CHAPTER 5.

THE 1991/92 DROUGHT: WHAT WAS

(See also Appendix C)

By describing key events, policies, and conditions that existed before the drought, the previous two chapters provide the setting for what happened, once the rains failed in late 1991. By early 1992 the harsh reality of the combination of dwindling grain stocks, a terribly poor harvest, and a depletion of water resources had set in. Appeals for and mobilization of aid followed, as did other actions by governments. This chapter examines what forecasts were available when, and to whom. It then discusses response actions and analyzes the drought's final effects.

5.1. ENSO Forecasting

ENSO Forecasts

o It was not until November 1991 that forecasters in the U.S. and Australia began to comment on rainfall anomalies (deficiencies) associated with the emerging ENSO event. By January 1992, there was agreement that the event was reaching its mature stage.

Based on information obtained from individuals contacted for this study, the primary sources for ENSO forecast information in the SADC region in 1991 were the Climate Analysis Center (CAC)7 of the U.S. National Weather Service and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM). At that time, the CAC issued ENSO forecast information via its monthly Climate Diagnostics Bulletinand through periodic "ENSO Advisories." The BOM publishes a monthly Seasonal Climate Outlook. It is, thus, to these official sources that we first turn in order to determine when an ENSO forecast was issued in 1991.

The first model prediction of an ENSO event was reported in the CAC's January 1991 Climate Diagnostics Bulletin. The Cane and Zebiak model run at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory was noted in the bulletin as predicting a warm episode in late 1991. However, the CAC's own canonical correlation analysis (CCA) forecast indicated no anomaly significantly different from zero for the next three seasons. It was not until April 1991 that both of these models agreed that a warm episode was likely to develop in late 1991 (CAC, 1991a). By that time, the indices being monitored by the CAC (such as sea surface temperature (SST) in the central equatorial Pacific and trade wind anomalies in the Niño3 region) were interpreted as indicating that a warm event was either developing or in progress. The CAC reports repeatedly pointed to the lack of persistent enhanced convection near the dateline, a feature that generally accompanies warm episodes.

The Australian BOM did not officially acknowledge the development of a warm episode until July 1991 (BOM, 1991a). Despite a strongly negative Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) since April, the Australians were waiting for the development of warm SST anomalies in the eastern Pacific before making any statements about the potential for an ENSO event in 1991.

In August 1991 Mt. Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines, interfering with satellite readings of SST anomalies.8 Forecasters began making cautious statements about the developing ENSO episode. In the Climate Diagnostics Bulletinfor August, the CAC drew two conclusions, based on ENSO observations: (1) decreases in SST anomalies in the east and near normal winds suggested the end of a two-year weak warm episode; and (2) enhanced convection, the expansion of the warm pool in the western Pacific and a rise in virtual temperature indicated an ENSO event had been on the brink of developing for the past two years (CAC, 1991b). In other words, it was difficult to say what was happening. The Australian information coming from the BOM was equally ambiguous. In its August Seasonal Climate Outlook, the BOM stated, "The indications are at this stage that we couldbe in the developing stages of a weak El Niño episode..." (emphasis added) (BOM, 1991b:17).

Until October, most forecasters were interpreting the ENSO indices as indicative of a weak episode. The first mention of regional teleconnections associated with ENSO events came in the CAC's "ENSO Advisory" of October 10, 1991. The emphasis remained, however, on the lack of persistent enhanced convection:

An important feature of warm episodes is the development of enhanced convection along the equator in the vicinity of the date line. It is primarily the establishment of this feature that results in the anomalous global-scale circulation and precipitation patterns normally associated with warm (ENSO) episodes. As yet, only weakly enhanced convection has been observed in that region" (emphasis added) (CAC, 1991c:9).

It was not until November 1991 that forecasters in the U.S. and Australia began to comment on rainfall anomalies (deficiencies) associated with the emerging ENSO event. By January 1992, there was agreement that the event was reaching its mature stage.

