities, especially those in vulnerable zones, need to be apprised of potential flooding and landslides. Collective preparation can significantly mitigate damage.
- Governmental Intervention: The onus also lies with the governing bodies. Establishing robust early warning systems, creating reservoirs to harness excess water, and designing proactive evacuation strategies are non-negotiable measures in the face of the predicted deluge.