Agriculture authorities in Mzimba are optimistic that the predicted rainfall amount the district is expecting to receive in this rainy season is largely promising for agricultural production.
A downscaled seasonal forecast released by the Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services (DCCMS) for the district is forecasting normal to below-normal rainfall amounts in the 2023/2024 season.
The department has produced the forecast after releasing the national seasonal projection relevant for relatively large areas and seasonal time scales, to cater for the district’s localized climate variability and monthly variations.
Commenting on the forecast, Acting Chief of Agriculture for Mzimba South Raphael Msyali described it as favorable for agricultural production if farmers follow appropriate husbandry practices.
“What it means is that we may have specific periods where we will have normal rainfall and some periods where we will have less amounts of rainfall,” Msyali said. “So this is reminding us to get ready, try to contact the farmers, and raise this awareness so that farmers can timely prepare for this kind of eventuality.”
He added; “They can only do that by focusing on climate-smart agriculture technologies that we are already promoting. So we can say we are good because we will still have normal rainfall what will matter is the approach farmers will take.”
Moderate to strong El Nino conditions are expected to influence this season’s forecast as projected by global climate models. El Nino is the unusual warming of waters in the Eastern Equatorial Pacific Ocean, which typically leads to drier conditions over Southern Africa, potentially including southern Malawi.
A summary of the national forecast predicts normal total rainfall amounts over most parts of the country between October and December with a high likelihood of below-normal rains in November. Further, it anticipates normal rains over most areas from January to March with a possibility of above-normal rains in January and a chance of prolonged dry spells in February.
While October to April is the main rainfall season in the country, in Mzimba, rainfall onset is expected from the second week of November to the first week of December. Season length will be between 140 days to 170 days with a dry spell risk of at least one week very likely in January and February. Cessation is likely from early April in some areas while in some areas cessation will be late April.
Going by monthly forecasts, in October, Mzimba is projected to have generally dry conditions, with a possibility of early rains locally known as Chizimalupysa in a few areas.
In November, most areas across the district are expecting to receive below-normal rainfall amounts ranging from 50mm to 100 mm while in December; most areas are likely to receive rainfall amounts in the range of 150mm to 200mm.
January is promising to be a very wet month. Areas of Traditional Authorities M’mbelwa, Mzikubola, and Mzukuzuku are expecting to receive rainfall amounts above 250mm. About 200mm of rain will be expected in places such as TA Chindi and the northern areas of the district.
Normal to below-normal rainfall is expected over most areas during February. Most areas in the South and Centre of the district will most likely receive rainfall amounts in the range of 150mm to 200mm. Rainfall amounts of between 100mm to 150mm will be expected in parts of TAs Chindi, Mpherembe, and Senior Chief Jaravikuba, with a likelihood of at least a one-week dry spell.
Wet conditions are expected with rainfall amounts of around 150mm in most district areas in March. However, some areas northeast of the district are likely to receive below-normal rains.
Cessation will be in April for most parts of the district, and rainfall amounts expected will range between 50 mm and 120 mm.