ENSO Information in Southern Africa

o It is difficult to say exactly when an ENSO forecast was issued prior to the 1991/92 Southern African drought. The answer depends on the source of the information as well as on the type of information one chose to rely on.

o It was not until September 1991 that model output and actual observations enabled the forecasting community to agree an ENSO event was in its early stages.

o At the time of the drought, there was no formal structure or process in place for disseminating ENSO information in the SADC region.

o The general consensus among those working in Africa in 1991/92 is that few people, aside from a small number of specialists, were familiar with ENSO and its link to regional drought.

o By October/November 1991, climatologists who were monitoring the ENSO signal generally agreed there was a problem. However, it was not until the rains actually failed in December 1991/January 1992 (and it became "clear" they were not likely to resume) that food security and government officials acknowledged the drought.

When was an ENSO forecast officially issued prior to the 1991/92 Southern African drought? The best answer to this question is "It depends." It depends not only on the source of the information (the U.S. or Australia, or which research group in the U.S.) but also on the type of information one chose to rely on. It is accurate to say that an ENSO forecast was available as early as January 1991 when the CAC reported that one of two ENSO models had forecast the possible development of a warm episode. One could also rightly claim a forecast was available in April 1991 when both of the models used by the CAC agreed a warm episode was likely to develop later in the year.

It is important to note, however, that these model forecasts were surrounded by a great deal of "noise." While the models were indicating that a warm episode was developing, the indices being observed provided a picture that was far from conclusive. SST anomalies fluctuated around zero in early 1991, the SOI was negative, wind anomalies appeared inconsistently throughout the period, and so forth. Forecasters at the CAC were focused on the development of persistent enhanced convection in the Niño3 region while the Australians emphasized the development of warm SSTs in the eastern Pacific as a key indicator for concluding an ENSO event was developing. It was not until September 1991 that model output and actual observations enabled the forecasting community to agree an ENSO event was in its early stages. Information on the regional teleconnections associated with ENSO was not available from the ENSO forecasting community until October 1991.

The next question is the extent to which individuals in the SADC region had access to these forecasts. One way to assess access is to examine the mailing lists for the various publications produced by the forecasting agencies. We obtained the lists for the CAC's Climate Diagnostics Bulletinand "ENSO Advisories" dated August 1994. We assume this list is larger than it was in 1991 but it still provides an interesting picture of the distribution of ENSO information in the SADC region. Only 20 individuals in the Southern African region directly received these publications. Eight recipients were in South Africa and it is assumed that at the time of the drought, they were not sharing information with others in the SADC region. Of the twelve recipients in the SADC region, three were in the Directorate of Meteorology in Tanzania and two were at the WMO Drought Monitoring Centre in Harare, Zimbabwe. In other words, officially-distributed ENSO information in the Southern African region was extremely limited in 1991/92.

At the time of the drought, there was no formal structure or process in place in the region for disseminating what little ENSO information did come to the region. The general consensus of those working in Africa is that in 1991/92, few people aside from a small number of specialists in the region were familiar with ENSO or with ENSO's link to regional drought. That is not to say that no one in the region had ENSO information. There are isolated reports of individuals receiving and passing on ENSO information. For example, the WMO Drought Monitoring Centre in Harare included information on ENSO model predictions (received from the U.S. Climate Analysis Center) in its March 1991 Drought Monitoring Bulletin: Eastern and Southern Africa.This information was sent to government decision makers throughout the region but reportedly was not well received.

One development agency recalled having received ENSO information in mid-1991 but was unable to take any actions until African governments formally acknowledged the climate-related food security problem. Climatologists in the region who were monitoring the ENSO signal (primarily using U.S. data) generally agreed there was a problem by October/November, but it was not until the rains actually failed in December/January (and it became "clear" they were not likely to resume) that food security and government officials acknowledged the drought.

5.2. Warnings from the Food Security Community Sans ENSO Information

Throughout 1991, the regional food security community had been warning that food stocks in the region were precariously low and that increased imports would be needed, regardless of the result of the 1992 harvest. By November, these calls were made all the more critical as reports from the NEWUs began to indicate failing rains and poor crop conditions across the SADC region. In December and January, the SADC FSTAU presented information to regional decision makers noting not only the poor crop conditions early in the season but also that rains were unlikely to arrive later in the season in time to salvage the crops. They sounded the alarm that the SADC region was experiencing a region-wide drought and that current stocks in the region were completely inadequate to handle the pending severe food shortages and famine situation.

