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Drought Threatens East Africa’s Biggest Grain Producers

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La Niña is wreaking havoc on East Africa, causing drought and threatening crops in some of the continent’s most important grain producing countries.

The region can ill afford additional crop losses, coming in the wake of the worst devastation from locusts in a quarter century in 2020, and as much of Africa continues to battle the unrelenting COVID pandemic. 

Gro’s Drought Index (GDI) shows “exceptional” drought levels in broad areas of eastern Kenya. “Extreme” drought and “severe” drought levels are also widespread in Somalia, Ethiopia, and Tanzania. With limited rainfall forecasted for the region, dry conditions are expected to continue.

The Gro Drought Index, which updates daily, measures drought severity around the globe on a scale from “0” (no drought) to “5” (exceptional drought). 

Corn, wheat, millet, barley, and sorghum are the crops most at risk, based on crop date ranges in Gro’s Global Crop Calendar. Gro’s East Africa Cereal Yield Forecast Models, like our other yield models, provide in-season forecasts of crop yields. We built separate models for each of the five main cereal crops in Ethiopia and Kenya for a total of 10 crop/country pairs. 

Corn makes up nearly half of Ethiopia’s grain production, and Gro’s Ethiopia Corn Yield Forecast Model currently forecasts a yield decline of 10% from a year earlier. For Kenya, Gro’s Corn Yield Forecast Model is pointing to a 14% drop in yields.  

Kenya and Somalia have two rainy seasons — October to December and March to May.  November’s precipitation in Somalia was 50% below the 10-year average, while Kenya was 37% below normal. 

Somalia is currently in the middle of its second corn growing season, and the drought could damage the crop during pollination, a key period when yields are determined. Currently, NDVI, an important measure of vegetative health, is at its third-lowest reading for Somalia in 20 years. Farther south, Tanzania is Africa’s fourth-largest corn producer, and the country exports excess supplies in strong production years. Gro’s Drought Index shows moderate to extreme drought in Tanzania’s east, and abnormally dry conditions in the west. 

Gro’s Climate Risk Navigator for Agriculture provides valuable, daily updates on NDVI and other metrics for determining a crop’s risk for any region in the world. Contact support@gro-intelligence.com for more information or to set up a demo of the application.

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