Quarterdeck, Volume 6, Number 2, Summer 1998
Major swings in decadal climate have a significant impact on the economies and societies of the Sahel region of Africa and northeastern Brazil.
For many African countries, rain-fed agricultural production constitutes about 90 percent of the gross domestic product, according to the World Climate Research Programme. This dependence on rain can mean tragedy because during a long drought, water distribution systems often fail-and the crops go without water.
Across the Atlantic, many citizens of Brazil also rely on rainfall for their existence. The semi-arid Nordeste, or Northeast, is home to nearly 45 million people, 30 percent of Brazil's population. When drought hits, one in five citizens of the Nordeste region emigrates to another part of Brazil, reported the National Research Council.
Preventing long-term drought is unlikely-especially in the desert-but reliable climate forecasts can help these nations prepare for drought and optimize their existing resources for agricultural production. Climate forecasts are benefiting Brazil already, where the Foundation for Meteorology and Hydrological Resources advises the government on agricultural and water conservation. During a dry season, the Brazilian government assists subsistence farmers and encourages them to plant crops appropriate for a shorter growing season.
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Last updated August 1, 1998