Rain and drought in Africa

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Rain and drought in Africa

A lot of things are unfairly distributed in the world, and rain and drought are no exception, especially in Africa. Last month I was in Rwanda, where it was green and everything was growing well. It’s the rainy season there at the moment, so it’s exactly the right time to grow vegetables. But parts of Kenya and Uganda are still as dry as ever.

Here in KwaZulu Natal it has been pouring with rain again but the dam is now 95% full. Less than two years ago it was empty. So that will keep us going for a while. They are also raising the height of the retaining wall by around 12 metres, which makes you feel good.
But it’s still extremely dry in the Cape Town region. It’s been going on for two years now and drinking water is expected to run out imminently. I read in a Dutch news weekly in early November that the many tourists that visit the Cape province every year will also be affected.

As always, I look for light at the end of the tunnel. When I was in Cape Town in August, I saw a great example set by a big fruit and vegetable farm. The drought has forced the family business to switch to precision irrigation. The transpiration from every individual field is now measured by satellite and they have several sensors in every field measuring soil moisture levels at different depths. If there is any doubt as to whether extra water is needed, the spade or auger goes straight into the ground to see what’s happening. As a result, the company is producing more than ever before, quality is improved and they have fewer diseases.

This family, who originally come from the Netherlands, have been farming in South Africa for several generations and are an excellent example of how to get “more crop per drop”. We are also actively working on getting farmers and growers with scarce water supplies to optimise their production, both in their outdoor and covered crops.

And otherwise, it’s just Africa here. The pace at which decisions get made and things get done is very slow for my still very European taste. I smile every time I drive down two stretches of the motorway which have been narrowed down to one lane for the past 18 months. They want to divert the road slightly but no progress is being made. As someone here taught me: we move forward “slowly but surely”. That’s why we’re looking forward to 2018 full of confidence.

Herbert Stolker
Senior Consultant Africa

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