In March 1992, the SADC REWS estimated that the upcoming maize harvest would be forty percent of the 1991 harvest (which had been below average) and that 5.4 million tons of maize would need to be imported. This was in addition to the nearly 4 million tons of maize required to meet the shortfall in maize production that was taking place in South Africa (SADCC/REWS, 1992). The United Nation's FAO/WFP and USAID also conducted crop assessments in March 1992 and had similar distressing projections (USAID, 1992; UN FAO/WFP, 1992). Table 5.1 displays production forecasts and import needs.

Country
1992 Production: Forecast

(x 1000 tonnes)
1992 Production: Percent of normal9
Cereal Import Requirements

(x 1000 tonnes)
of which food aid
(x 1000 tonnes)

Angola*

454

143

285

125

Botswana

15

24

240

15

Lesotho

81

47

297

75

Malawi

683

46

876

740

Mozambique*

226

41

1,218

1,140

Namibia

33

30

125

60

Swaziland

53

38

129

60

Tanzania

3,250

85

500

280

Zambia

572

36

970

820

Zimbabwe

608

26

1,41010

660

TOTAL

5,975

49

6,050

3,975

* engaged in internal conflict

Table 5.1. SADC grain production situation--1992 (From USAID, 1992).

5.3. When the Rains Stopped

In 1991, the rains came in October but had tapered off by early December. By Christmas, is was obvious the maize crops were experiencing moisture stress. The regional Drought Monitoring Centre in Harare reported that for the period November 1991-January 1992, all of Botswana, most of Zimbabwe, southern, central and part of northern Mozambique, southern and parts of eastern Malawi, northern and parts of western Zambia, central, southern and part of northern Tanzania, Swaziland and Lesotho received less than 75% of annual rainfall (Figure 5.1) (DMC, January 1992).

Hope remained, however, that the rains would resume in January and that the crop would not be a total loss. This is a common response in the face of drought because of its "creeping" nature (Glantz, 1994a; Tannehill, 1947). That is, droughts develop gradually and are often difficult to recognize because the rate of change (in this case, in rainfall) is not much different from one day to the next. Over a period of time, however, the consequences of these small changes can be monumental. In January 1992, the remote sensing project of the SADC FSTAU produced images comparing the locations of the Inter-tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ, which brings rain to the SADC region) in December 1989, 1990, and 1991. These images clearly showed that the location of the ITCZ was north of the region. SADC REWU also compared cold cloud duration (CCD) for October through mid-January of the 1991 and 1992 growing seasons. CCD is a measure of rainfall potential. These images indicated the prospects for rainfall in much of the SADC region after January were very small (Figure 5.2). This information, combined with the first predictions of a below-average harvest (SADCC/REWS, 1991), raised awareness of the regional nature of the drought.

Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone

Observations of the atmospheric processes that produce rainfall are among the most important contributions to the ability of tropical countries to grow enough food to feed their people. In the tropics, these processes are localized in the region scientists call the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone or ITCZ. This is one of the most important acronyms for those interested in problems faced by tropical countries

The ITCZ is a region that girdles the globe where the trade winds of the Northern Hemisphere meet (converge) with those of the Southern Hemisphere. The highest ocean temperatures are associated with the yearly average location of the ITCZ. The ITCZ does not occur exactly at the equator but 5-10 degrees latitude north of it.

The convergence of the trade winds, along with the high sea surface temperatures in the region, cause a rising motion of the atmosphere, which tends to produce rain-bearing cloud systems. The normal location of the ITCZ is tied to the annual progression of the seasons. As a result, its general location and its usual seasonal behavior from one year to the next is generally known. But in any given season or year, its exact location and several of its characteristics such as the strength of precipitation-producing processes can vary.

To a large extent, life in many tropical countries depends on the usual (read this as "expected") behavior of the ITCZ. Human activities related to agricultural production, livestock rearing, water resources management and the like can adapt to some degree of variation in the ITCZ. Sometimes, they cannot, especially in the face of extreme events such as droughts and floods. El Niño and the Southern Oscillation are phenomena that generate "abnormalities" in the behavior of the ITCZ (Glantz, 1996b:115)

5.4. Effects on Maize Production

o SADC's grain shortfall, which had been predicted in March 1991 to be approximately 3 million tonnnes, turned out to be a 6 million tonne shortfall.

