Indicator Thresholds for Drought Classification at the Country Level - Developing Indicator Thresholds for South Africa.

Drought classification framework based on a suite of indicators is proposed for South Africa calibration and national adaptation process


To identify indicators and related thresholds for drought classification at the national level. Research completed by the University of the Free State highlighted the importance of indicator thresholds for drought classification for different sectors. As a result of this,  the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) in South Africa proposed the use of a suite of indicators for drought classification. Drought classification is important in that it guides the declaration of disaster droughts and the activation of safety nets for different sectors. Identified indicators are also combined with impact related indicators at the catchment and farm level.

Implemented at National and Provincial levels in South Africa with local calibrated thresholds under three categories; namely, (i) meteorological, (ii) remotely sensed, and (iii) hydrological

Drought severity and intensity is categorised in 5 levels namely (i) D0: Dry, (ii) D1: Moderate dry, (iii) D2: Severe drought, (iv) D3: Extreme drought, (v) D4: Exceptional drought. Indicators are categorised as meteorological, remotely sensed and hydrological. Three to four indicators were selected under each category. Thresholds for each indicator were determined based literature and practical application, yet improved calibration is required for different climate ecological zones and different agricultural systems.

Drought threshold was identified for different agricultural sectors. commercial farming is already a disaster for the communal farming sector due to the difference in coping capacity and drought vulnerability. Acknowledgement of different thresholds for disaster drought for different sectors is a key result.

Drought categorization allowed for improved drought management practices. Identification of drought indicators based on quantitative thresholds limits political interference or qualitative evaluation of disaster droughts. Drought classification that is based on a suite of indicators allows for sound decision making during activation of safety nets and disaster declaration. 


- Jordaan, A.J. (Ed), Sakulski, D.M., Muyambo, F., Shwababa, S., Mdungela, N., Phatudi-Mphahlele, B., Mashimbye, C., Mlambo,  D., Fadeyi, O., Miya, T., Bahta, Y. & Owusu-Sekyere, E. 2017. Vulnerability, adaptation to and c¬oping with drought: The case   of commercial and subsistence rain fed farming in the Eastern Cape. Water Research Commission (WRC) Report 2280/2/17.    Pretoria, South Africa.

- DAFF. 2016. Drought indicators for South Africa. Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries. Pretoria, South Africa.