For the second year running, Mbalavala’s maize fields, which should have been planted months ago, lie empty; the soil in vegetable gardens is like sand and what little water there is from an emergency borehole must be shared between cattle and people.
Vascos Jaima Chilande, the Mbalavala headman, lists the rivers that nearby villagesusually dam to collect water. “Bambene, Matlavane, Gomaje, Chichaquare … They have all dried up. The government dug a borehole 150 metres deep, but it is not enough. Today there is water only for the animals.”
About 330 million people are affected by drought in India, the government has said, as the country reels from severe water shortages and desperately poor farmers suffer crop losses.
A senior government lawyer, PS Narasimha, told the supreme court that a quarter of the country’s population, spread across 10 states, had been hit by drought after two consecutive years of weak monsoons.
El Niño is defined by above-average sea-surface temperatures in the eastern and central equatorial Pacific Ocean. These sea-surface temperatures cycle from warm to cool, relative to average, over a several-year period. When the sea-surface temperatures in the same area of the Pacific Ocean are cooler than average for a few months, a La Niña pattern has developed.
“El Niño will transition to neutral conditions early this summer, then perhaps toward a weak La Nina during August or September,” according to AccuWeather Chief International Meteorologist Jason Nicholls. “Because of this and other factors, we expect rainfall to return toward average over a large part of India, Malaysia and Indonesia.”
Harvest should be the time for celebrations, weddings and full bellies in southern Malawi. But Christopher Witimani, Lilian Matafle and their seven children and four grandchildren had nothing to celebrate last week as they picked their meagre maize crop.
Last year’s drought, followed by erratic rains, hit the village of Nkhotakota hard. But this year the rains never came and, for a second year running, the family grain store is empty. If they manage their savings carefully and eat just one small meal a day, they may just have enough food for two more months.
MANILA – Imagine that you are a farmer. Your crops are withering as weather patterns become more volatile, your well water is too salty to drink, and rice is too expensive to buy at the market. So, you leave home in search of a better life.
Millions of people in vulnerable communities around the world do not have to imagine such a scenario. They are living it now, as an increasingly unpredictable climate takes its toll; and their numbers are likely to soar as the effects of climate change intensify.