Southern Tanzania: Delayed Monsoon Rainfall Threatens Smallholder Farmers

12/22/2020 - Traditionally, seasonal rainfalls in Southern Tanzania begin in the second or third week of November. But this year, the start of the monsoon (or Msimu in the Swahili language) season was delayed to December 10th, as PIK researcher Elena Surovyatkina correctly predicted in October. This has potentially serious consequences for the country, in which the agricultural sector accounts for roughly a third of its Gross Domestic Product.
Southern Tanzania: Delayed Monsoon Rainfall Threatens Smallholder Farmers
Delayed Msimu rainfalls in Southern Tanzania. Daily Relative Humidity and Wind maps using the NCEP/NCAR data at 111 m/1000hPa, 18.12.2020. Rain area with high humidity is shown by blue color, dry area with low humidity by brown color. (Infographic by Nitin Babu George)

According to a new and unique forecast method developed at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) isolated rainfalls will alternate with dry spells until December 31, followed by continuous rainfall starting on January, 1, 2021. Eventually the Msimu rainfalls are going to advance further to the south moving over South Africa, becoming more intense in the process as Surovyatkina explains: “There are currently two anticyclones at work: one in the South Atlantic and another in the South Indian Ocean. Together they fuel the Msimu rains in Africa, which provide vital moisture flows to South Africa.”

Because of the delayed onset of the Monsoon season, the agricultural season in Tanzania has been significantly shortened, diminishing the prospect of the grain production sector, which in turn will affect the income of local smallholder farmers. What is thus needed, in order to make agricultural policy recommendations, is an accurate long-term prediction for the timing of the rainy season for the upcoming year.

The forecast is part of PIK's EPICC project which was originally designed to provide the Indian population with a long-term forecast of the onset and withdrawal of the Indian Summer Monsoon (the Southwest Monsoon) for the central part of India.

About Elena Surovyatkina:

Elena Surovyatkina is the group leader of the monsoon research within the EPICC project which is part of the International Climate Initiative (IKI).

Contact for further information:

PIK press office
Phone: +49 331 288 25 07
Twitter: @PIK_Climate