Visual: Computer-generated map of expected precipitation over central and southern Africa for Friday afternoon, 22 January.
With the departure of the last remnants of Chalane from the middle and upper atmosphere over Namibia, the weather picture reverted to a fairly normal midsummer stance with widespread showers in the north-east, north and north-west up to the Opuwo area. Afternoon temperatures over the central plateau, the Kalahari and the south-western quadrant were hot to very hot, indicating mild high-pressure control in the alto levels above 35,000 feet.
After the unprecedented rains over much of Namibia south of Etosha, two issues came up. The first was rainfall in Owambo and northern Kunene, which has been disappointing so far and almost completely absent in Kaokoland. The other issue is whether the wetspell could be repeated.
Rainfall conditions in the North changed significantly during the week as the strong low-pressure system that moved in from the Zambezi, gradually migrated to the west, covering Owambo in wide swathes of scattered showers. Rain was also reported in the eastern sections of Kaokoland but nothing comparable to the rain in the rest of Namibia over the previous two weeks.
This week’s visual was widely circulated in social media but it is not clear what the source of the information is. Nevertheless, it still provides a very good visual of the interplay between high pressure (anti-cyclonic) circulation over South Africa, and the low pressure system pushing in from the tropics. Furthermore, it indicates the locality of Tropical Cyclone Eloise as it is about to make landfall in southern Mozambique.
The big question on everybody’s mind is whether Eloise’s impact on local weather can again reach Namibian airspace like Chalane did two weeks ago.
This is where the visual becomes important. It shows a clear line between the high pressure and the low pressure areas. It also shows a convergence line that runs from east to west through central Zimbabwe, central Botswana and central Namibia.
As Eloise advects millions of cubic metres of moisture into the upper levels, copious rain will continue to fall north of the convergence line while south of it, it will be relatively dry. The big unknown is how the position of the South Atlantic high, as it migrates around the continent, will allow Eloise a trajectory to the west and to the south.
Leading rainfall forecasts are not unanimous about the immediate future, other than indicating that a typical summer rainfall pattern will persist north of the convergence line.
There is every possibility that Eloise will reach the Namibia Botswana border by next Tuesday, but how much of its strength and moisture it will retain, is pure guesswork. It is not known now whether it will lead to a second round of widespread, high intensity rainfall for the whole of Namibia.
On the Radar
At this point, the 30-day Southern Oscillation Index of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology is perhaps the most reliable indicator of expectations for the short to medium term.
In the past four weeks, this index literally went off the charts twice. Its northern axis first had to be extended past 15 and then past 20. This indicates a very strong effect from the current La Nina in the Pacific Ocean. The index is now at 18.5, indicating an above average chance that southern Africa will continue to receive good rains.
For the next three days, the rain bias lies over Namibia’s northern half. This means that from Windhoek northwards, there will be daily cloud formation with scattered thunder showers. Over the southern half, there will also be some cloud formation above the escarpment but the chances for rain are slim.
By Tuesday, there should be a marked change in conditions, preceded by a lot of windiness, especially at night. This is the approaching outer rim of Eloise. She is expected to reach at least up to Buitepos but how far she will move into Namibia will only be known towards the end of next week.
COVID-19 in Africa could reverse 30 years of wildlife conservation gains, harming interconnected communities and livelihoods
By Edwin Tambara
African Wildlife Foundation.
For wild animals in Africa on the verge of extinction and the tight knit communities who protect them, COVID-19 is a specter, disrupting a delicate balancing act of survival for both humans and endangered species.
African officials and conservation experts from Kenya, Uganda and Gabon briefed members of Congress on 12 May about the growing impact of COVID-19 on protected wildlife areas. Their overarching message: new policies must take into account both national security concerns, and sustaining livelihood in communities hardest hit by the lockdown measures.
Unless African governments can maintain strong networks of community conservation areas, supporting thousands of jobs dedicated to wildlife conservation, protected wildlife areas face a difficult road to recovery. The fear is that COVID-19 in Africa could reverse 30 years of conservation gains, including communal conservancy programs in multiple countries.
