NREL logo HomeIntroductionProductsPersonnelSAWBWITSNREL
We are integrating climate forecasts, livestock management, and modeling to help optimize how livestock owners may respond to drought.

To learn more about the components of our work:

ENSO Patterns

Farm Ecosystem

Climate Forecasts

Farm Management

Farm Economics

Savanna Modeling

Livestock owners in South Africa call their grazing lands 'farms.'

Our research is supported by the NOAA Sectoral Applications Research Program
Climate is very variable in dry ecosystems like those of northern South Africa. A major pattern affecting climate is the El Niño / Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Every three to six years South Africa is affected by droughts associated with ENSO, including the last event of 1997-1998. These droughts reduce crop production, cause livestock to die, and generally stress the food production system of rural people. Because climate variability is high in southern African dry ecosystems, it seems likely that people have developed unique strategies to respond to drought appropriately. On the other hand, political and economic restructing in South Africa is changing land use patterns, and so their time-tested strategies may no longer be viable, and new strategies are needed. Climate forecasts could lead to the formation and adoption of new, more efficient strategies for coping with climate variability.

We are assessing drought coping strategies of livestock owners in the area of Vryburg, in the Northwest Province of South Africa. The analyses, tools, and systems we are using to understand drought responses and explore how forecasts may be most useful are summarized in the flow chart below. In general, we used analyses of vegetation in the field and household interviews to describe the Farm ecological and economic systems, and to learn the strategies used by livestock owners. We are merging climate forecasts with ecosystem and economic models to yield estimates of the effects of potential droughts on livestock production and household income. We are exploring drought coping strategies, and searching for optimum ways of responding to drought and making use of climate forecasts. To learn more about the components of our work, click on a box below or a link to the left.

Edited: February 19, 2007