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How does the broad range of vulnerability and capacity in Africa relate to emerging skills in climate prediction? Recent developments in seasonal forecasting, especially for the tropics (e.g., Chen et al., 1995), have drawn attention to the opportunity for appropriating such forecast information into drought management systems and other natural resource operations (e.g., Gibberd et al., 1996) (Table 6). Africa is one of the potential beneficiaries of such improved forecasts.

The wide range of effects that climate, and particularly drought, can have is discussed in Glantz's work on El Niño (Glantz, 1996, pp. 145-148). It is emphasized

TABLE 6 Qualitative Assessment of Current Status of Long-Lead Climate Forecasts

Operational Status Depending on Region

Operational Status Depending on Region

TABLE 6 Qualitative Assessment of Current Status of Long-Lead Climate Forecasts






Most areas





Some equatorial

Many areas

Certain promising

Parts of the United

and high-latitude

areas including

States, Australia,


southern Africa

and a few other suitable areas

Within season

Many areas

Some developed

Certain well-



researched areas

southern Africa

(United States, Europe)

Source: Gibberd et al, (1996).

Source: Gibberd et al, (1996).

that "weather" does not only affect crop yield but also land quality, on-farm storage, labor migration, rates of urbanization and rural population growth, use of inputs such as fertilizer, farm income, farmers' skill and experience, and so forth. The utility of reliable long-range forecasts, therefore, could be enormous, not just for earlier warning of need for emergency aid but also for ongoing food security (Table 7). Policymakers and farmers alike should benefit.

Seasonal forecasts are already being used in some parts of Africa, for example, in predicting maize yields in Zimbabwe (Cane et al., 1994). For agriculture and water resource management the benefits could be quite extensive, altering the entire basis of economic planning in Africa. Most farmers would benefit from seasonal forecasts, although lead time and reliability will be important issues (Table 8). Several studies have analyzed costs of El Niño events, for example, and predict that considerable savings could be made if accurate warnings of the onset of the phenomenon could be used. The 1991-1992 El Niño-related drought in southern Africa was estimated to cost the U.S. government $800 million in responses to the phenomena (Farmer 1997).

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