n Oilseeds Focus - Understanding drought in South Africa

Volume 5 Number 4
  • ISSN : 2410-1206


The climate of an area is a function of both below-average and above-average conditions. Climate can be defined as the long-term average weather conditions for a specific area. One of the main characteristics of seasonal rainfall globally, but also in South Africa, is that there is a semi-cyclic nature with consecutive seasons of below-average rainfall, followed by consecutive seasons with above-average rainfall. This feature of rainfall often complicates the planning process for agricultural decision-makers. The timing of new farmers’ entry into the industry often depends on where in the cycle they enter. Drought cycles can last between one and seven years or longer, depending on the area. Dry periods tend to be more extended in the lower rainfall areas towards the western parts of South Africa, than it is towards the eastern parts. These cycles may be interrupted temporarily by short-term or single-season disturbances such as El Niño or La Niña, which can result in atypical behaviour during a cycle.

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