The grain shortfall in the SADC region that had been predicted in March 1991 to be approximately 3 million tonnes, turned out to be a 6 million tonne shortfall. All major grain crops were affected. Botswana's sorghum crop came in at a negligible 11,000 tonnes (one third of the previous year's harvest). Zimbabwe's wheat production was down 70 percent from the previous season. Mozambique's maize harvest reached only 133,000 tonnes, and Zambia had a very poor 464,000 tonnes. Zimbabwe's communal maize sector yield averaged an abysmal 0.16 tonnes per hectare (it averages around one tonne), while average yields in South Africa reached 0.85 tonnes per hectare, compared to its potential yield of 3 tonnes per hectare.

5.5. Regional Response

By December 1991, several individual governments had received information that the upcoming harvest would be below normal due to drought. Rainfall had stopped in many places and plants were experiencing moisture stress. The December reports from the NEWUs noted failed rains and poor crop conditions. The REWU compiled these reports and published its December Quarterly Food Security Bulletinin late January 1992. Its release coincided with the SADC Annual Consultative Conference being held in Maputo, Mozambique. The report predicted a below-average maize harvest region-wide. Ministers attending the conference were also presented with remote sensing images showing the location of the ITCZ for October-December 1989, 1990, and 1991. These images clearly showed that the ITCZ was north of the region and that the prospects for rain from January on were very low.

Damage Assessments in the Region

These pieces of information placed the drought and food security situation in a regional context. At the Maputo meeting, the SADC ministers directed the SADC Food Security Sector Coordinator to consult closely with member states to assess the extent of food shortages and to devise a common strategy. The ministers also directed the Food Security Sector Coordinator to convene a donor's conference if deemed necessary (SADC/FSTAU, 1993). By this time, the effects of the drought were also becoming apparent on the ground. Some states in the region were able to secure commercial shipments of maize relatively quickly. For example, by early 1992, Zimbabwe and Zambia had mobilized imports from the RSA, the U.S. and Argentina (SADC/FSTAU, 1993). SADC REWS began a program of conducting rapid assessments of food availability and needs for the upcoming year (Rook, 1994).

By March 1992, regional grain stocks totalled 826,000 metric tons, or about 3 weeks of normal consumption (SADC/FSTAU, 1993). On March 9, SADC REWS issued a detailed report on the size of the upcoming harvest and anticipated regional import needs. They estimated the harvest would be only half of normal and that 7 million tonnes of cereal would need to be imported (SADCC/REWS, 1992). Also in March, UN FAO/WFP as well as USAID sent missions to the SADC region to confirm the severity of the drought and to confirm the food shortfall estimates. FAO/WFP worked closely with REWS and relied a great deal on the information provided by the NEWUs on crop conditions. Both FSTAU and WFP recognized the need (from a political standpoint) of having an independent, outside assessment to increase donor confidence in the estimates. In contrast, the purpose of the USAID mission was to conduct its own assessment of the situation in order to make decisions about how to allocate USAID resources.

Also in March, the WFP conducted a rapid assessment of the regional transport system to determine its capacity to handle the large increase in imports. This led to the establishment of a Logistics Advisory Centre, located in Harare, to coordinate food relief shipments.

Organization of Response Logistics

In April, the FSTAU organized a meeting in Lusaka, Zambia of SADC ministers of agriculture and transport in order to discuss regional arrangements for drought relief. The ministers established a regional drought task force, proposed the establishment of a Logistics Advisory Centre, and agreed to approach the international community for assistance. Shortly thereafter, FSTAU began discussions with the UN Department of Humanitarian Affairs (UNDHA) on the issuance of a worldwide appeal. The Drought Emergency in Southern Africa (DESA) appeal was issued on 26 May 1992 and included a request from SADC countries for 4.1 million metric tonnes of food aid.11 A donor pledging conference was held in Geneva on June 1-2, where over US$500 million was pledged for Southern African drought relief.12

5.6. National Responses

o Individual countries responded at different rates to the drought emergency.

o For a given country, a national declaration of drought is an important part of the drought response. Relief organizations are often unable to resond to a pending problem until the government makes an official request for aid.

