The importance of keeping rainfall records

By Hanks Saisai /

Namibia’s Central, North Central, Eastern, Southern, and North-Eastern regions received some rain showers marking the beginning of the 2023/2024 rainy season.

Oftentimes, farmers get excited and carried away by the occurrence of rainfall as it is an essential resource that enables farmers to cultivate cereal grains like maize, pearl millet (mahangu) and sorghum.

Additionally, rainfall replenishes vegetation (grasses, shrubs, forbs, and bushes) that are utilized by livestock and replenishes the underground water, making it available in boreholes and wells.

As the rainy season continues in Namibia, a lot of farmers are still not keeping track of the amount of rainfall they receive. This lack of recordkeeping leads to poor planning for the dry season and when there is too little rainfall, many farmers experience crop failure and livestock mortality due to inadequate preparation.

Keeping accurate rainfall records is crucial, but why? Keeping a record of the amount of rainfall one receives is essential for farming. It serves as a performance indicator and helps farmers prepare for the next season.

For instance, if a farmer’s area received an annual average rainfall of 350 mm during the past rainy season, the farmer can use this data to identify rainfall patterns for that year, the intensity of the rainfall, and its distribution in each month.

This information can assist in planning for the upcoming rainy season and enable farmers to have mitigation strategies in case of low rainfall. It’s also important for farmers to stay updated on weather forecasts during the rainy season to maximize the benefits of the rainfall.

With the availability of technology, farmers can utilize weather forecasting apps to check the weather outlook for a specific week or month. This will help them to determine when to expect rainfall and its intensity.

An example of one of these apps is Microsoft Weather. It can be used to check weather forecasts for each month during the rainy season. It can inform farmers about the expected number of rainy and dry days in a month. This information is essential for crop producers that rely on rainfall to grow their crops.

For livestock farmers, it can be helpful in determining whether regrowth will be satisfactory, or the new grass will be scorched by the heat. It is therefore important to track and record rainfall as a preparatory strategy for erratic rainfall due to climate change.

In the long run, rainfall records can help both farmers and disaster risk management agencies to mitigate the risks associated with above normal and below average rainfall.

A farmer who keeps rainfall records has a better chance of making informed decisions regarding which crops to grow and how many livestock can be kept under the traditional extensive grazing production system.

– Mr Hanks Saisai is the technical advisor on crops and poultry at the Agricultural Bank.