Kenyans should expect return of El Niño deluge

The UN update report released last week predicted excessive rainfall and possible flooding in East Africa and Near East Asia


• Wet, Wetter, wettest, brace for it.

• El Niño is the opposite of La Niña

Image: Commons Wikimedia

Kenya is among 20 countries at risk of the deluge effects of El Niño.

That's the prediction of the Global Information and Early Warning System update by the Food and Agriculture Organisation.

Countries at risk of excessive rainfall include Kenya, Afghanistan, Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bhutan, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, Pakistan, Paraguay, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkey. Turkmenistan, United States, Uruguay and Uzbekistan.

The highlights showed that the El Niño oceanographic phenomenon is likely to return in June 2023, following three years of La Niña.

The UN update report released last week predicted excessive rainfall and possible flooding in East Africa and Near East Asia.

Weather forecasts pointed to a transition to an El Niño state in the second half of 2023. “Rainfall patterns during El Niño events tend to be the reverse of La Nina. For example, in East Africa and Near East Asian countries, there is a tendency for wetter conditions,” the FAO early warning update said.

This is the first mention by the Kenya Meteorological Department forecast of El Niño, which last occurred in 2015-2016.

The five-day weather forecast for this week shows rainfall is likely to continue over several parts of the country.

“However, rainfall amounts and spatial coverage are likely to reduce. There will be isolated episodes of heavy rainfall over some parts of Highlands East and West of the Rift Valley, the Lake Victoria Basin, the Rift Valley, Coast and Northwestern Kenya,” the forecast said.

The Intergovernmental Authority on Development's (Igad's) Climate Prediction and Applications Centre says the greatest impact of El Niño in the Horn of Africa is mostly felt during the short rains, which begin in October.

The Igad states are  Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Uganda (Eritrea is currently inactive), and is based in Djibouti.

“There is a strong association between a canonical El Niño and a wet Greater Horn of Africa short rains,” Igad says.

The FAO Global Information and Early Warning System report indicated that in El Niño-induced dry weather countries, there will be an adverse impact on cereal production in 2023-24. This will potentially aggravate local food insecurity.

FAO said the El Niño oceanographic phenomenon is a key driver of extreme weather events that pose high risks to global food security.

The report indicated that already in 2022, the number of people facing acute food insecurity was projected to reach 222 million in 53 countries/territories. This is the highest level on record, according to the latest Hunger Hotspots report.

“The escalation in food insecurity is a consequence of the combined effects of conflicts, economic shocks and weather extremes,” the FAO report read.

It recommended distribution of farming tools and seeds of drought-tolerant crop varieties well in advance of planting seasons. Distribution of feed and provision of animal health support, with particular emphasis on chemicals to ensure a regular dipping regime and appropriate vaccination of livestock.

FAO also recommended rehabilitation of irrigation intakes, canals and other water points; promotion of capacity development and support to farmers on water-harvesting techniques; developing capacity of farmers and providing support on post-harvest management and processing to minimise losses.

It further called for “Provision of cash for work to facilitate support for the rapid construction/reinforcement of community infrastructures such as evacuation centres for livestock, water drainage systems and provision of unconditional cash transfers between the forecast hazard and the peak of its effects on local population.”

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