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Drought devastates crops in southern Africa: 'The grain I have is only enough for the next two months'

Seventy percent of southern Africa's maize comes from South Africa.

Seventy percent of southern Africa's maize comes from South Africa.

Photo Credit: iStock

The Africa hunger crisis, exacerbated by a climate change–amplified El Niño, is reaching a critical point. A recent Reuters report paints a grim picture, revealing that southern Africa is grappling with its most severe drought in several years.

What's happening?

Earth saw a record $63 billion in damages from weather disasters in 2023. Many of those disasters were made worse by El Niño. Reuters cited a study from October last year that "even suggested that climate change may now be as significant a factor in triggering El Niño conditions as natural causes like sun rays." An El Niño is an unusual warming of the eastern Pacific Ocean along and near the equator. 

This year's extreme drought has devastated crops, and now millions are hungry in southern Africa. World Vision calls it a "severe food crisis" that is "driving millions of people into a heightened risk of hunger and starvation."

The peak of farming season in southern Africa is from October to March. Several weather disasters have struck the region since the end of 2023's season. Tropical storm Freddy destroyed homes in Blantyre, the capital of Malawi, on March 14, 2023. This March, tropical storm Filipo brought devastating floods to Maputo, the capital of Mozambique.

Drought is impacting this part of the world, with increasing global temperatures exacerbating the problem. The lack of rainfall has decimated maize crops in southern Africa. An estimated 24 million people are impacted by hunger and malnutrition. The soil is normally suitable for maize farming. 

Seventy percent of southern Africa's maize comes from South Africa. The ongoing drought has led to a 15% drop in the country's maize production for 2023-24 compared to 2022-23.

"The grain I have is only enough for the next two months. It is going to be hunger from here on," farmer Mandisireyi Mbirinyu told Reuters.

What is being done?

African countries have been forced to come up with innovative ways to deal with drought. Some of these approaches include reusing rainwater, preserving humidity in fields, and promoting effective and inclusive consultation. The United Nations Sustainable Development Group suggests several ways that communities can end desertification, including "combatting soil erosion and restoring coastal ecosystems, leveraging innovation, technology, partnerships and private finance, and supporting the livelihoods of people displaced by drought."

How can I help?

Giving to climate-friendly causes and organizations like World Vision that help communities overcome poverty and injustice are among the ways to help. Learning about the crisis and sharing the information with family and friends on social media can also help by spreading the word

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