Most South and Central areas should anticipate normal to below-normal total rainfall amounts from January-March 2024

Weather forecast released on Wednesday 

* There is also a high chance of prolonged dry spells in February, 2024 which likely to have negative impact on agriculture

* The prolonged dry spells are common during El Niño years and this is due to a typical El Niño season

* Which suppresses rainfall in southern Africa and enhances rainfall over eastern Africa and Malawi

Maravi Express

An advisory from the Ministry of Agriculture alerts farmers that most areas of the Southern and Central regions should anticipate normal to below-normal total rainfall amounts, with the possibility of above-normal rainfall in January.


Secretary for Agriculture, Dickxie V. Kampani says as predicted by the Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services, the 2023/2024 rainfall season is expected to be influenced by El Niño conditions that is known to cause prolonged and devastating, dry spells and/ or floods.

The prolonged dry spells are common during El Niño years and this is due to a typical El Niño season, which suppresses rainfall in southern Africa and enhances rainfall over eastern Africa and Malawi.

Being in the transition zone, Malawi’s Southern part sometimes behave like the southern Africa and the Northern Region is like eastern Africa — though the delineation boundary varies from year to year.

Unfortunate occurrence in Monkey Bay on Wednesday

In this regard, Kampani says there is also an expected delay in the onset of the rainy season by at least two weeks in some areas that will in turn lead to delays for the country to receive effective planting rains.

“There is also a high chance of prolonged dry spells in February, 2024 which likely to have negative impact on agriculture in Malawi,” Kampaka says. “The forecast outlook for most of the districts in the Southern and Central Regions of normal to below-normal rains throughout the season suggests a potential water deficit, which could affect crop development.

“Although there is a possibility of above-normal rainfall in January, which could provide some relief to agriculture, it is crucial to be prepared for variations in rainfall levels especially in the follow-up month of February as there is a high likelihood of prolonged dry spells in the Month.”


Thus, the Ministry outlines measures that have been put together in order to help farmers and other stakeholders to mitigate the impact of anticipated adverse weather conditions:

Planting with first effective rains

Some of the areas have received rainfall and some of the areas are yet to receive the rainfall. Plant your crops when the soils are well moist or when 25mm to 30mm or more rainfall is recorded in your area. Undertake the following measures:

* Supply where seed failed to germinate to maintain the correct plant population in the field. This should be done soon after emergence.

* Replant in cases of poor germination using certified seed.

* Replant in cases of permanent wilting or replace the crop with other drought tolerant and early maturing crops.

* Follow recommended plant spacing to maintain optimum plant population.

* Apply basal dressing fertilizer at planting or within 7days after emergence to ensure plant vigour.


Planting right and recommended varieties

Appropriate varieties provide a significant defense against dry spells and the following measures should be undertaken:

* Plant drought tolerant varieties and early maturing varieties.

* Choose maize varieties that mature early (90 to 110 days), whether open pollinated or hybrids.

* Reserve enough seed of the chosen varieties in case of need for replanting.

Enterprise diversification

Reduce the risk of crop failure by diversifying the crop enterprises as follows:

* Intercrop maize with nitrogen fixing legumes such as cowpeas, beans and pigeon peas.

* Plant drought tolerant crops such as cassava, millet, sweet potato and sorghum, sesame, cotton and sunflower.

* Plant other crops such as pumpkins, vegetables, potato, groundnuts and soybean.

* Rear small livestock such as chickens, ducks, doves, rabbits, Guinea pigs, Guinea fowl, goats and sheep.

* Rear fish and stock the ponds early to allow fish grow to harvestable size by the time of water stress.

* Rear drought tolerant fish species such as Mlamba


Soil and water conservation

Increase the water infiltration and improve moisture conservation to mitigate impact of mid-season dry spells as follows:

* Construct rainwater harvesting structures such as check dams, gully plugs, contour bunds, box and tied ridges, swales, planting pits, infiltration ponds, and gabion structures.

* Where possible intercrop with mung beans (Mphodza) and velvet beans (Kalongonda) at least four weeks after the main crops.

* Apply adequate manure to improve soil moisture retention and supply of essential nutrients to crops.

* Practice agroforestry by integrating soil fertility improving trees such as Gliricidia, Leucaena, Tephrosia vogelli (Wombwe).

Use of Inoculants

Use rhizobia inoculants for soybean and other legumes in order to improve crop yields and resilience to dry spells:

* Ensure that you plant inoculated seeds within 24 hours.

* Follow recommended procedures for inoculation.  

Managing pests and diseases

Dry spells increases likelihood of pests and diseases such as rusts and fall armyworms. Prevalence of pests and diseases can be reduced by:

* Practicing integrated pests and disease management (IPDM) which includes cultural, physical, biological, botanical (natural plant products) and chemical control methods.

* Using disease free seed/planting materials.

* Using rust tolerant varieties especially for soybeans.

* Ensuring that crop fields are free from weeds.



* Prepare for irrigated farming by acquiring certified seeds and inputs early.

* In case of drought use supplementary irrigation to maximize crop production.

* In case of flooding conditions do the following to safeguard irrigation infrastructure and its effectiveness;

i) Clean all intake head-works and canals in the irrigation schemes;

ii) Ensure that weir gates are fully opened to allow free passing of flood waters downstream

iii) Maintain irrigation facilities and keep them in good condition to practice supplemental irrigation.

Food budgeting

Drought conditions may result in low food supply at household level, so it is important for household to manage available food resources especially during the festive seasons e.g. Christmas, New Year, weddings and traditional ceremonies.

To manage food, do the following:

* Avoid food wastage by cooking food that you need to consume based on family size and available guests.

* Keep enough diversified foods for the family in times of plenty through preserving and storing fresh vegetables, cassava, maize, meat, fish, legumes and in-season fruits.

* Avoid over selling including the selling of crops whilst still in the field.

* Practice dietary diversification by eating a variety of foods instead of relying on nsima only.  

Note: ensure that you observe consumption of all six-food groups.


Getting and using weather forecast information

* Always get weather related information or weather forecast for your area and make use of it. This can be accessed through radio and from your nearest Extension Planning Areas (EPAs) offices.

Kampani further says farmers and the general public are encouraged to seek advice from the agricultural extension development officers in their areas, while urging all farmers not to panic but follow advisories that have been put together by the Ministry to help farmers and other stakeholders to mitigate the impact of anticipated adverse weather conditions.

According to National Geographic, El Niño is a climate pattern that describes the unusual warming of surface waters in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.

El Niño is the ‘warm phase’ of a larger phenomenon called the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). La Niña, the ‘cool phase’ of ENSO, is a pattern that describes the unusual cooling of the region’s surface waters. El Niño and La Niña are considered the ocean part of ENSO, while the Southern Oscillation is its atmospheric changes.

El Niño has an impact on ocean temperatures, the speed and strength of ocean currents, the health of coastal fisheries, and local weather from Australia to South America and beyond.

El Niño events occur irregularly at two to seven-year intervals. However, El Niño is not a regular cycle, or predictable in the sense that ocean tides are.