Climate Livestock and Markets (CLIMARK) Project
Some 20 million livestock keepers in the Horn of Africa are threatened by increasingly frequent and severe droughts – and generally unusual and unpredictable rainy seasons.. The variability has eroded the pastoralists’ adaptive capacity and resilience to such an extent that almost every drought now results in a humanitarian crisis. Drought has always been a feature of the Eastern African ecosystem, so why are pastoralists no longer able to cope with drought? One explanation is that they lack assets other than livestock that would allow them to recover from a drought disaster.
aWhere’s analysis of the area in the map above showed three main trends which will impact livestock and farmers in this region.
- April and May rains are trending with more precipitation.
- October-November rains are lower, December is drier as well. These rains are more variable than the April-May rainy season.
- Expect more extremes in precipitation and deeper/longer dry periods
If the April-May rains are poor, and with October-December trending drier, there is increased risk to consider as herd management decisions are re-examined. Sustainability requires consideration of macro-geographical trends.
Analytics: Understanding Variability with P/PET
Precipitation over Potential Evapotranspiration (P/PET) is a powerful index for understanding the conditions conducive for crop production and forage for livestock. As Precipitation (P) drops below PET (the evaporative demand of the environment), the result is dry conditions and plants start to struggle. The threshold for maize is 0.8, when P/PET is less than 0.8, maize is likely to fail. Water stress for crops becomes acute as the P/PET ratio drops below 0.7 and below 0.6 the ecology shifts to grassland. For healthy pastures, P/PET greater than 0.40 would promise reasonable forage with pockets of excellent. Below 0.40 forage grass quality will be entirely dependent on the actual distribution of rainfall and soil quality. The maps below show the average P/PET for the two main rainy periods in this region, April-May and October-November. The additional charts reveal the P/PET trends from 2006-2019 for specific locations (latitude and longitude).
Implications and Recommendations
As erratic climate events become the norm, early warning systems and adaptive strategies must be strengthened to sufficiently warn communities and mitigate drought impacts – building resilience in pastoralist communities. aWhere’s daily-updated data provides the historical observed data needed to make data-driven decisions as well as the current conditions to provide relevant information to farmers and officials on the state of how weather is impacting forage, crop production and water supply. With accurate weather data, East Africa builds resilience to weather variability and adapts to climate change.