El Niño’s effects on Southern African agriculture in 2023/24 and anticipatory action strategies to reduce the impacts in Zimbabwe
The frequency of El Niño occurrences in southern Africa surpasses the norm, resulting in erratic weather patterns that significantly impact food security, particularly in Zimbabwe. The effects of these weather patterns posit that El Niño occurrences have contributed to the diminished maize yields. The objective is to give guidelines to policymakers, researchers, and agricultural stakeholders for taking proactive actions to address the immediate and lasting impacts of El Niño and enhance the resilience of the agricultural industry. This brief paper provides prospective strategies for farmers to anticipate and counteract the El Niño-influenced dry season projected for 2023/24 and beyond. The coefficient of determination R2 between yield and ENSO was low; 11 of the 13 El Niño seasons had a negative detrended yield anomaly, indicating the strong association between El Nino’s effects and the reduced maize yields in Zimbabwe. The R2 between the Oceanic Nino Index (ONI) and rainfall (43%) and between rainfall and yield (39%) indirectly affects the association between ONI and yield. To safeguard farmers’ livelihoods and improve their preparedness for droughts in future agricultural seasons, this paper proposes a set of strategic, tactical, and operational decision-making guidelines that the agriculture industry should follow. The importance of equipping farmers with weather and climate information and guidance on drought and heat stress was underscored, encompassing strategies such as planting resilient crop varieties, choosing resilient livestock, and implementing adequate fire safety measures.