THE expected normal to above normal rains are not a guarantee for a good 2016/2017 agricultural season, experts have said.
Energy and Meteorology Minister, Khotso Letsatsi recently announced a climate outlook for the three month period from January to March predicting average rainfall conditions countrywide with the likelihood of some places receiving above average rainfall.
“The period January to March will still experience dry spells between good rains, with January to mid-February expected to be the wettest period,” Mr Letsatsi said, adding that normal to above normal rainfall had been experienced in most parts of the country from October to December 2016.
“Furthermore, average temperatures are anticipated for the period of January to March 2017 with chances of rising above average.
“Occurrence of strong winds, lighting, thunderstorms and hailstorms which are common weather phenomena in summer can still be anticipated to occur,” Mr Letsatsi said at a press briefing that was attended by stakeholders drawn from different government departments.
Despite expectations of normal to above normal rainfall, Lesotho Meteorological Services (LMS) Meteorologist, Mosuoe Letuma said the overall varying rainfall patterns were likely to have a negative impact on the harvest.
“Some places received above normal rainfall during the October-December period but in between there were also dry spells,” Mr Letuma said, adding “this has a negative impact on plants as each plant needs a certain amount of moisture to survive but with these dry spells and severe heat, it is difficult for them to survive”.
“We might have had good rains but at the wrong time and this will negatively affect our projected yield,” Mr Letuma added.
Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security officer ‘Mantaoleng Rebonang-Tlali concurred with Mr Letuma, adding good rains alone did not guarantee a good harvest for the country.
“There is a certain amount of rain required, with the right intensity and distribution,” Ms Tlali said, adding, “all of these factors are very important for farming and if one of them are not enough or becomes too much, we will not achieve the desired yield”.
“On average, we have been negatively affected by the rainfall we experienced in the past three months,” she said, adding this was unfortunate given that the country’s agriculture was totally rain fed.
The Agriculture Ministry’s Director of Crops, Lebone Molahlehi said the country was experiencing changing climatic conditions that have resulted in the shifting of the summer cropping season from August to October/November which negatively affected many farmers.
Despite the challenges posed by the rainfall patterns to the farming sector, the water sector was however celebrating.
Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) Senior Systems Planning Analyst Khojane Lepholisa said Katse and Mohale Dams were recovering well due to the normal and above normal rainfall.
“September was the worst month for us but we still managed to transfer water to South Africa without any difficulties and with the rainfalls that we are experiencing, both dams will soon recover from the drought,” Mr Lepholisa said.
For his part, Metolong Authority Manager, Lebekoane Ntoi said they expected significant inflows to aid the recovery of the Metolong Dam.
“The recent drought hit us hard but we were still able to transfer water to all major towns without any difficulties for at least a year and a half.
“But if they projected rainfalls do not occur as expected, the Water and Sewage Company (WASCO) might be forced to ration water,” Mr Ntoi said.
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