Individual countries responded at different rates to the drought emergency. The Government of Zambia was the first to declare a national disaster in February 1992 (GRZ, 1992). Zimbabwe, Malawi13 and Botswana followed in March (UN FAO, 1992; MSI, 1994). A national declaration of drought is significant because relief organizations are often unable to respond to a pending problem until the government makes an official request for aid (Sheets and Morris, 1976). In 1991/92, two major relief organizations reported their awareness of the potential food problem but were unable to take action until the governments in the countries in which they were operating acknowledged the problem and solicited their assistance. Table 5.2 summarizes drought response in Zimbabwe.

Date
Event
March 1991

3 million tonne grain shortfall for SADC region predicted for 1991/92 mkt. year - based on current grain stocks/harvest

April 1, 1991

GMB budgeted for maize to cover pre-harvest gap

July/August 1991

NEWU predicts zero closing stock of maize with GMB (by mkt. year end) due to poor harvest

October 1991

GMB officials went to RSA and arranged contract for 100,000 tonnes of maize

November 1991

NEWU drought forecast issued: warned of less than adequate stocks for Jan./Feb., and impending drought

December 1991

tentative assessment of upcoming low grain harvest -- based on lack of rains

December/January

rains failed (preventing maize tassel stage)

1st week of February, 1992

appeals for emergency maize shipments

March 6, 1992

national drought disaster declared

March 1992

SADC REWS issues detailed forecast of upcoming harvest, having identified drought's magnitude -- regional import needs defined

June 1992

official regional appeal made for donor assistance at Geneva pledging conference

Table 5.2. Key events in Zimbabwe's drought response. (From GMB, 1990, 1991, 1992; SADCC/REWS, 1991, 1992; SADC/FSTAU, 1993).

Maize Imports in Zimbabwe

o Even while fulfilling its export contracts, the GMB was aware there would be a maize shortfall from the end of 1991 until the harvest of the 1992 crop. The GMB thus budgeted for this expense in April 1991. However, the foreign exchange needed to import maize was not forthcoming because of conditions related to economic reform.

o Within the Zimbabwean government, there was doubt about the need to import maize. Some officials believed rural farmers were hording maize on their farms, waiting for higher producer prices.

o Once the rainfall situation became clearer, some Zimbabwean officials felt the drought would not be region-wide. They believed grain reserves could always be acquired from South Africa.

Even while fulfilling its export contracts, the GMB already knew there would be a need to import in order to bridge the maize gap of several months from the end of 1991 to the harvest of the 1992 crop. It had budgeted for this at the beginning of the marketing year (1 April, 1991), and sought the foreign exchange it would need to purchase between 100,000 and 200,000 tonnes from RSA. The GMB continued to push this import request, and went to South Africa in October to arrange for imports of 100,000 tonnes. However, within the Zimbabwean government, there was doubt about the need to import (some officials thought that the rural farmers were storing extra maize on their farms, waiting for better producer prices). In addition, the foreign exchange needed to finalize the deal was not forthcoming, because of ESAP-related conditions.

In the meantime, in July, Zimbabwe's NEWU predicted a closing stock of zero by the marketing year's end (31 March 1992). At that time, very little, if any, concern was given to the possibility of regional drought, and when the long rains failed to materialize, the government was unprepared for a region-wide drought (i.e., having to source maize from outside Southern Africa). Later in 1991, driven by concern that regional stocks would not last until the next harvest, officials with SADC REWU tried to persuade the Zimbabwean government to halt its exports and make arrangements for imports. Because this was contrary to standard operating procedure in Zimbabwe, this advice was not well-received and Zimbabwe continued its export program.

Once the rainfall situation became clearer, some Zimbabwean officials felt the drought would not be region-wide, and that reserves could always be acquired from RSA. However, as everyone was soon to discover, RSA's maize also withered in the fields in 1991/92. Prior to the drought's onset, ENSO was not seriously considered within the region as a causal (forcing) factor.

