Poor rainfall impacts power supplies

Most (if not all) countries in Southern/Eastern Africa have been affected by the poor rainfall of the last rainy season.

The most obvious impact is the drought, for farming, cattles and water supplies.

Indeed crops have not produced as much, cost of maize is going up, impacting the cost of the basic staple meal consumed daily (pap, nsima, ugali… different names for similar mealie meal, which is the base of all meals). Grazing for cattle is becoming increasingly difficult, which impacts the cost of cows, and thus the revenues of many.

Water supplies for drinking are also getting scarce as wells and small dams are drying up early. As people struggle to get water, cattle do to.

Needless to say that the upcoming rainy season is awaited eagerly. With the hopes that it will be a good season, re-filling dams and streams, without heavy floodings…

But one less thought about (or known about) impact of poor rainfall is the shortage of electricity.

Electricity is produced at hydro-electric stations in various lake/dams. The levels of those dams have been getting low early during winter (dry season). As the levels were getting lower, it was anticipated that there will be complete black-out before the next rainy season. As a result, countries are being rationed and experience scheduled outages, also known as load shedding.

A few months ago, there were some good explanations provided in Zambia about the Kariba dam levels, and calculation of production etc… However, most people in all countries do not get the details, or do not understand. Common comment is “electricity is off because of water something…” In an annoyed and non-believing it tone.

But one interesting thing is “scheduled” outage… Well… Not known schedules to say the least…

While there was a good timetable per area issued in Zambia, power outages have quickly increased without changes of the official schedule. South Africa is used to load shedding, coming with warnings in most cases, but not always followed. In Malawi or Tanzania, you just dont know when power will be off or for how long…

Use of generators is increasing, bringing running costs up… Some governments are trying to implement more solar solutions. But many people cannot afford either. In many places, those who have finally have access to electricity just go back to life without… In a way, those who are not yet connected to the grid might be the happy ones: life goes on, unchanged and undisturbed by the outages… That is… For those you do not have a phone that they go and charge in town…

Having said that, this is when you see that water has more uses than drinking and farming… And when you truly realise that electricity is ruling our life and economy. And you try to be prepared and adapt to the lack thereof when possible but it still has dramatic consequences…

To be continued in “The power of electricity“…

Ruaccana dam and fall, Northern Namibia, May 2015. Just after the rainy season, it is all dried already. Only 1 of the 6 turbines was functioning at 50%.




Kariba dam, August 2015. Water level should have been near the pontoon… The addition of new turbines, coupled with law rain, drained the dam water fast. At that stage, there was already talks of reducing power usage in Zambia and Zimbabwe as production is lower than demand.


Mtera Reservoir, Tanzania, October 2015. The second picture was illegally taken as we are not allowed pictures in that area. But I wanted to capture the water level, not the turbines. It is much more lower than last year, and you can see that it can reach high level when full…


One response to “Poor rainfall impacts power supplies

  1. Pingback: The power of electricity | mayandmeinafrica·

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