Women at the water distribution point of the irrigation canal in the village of Samuti.
Photos: J. Boethling


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The climate phenomenon El Niño has caused Africa’s eastern and southern regions to suffer from extreme drought this year. Smallholders are particularly hard hit by failed harvests. But simple irrigation systems can prevent this, as an example from Malawi demonstrates.

This year, Africa has been hit by what could be the worst drought of the century. Dryness prevails from the Horn of Africa all the way down to South Africa. There, as well as in Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Malawi, this is already the second year with too little rain. In addition, parts of East Africa are having to cope with severe floods that destroy harvests and fields. Here, the El Niño climate phenomenon, which leads to extreme shifts in weather patterns every two to seven years, has struck double. This is why staple food prices have even risen strongly in South Africa, a major agricultural producer, which is inhibiting the country’s capacity to export vital food supplies to its neighbours. Alone in Southern Africa, the provision of food for 28 million people is threatened. Some of the countries in the region have therefore declared a state of emergency. Small subsistence farmers and their families are especially severely affected by the extreme weather.

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