By December 1991, Zimbabwe's GMB had signed a contract to import 100,000 tons of maize from South Africa. This was to cover the expected shortfall before the April harvest due to the poor 1990/91 crop. The UN FAO estimated that in-country stocks were sufficient to meet domestic needs only until mid-January (UN FAO/GIEWS, 1991). In the meantime, Zimbabwe continued to honor its export contracts, primarily for triangular transactions14 to other countries in the region. President Mugabe declared the drought a national disaster on 6 March 1992. By April, Zimbabwe had established an inter-ministerial drought task force to be led by the Vice President.

The imports from South Africa were delayed by the slow approval process for the needed foreign exchange. Along with an order of white maize from Argentina, they were the first commercial imports of what totalled over two million tonnes during 1992/93. Once the severity of the drought was firmly established, and an official emergency declared (6 March 1992), the aid process began. By the time SADC submitted its official regional appeal for assistance in June 1992, Zimbabwe had already imported almost 400,000 tonnes of maize. These commercial imports, which came from South Africa, Argentina, the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, were vital to sustain necessary food supplies for Zimbabwe's population. The lead time needed to mobilize these commercial imports was as short as two months, providing a bridge until aid shipments began to arrive.

Of Zimbabwe's total imports during the drought, 59 percent were direct commercial purchases. Existing foreign exchange reserves and financial contributions from donors for balance of payment support made this possible. The GOZ acquired loans for 33 percent of the imports, while grants and aid covered the remaining 8 percent. Significant amounts of donated food and other supplies began to arrive in September, taking the six-plus months lead time typical for such aid shipments. Total maize imports for the entire drought period totalled 2,190,000 tonnes. Of this amount, only 272,000 tonnes was white maize (the preferred maize variety in Southern Africa), because yellow maize is the variety that is predominantly traded on world markets.

5.7. Economic Impacts

The economic impacts of the 1991/92 drought were generally described in Chapter 3. They ranged across entire economies, adversely affecting water-dependent industries like hydroelectric power production and cotton and sugar processing, and individual farmers, and governments' fiscal budgets alike. Food prices were driven up and many families could no longer afford to send their children to school or obtain critical health services. All sectors watched as investment in upgraded and improved technology was wiped away by the new demands that the drought had placed on available financial and economic resources.

In Zimbabwe

o The drought introduced forces that conflicted directly with Zimbabwe's ESAP goals.

o Maize imports cost as much as four times the subsidized price that the government sold them to industrial millers for. This cost the government approximately US$300 million, or 11 percent of GDP for 1992/93.

What transpired during the drought certainly did not conform with the ESAP's plans or envisioned results, although it has been claimed by some that the drought was managed without negative impacts on the ESAP (MSI, 1994). As the Open General Import License (OGIL) program was opened to more and more imports, and a currency devaluation anticipated, there was an excess level of imports. Exporters held back their goods, also awaiting devaluation. Import liberalization put negative pressure on the balance of payments situation, increasing the current account deficit to almost $1 billion in 1992 (20 percent of Zimbabwe's GDP and 2.5 times the ESAP target) (Dinoto, 1993). The GOZ eventually placed a 20 percent surcharge on OGIL imports in an attempt to slow down the flow of imports.

Very few other ESAP steps were taken at this time, because of the combination of "bureaucratic inertia," opposition by entrenched civil servants, and the drought. The most basic of ESAP objectives, a decrease in public expenditures, was not, nor could be seriously pursued (Skalnes, 1992).

In fact, the drought introduced forces that conflicted directly with ESAP goals. The GOZ incurred greater losses on the part of its parastatal Agricultural Finance Corporation (AFC), GMB, and National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) -- major players in the national response to the drought (Benson and Clay, 1994). There was pressure on the government to increase maize producer prices in order to encourage the marketing of any on-farm stored maize. The budget had to bear these increased expenditures.

Maize producer prices were doubled from Z$270 to Z$550 per tonne in February 1992 (Sachikonye, 1992). Maize imports cost as much as four times the subsidized price that the government sold them to industrial millers for. This cost the GOZ approximately US$300 million, or 11 percent of GDP for 1992/93 (Jayne and Rukuni, 1994). The drought also created a wider gap between domestic maize prices and those found in neighboring countries, forcing the decision to eliminate consumer maize meal subsidies. The chain reaction was an increase in roller meal and super-refined meal prices, of 20 and 80 percent, respectively (Sachikonye, 1992). Inflation rose to 30 percent during the first-half of 1992.

