Africa: Exceptional water deficits recede but widespread deficits persist

22 February 2017

The Big Picture
Widespread severe to exceptional water deficits remain in the 12-month forecast for Libya, Algeria, northern Niger, Egypt and northern Sudan. Deficits of varying intensity are forecast for many other parts of Africa but may be most severe in Somalia, southern Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, northern Mozambique, and central Madagascar.

Surpluses are forecast in northern Botswana, southern Zambia, Zimbabwe, and western Mozambique.

The drought in East Africa continues to take a heavy toll. Somalia’s two-year drought, the worst since the 1970s, has left more than half of the country’s population in need of emergency assistance, with 336,000 children facing starvation and three quarters of the country’s livestock dead. Pastoralists have little choice but to migrate, often ending up in refugee camps for internally displaced people where conditions are deteriorating and sexual and gender-based violence are on the rise.

Drought-hit Ethiopian herders have begun de-stocking tens of thousands of goats and sheep through mass slaughter as water and fodder become scarce. Slaughtered animals are sold to the market or used as food.

In Kenya animal carcasses litter the landscape and farmers share their own food with their livestock. Kenya will import yellow corn, used for animal feed, for the first time since 2011, freeing up white corn for human consumption. Drought has sent tea prices to a 3-year high as the country's production dropped 30 percent in the last five months. Thousands of tea workers could be sent home as factories reduce processing from six days a week to four.

Drought has forced herders in Mali into areas traditionally cultivated by farmers, resulting in intercommunal violence that has resulted in 13 deaths.

Forecast Breakdown
The 3-month maps (below) show the evolving conditions in more detail. The extent of exceptional deficits across the continent will diminish from February through April, leaving moderate to extreme deficits across northern Africa and across Africa’s mid-section, affecting southern Cameroon, Gabon, eastern Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania, and southern Somalia. Deficits will diminish considerably in Madagascar though persist in the south. Both deficits and surpluses are expected along the White Nile in southeast Sudan and into South Sudan.

Surpluses are forecast in a large pocket of southern Africa through the Okavango Delta in northern Botswana, where surpluses may be exceptional, and in southern Zambia, Zimbabwe, and western Mozambique. Surpluses are also expected to emerge in eastern Namibia and in a small pocket in northwestern South Africa just south of Botswana.

The forecast for May through July indicates a downgrade in the intensity of deficits in the southern Sahel and an increase in the intensity of deficits across northern Africa where extreme to exceptional deficits are expected to emerge in eastern Algeria, northern Niger, Libya, Egypt, and northern Sudan. Moderate to severe deficits will persist in aforementioned countries in Africa’s mid-section. Madagascar is expected to transition from deficit to near-normal water conditions. Surpluses are forecast to persist in northern Botswana, southern Zambia, Zimbabwe, and western Mozambique but will transition to both deficit and surplus in eastern Namibia and northwestern South Africa.

The forecast for the final months of the 12-month period – August through October – shows a pattern of water anomalies similar to the prior three months.

(It should be noted that forecast skill declines with longer lead times.)


Many analyses reported in ISciences-authored blog posts are based on data generated by the ISciences Water Security Indicator Model (WSIM). Other sources, if used, are referenced in footnotes accompanying individual posts. WSIM is a validated capability that produces monthly reports on current and forecast global freshwater surpluses and deficits with lead times of 1-9 months at 0.5°x0.5° resolution. This capability has been in continuous operation since April 2011 and has proven to provide reliable forecasts of emerging water security concerns in that time-frame. WSIM has the ability to assess the impacts of water anomalies on people, agriculture, and electricity generation. Detailed data, customized visualizations, and reports are available for purchase.

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