Traditional funding and economic development in these areas will not bounce back into place overnight. We don’t yet know the lasting impact of COVID-19 on Africa’s tourism industry. Early data show the fractures in the system, but the full effect of travel bans, border closures and vacation cancelations on protected areas and the local communities co-existing with wild lands is just starting to sink in across the African continent. The large revenue streams that supported livelihood and a stable economy were abruptly cut off in late March. No job in these areas was left unscathed.
In Namibia, 86 conservancies stand to lose nearly $11M in income from tourism operations and salaries to tourism staff living in conservancies. This means that 700 community game guards and rhino rangers, 300 conservancy support staff, and 1,175 locally-hired tourism staff members are at high risk of losing their jobs. In larger countries, the stakes are higher. In Kenya, for example, conservancies are poised to lose $120M in annual income with unfathomable consequences.
On top of losses from the tourism sector, well-intended lockdown measures in densely populated cities are exacerbating the situation in smaller rural communities. An estimated 350 million people in Africa work in what’s known as informal employment. Social distancing and unemployment across this large segment has influenced many city-dwellers to move back to their home towns. But with rural communities also experiencing high unemployment and severe wage cuts, people returning home will have few options available for subsistence, which raises the possibility of being lured into illegal activities such as poaching and wildlife trafficking.
Growing strains on local economies have led to concerns about food security. According to the World Economic Forum, lockdown measures have disrupted internal supply chains, halting food production. To make matters worse, huge swarms of desert locust are devastating crops in Eastern Africa, and parts of Southern Africa recovering from recent severe drought and floods – all of which makes the continent more dependent on food that is externally sourced.
The comparatively smaller number of cases in African countries is no reason to discount the abrupt economic reversals in community conservation areas. The spread of COVID-19 is still on the rise and will continue to have broad-based impact on protected areas. There are reported outbreaks in every African country. At the time of this writing, there were 184,333 officially infected with 5,071 deaths, according to Africa CDC. South Africa has reported 48,285 confirmed cases – an increase of more than 20 percent over the past week. Africa’s most populous nation, Nigeria, is struggling to respond to both the spread of COVID-19 and to the dramatic drop in oil prices, which has crippled its economy.
The World Health Organization has warned that hot spots in Africa could experience a second wave of COVID-19 as lockdown orders are lifted in June, and that appears to already be occurring in the Western Cape. South Africa has its largest daily increase in reported infections on June 4, with 3,267 new cases. The World Bank has estimated that as many as 60 million people could be pushed into extreme poverty by the end of 2020. If the situation continues to deteriorate, more vulnerable communities will turn to wildlife as a source of food. Such a scenario of unrestrained consumption of bush meat raises the risk of pathogen transfer from wildlife to humans.
As the US and other countries pivot to help Africa, stimulus packages must be designed to include support for communities on the frontlines of wildlife conservation. If we don’t act to channel aid and investment for job creation to African communities most in need, we run the risk of reversing 30 years of gains in changing behaviors toward wildlife. African Wildlife Foundation and organizations working on the front lines and monitoring developments, have flagged sustaining land leases and providing opportunities for livelihood as critical stop gaps during and in the immediate aftermath of lockdowns. Emergency support throughout the apex of the disease event will ensure conservation is secure for Africa’s people, economy and environment.
The US Government is no stranger to community-based conservation in Africa. It has been supporting these efforts for decades, helping to ensure that local communities benefit from wildlife conservation, which in turn incentivizes conservation efforts and helps combat threats to wildlife. This model needs a lifeline now more than ever.
COVID-19 shines a light on the fragility of wildlife conservation in Africa. With limited funding for most state-run nature agencies, there has been an over-reliance on tourism to support efforts. In the wake of the pandemic – after immediate needs are addressed – Africa has a chance to show the world how to develop a regenerative economy. We must strive to strengthen and mainstream wildlife conservation into all sectors of the African economy in response to the pandemic to prevent future outbreaks
Countries facing limitations and resource constraints during lockdowns will be reopening economies soon, and rethinking development pathways as they do. The community development agenda in Africa agenda stands to benefit if nature is front and center, and whatever we put into these efforts now will lessen the risk of another global pandemic happening in the future.