When meeting in Paris in February 1992 to review Zimbabwe's ESAP, the World Bank did not have the drought's impact on the agenda. In the meantime, the GOZ had to line up import contracts just to see it through March. The U. S. delegation insisted on a discussion of this issue. After appeals by UNDHA and SADC, the World Bank gave large credits for drought recovery. In July, the IMF relaxed ESAP target dates and a large credit was made available. In September, another credit for food imports was approved (MSI, 1994).

In a final tally, the 1.85 million tonnes of grain imported by the GMB during 1992/93 cost Z$1200 per tonne landed in-country. The GMB's trading account for 1992/93 shows a total trading deficit increase from Z$ 6 billion in the previous year to $Z 759 billion. The subsidy to millers amounted to Z$ 562 per tonne. The differential between the landed import price of maize ($Z 1,217) and the local selling price (Z$ 1,070) created another GOZ-absorbed subsidy of Z$ 147 per tonne, bringing the total outlays for the maize importing and distribution effort during the drought to Z$ 709 (US$ 142) per tonne (GMB, 1993).

A reduction in demand hit all economic sectors, including agricultural inputs and basic consumer goods. This arose in part from reduced incomes because of the drought, but also from the ESAP's depressed effects on the country's economy because of an increased availability of imported goods (Benson and Clay, 1994). The Zimbabwean Stock Market declined 62 percent in value during 1992, and the country's GDP fell nine percent. See Table 5.3 for economic indicator data.

Economic Indicator

unit

1990
1991
1992
1993
Exchange Rate
$US/$Z
0.41
0.29
0.20
0.20
Inflation
real % change
16.1
23.3
42.1
28
GDP
real % change
-0.5
-2.8
-9.0
 
Budget Deficit
as % of GDP
2.8
10.5
9.2
11
Manufacturing Production Index
1990=100
100
102.8
93.4
82

Table 5.3 Zimbabwe's economic indicators (IMF, 1995; World Bank, 1995).

In Zambia

o The 1991/92 drought cost the Zambian government US$300 million, bringing its 1992 deficit to US$1.7 billion.

This drought cost the Zambian government US$300 million, bringing its 1992 deficit to US$1.7 billion. A 39 percent drop in agricultural output was a large instigator of the 2.8 percent decline in GDP (Table 5.4). The manufacturing sector suffered from a drop in agricultural processing and loss of hydroelectric power production (MSI, 1994).

Economic Indicator

unit

1990
1991
1992
1993
Exchange Rate
US$/kwacha
0.035
0.016
0.0064
0.00230
Inflation
real % change
-2.4
92.6
197.4
189
GDP
real % change
-0.5
-1.8
-4.7
+6.5
Budget Deficit
as % of GDP
16
9
n/a
n/a
Mining Production Index
1990=100
100
90.1
100.8
93.7

Table 5.4 Zambia's economic indicators (IMF, 1995; World Bank, 1995).

The 1991/92 drought in Zambia provides a good example of how widespread and large the economic effects of drought can be. Decreased production in Zambia's two most important non-food crops significantly affected both the agricultural and manufacturing sectors. Reduced cotton production translated into lower processed output, and a one percent decline in total manufacturing output. Less oil was produced and available domestically, because of the reduced oilseed crop. This caused another half percent decline in manufactured output. A greater demand for diesel oil to fuel the road transport of food supplies (an important supplement to rail transport) also had an adverse economic effect.

One of Zambia's non-traditional exports is electricity, which is produced at Kafue Gorge, Kariba, and Victoria Falls. Low water levels led to earnings of only 23 percent of the normal for this sector. In addition, Zambia was forced to turn to Zaire for electricity imports, a cost that included expenditures to improve electric power lines. Combining these impacts with the depressed agricultural sector output (which was down 27 percent), total GDP in Zambia fell 6 percent after the drought.

