Drought only in the South of Angola?

“X-ray of drought”, average of February 2021. Source: LAOT’s Facebook page.

If the south of Angola is being affected by a period of drought that lasts several years now, in recent times there has been a worrying multiplication of data and references to drought-related problems in other regions of the country. A serious analysis by the competent entities and organizations on the ground is needed to answer the question: are we facing an increase in the territory affected by drought in Angola?

[Preliminary note: the authors of this post are not specialists in environmental conservation, so we reinforce the need for these issues to be debated by them; below are reflections based on the analysis of information on the ground and data available online]

Recently, the Angolan Earth Observation Laboratory (Laboratório Angolano de Observação da Terra – Facebook page) released an updated map with an “x-ray of drought” as observed throughout February, where we can see the areas affected by drought in different regions of Angola. The satellite image is based on the normalized vegetation index (NDVI) which is one of the most important indirect indicators of the drought situation. According to the LAOT, the red areas of the map highlight the intensity of the drought – in a critical situation of water stress, with completely dry vegetation -, quite visible in the south-southwest of Angola and extending up to the west sub-coastal corridor. At the same time, the areas on the map with shades close to yellow correspond to moderate drought records. In any case, what immediately stands out is the extent of the red areas along the coastal corridor to the north, reaching the Luanda area. Some recent news reinforces this observation. For example:

  • July 2020: Close to 100 thousand people affected by drought in the municipalities of Menongue, Calai, Cuchi, Cuangar and Dirico, province of Cuando Cubango (Jornal de Angola).
  • November 2020: Forest devastation alters the climate and makes Ndalatando hotter (Jornal de Angola).
  • January 2021: Drought destroys agricultural fields in Malanje (VOA).
  • February 2021: in the ten municipalities that make up the province of Benguela, at least 278 thousand and 875 people face food insecurity due to the effects of the drought (Jornal de Angola).
  • March 2021: Cuanza Norte: Drought slows production at Ngola Kiluanji farm (ANGOP)
  • March 2021: Drought kills more than 20 cattle daily in Benguela (O País)

These are indicators that compel the scientific and political community to consider more systematically which human and non-human factors are making drought an increasingly widespread phenomenon in the Angolan territory – especially when the current presidency is channeling resources for national agricultural production (for example, through PRODESI) and for the provision of infrastructure at the local level (PIIM).

One of the factors pointed out in the news referred to above is the problem of deforestation, caused by human action – above all by pollution and the increase in intensive agricultural exploitation, which reduces vegetation cover and in the long run reduces soil capacity. This issue has been debated in Angola in recent years (as you can see in this 2014 DW news piece), and according to the environmental news website Mongabay, in total, between 1990 and 2010, Angola lost 4.1% of its forest cover, 2,496,000 ha.

Deforestation is not the only one, but it is certainly one of the factors that explain how news about drought in Angola is no longer limited to the “traditional” provinces of Huíla, Namibe and Cunene.


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