In search of rain: Zimbabwe starts modifying weather as drought deepens

Two aircraft will treat clouds with a water attracting chemical that forms ice crystals which fall as rain under the weight of gravity

ZIMBABWE’S Meteorological Services Department has started a countrywide cloud-seeding operation, the Harare-based Daily News reported, citing Tich Zinyemba, a forecaster with the agency.

More than 95% of the southern African country has received less than three-quarters of its average rainfall this season, Zinyemba told the newspaper. Rains typically fall between mid-November through April in Zimbabwe.

Two aircraft from the Meteorologial Department will seed clouds with silver iodide, a water-attracting chemical that forms ice crystals. The crystals increase in size and weight until gravity forces them to fall as rain.

Zimbabwe, along with much of southern Africa, is experiencing the worst drought in about two decades.

South Africa, the largest corn (maize) producer on the continent, may harvest 39% less of the grain in the 2015-16 season than a year earlier after the country suffered the lowest rainfall since records began because of the global El Nino weather pattern.

Zambian President Edgar Lungu has said there is a “strong indication” his country too will need to source the staple food from abroad.

Malawi is the country worst-affected by food insecurity in the sub-region,  where about 2.8 million people need assistance. 

Southern African nations will need to find 10.9 million metric tonnes of crops such as corn, wheat and soybeans, according to Senzeni Zokwana, South Africa’s agriculture minister.

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