The drought-induced food shortage also led to far greater use of road transport, and hence diesel oil, than in a non-drought year. This had direct implications for foreign exchange reserves and the budget deficit. The financial sector did not go unscathed; it suffered from the inability of farmers to repay their loans. Banks, as a result, had very little reserve to loan for the new crop season. Outside of donor assistance, the only alternative was for the Bank of Zambia to extend loans through the creation of new money. Even the commercial sector suffered from the drought to the extent that its future development potential, once hoped as a major cure for Zambia's economic woes, has been threatened. The drought contributed to the erosion of capital and to the concomitant inability to invest.

Rural incomes were greatly reduced, especially among small-scale farmers who had been selling extra maize as a cash crop. These farmers received as much as 90 percent of their cash income from maize sales. Many commercial farmers' incomes also declined because, even though this sector is more diversified, there was a large investment in maize for the 1991/92 growing season (a result of higher producer prices). Farmers with large livestock herds were also severely affected (GRZ, 1992).

The urgent need to import maize supplies for the entire region led to price increases, particularly in the cost of land transport. Wages lost value in real terms after inflation took off during 1992. In November of 1991, the lowest paid public service worker earned K5000 per month ($US 80), a time when mealie meal cost K250 per 25 kg bag. A year later, the same worker's salary was K11,000 ($US 70), but mealie meal had jumped to K2000 per bag, or 930 percent. The government also raised taxes to grapple with increased expenditures and budget deficit problems.

The cause and effect of staple food price increases during and after drought can be difficult to order. When maize is donated, for example, a government must decide what to charge for it. In Zambia's case, the government felt pressures to charge "realistic" rather than subsidized prices, to avoid undercutting the local market, to cover drought-relief activities, and to help finance the upcoming season. This introduced a form of inflationary pressure on food prices.

Zambia faced a pre-drought budget deficit of K6.3 billion, which more than doubled to K13.73 billion after the drought. Greater food, electricity, and other drought-related imports contributed to the worsening deficit, along with higher mealie meal subsidies (to absorb higher into-mill/maize handling costs) and reduced (non-tradable) export earnings from cotton and electricity. Of the total value of Zambia's imports, 90 percent was paid in foreign currency.

5.8. Summary

o ENSO information did not play a significant role in the regional and national responses to the drought situation.

o Warnings issued by the food security community were based on concern over the poor 1991 harvest and low grain stocks rather than over the prospects of a drought that would affect the 1992 harvest.

o The relatively slow build-up of events does suggest that even an earlier, credible and accurate ENSO drought forecast would not necessarily have altered the SADC region's precarious food supply position.

While an ENSO forecast was available in early 1991, it was not widely disseminated nor did decision makers in the SADC region have familiarity with the link between ENSO and regional drought. As a result, ENSO information did not play a significant role in the regional and national responses to the drought situation. The regional food security community issued warnings of a pending food security crisis throughout 1991; however, these warnings were based on concern over the poor 1991 harvest and low stocks rather than over the prospects for a drought, let along an ENSO-related drought, affecting the 1992 harvest.

Regional and national responses to the actual drought situation were initiated once it became clear that the rains had indeed failed, the severity of crop damage had been observed, and evidence that the rains were unlikely to return was presented. Regional famine was averted, but individual countries experienced severe food shortages and significant economic impacts due to the drought. The relatively slow build-up of events, as they were, does show us that even an earlier, credible and accurate ENSO drought forecast would not necessarily have altered the SADC region's precarious food supply position.



Foot Notes

7. Now called the Climate Prediction Center.

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8. The CAC's August 13 "ENSO Advisory" noted positive SST anomalies in the east, low-level westerly anomalies and deepening thermocline in the east but cautioned that the Mt. Pinatubo eruption could biass SST readings by as much as 2 deg C.

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9. Based on average production over the past five years.

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10. Government had already approved 554,000 tonnes of commercial maize imports, including 100,000 tonnes from South Africa for the 1991/92 marketing year.

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11. By April, SADC states had arranged or were in the process of arranging for the commmercial import of 1.9 million metric tons of cereals (SADC/FSTAU, 1993).

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12. It is important to note, however, that pledges do not always materialize in the form of concrete resources.

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13. Althought it acknowledged the drought emergency relatively early, the Government of Malawi did not make its first order for commercial maize until July (MSI 1994).

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14. Triangular transactions are indirect purchases, typically made by donors who transfer the purchased grain to a third country.

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