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Top 5 Farms for Low-Rainfall Areas

Updated: May 14, 2021



What are low-rainfall areas?

Low-rainfall areas are areas that receive less than 500mm of rainfall per annum. In these areas, a very limited number of crops can thrive without irrigation. Additionally, only hardy breeds of livestock can do well in these conditions. Many areas in Africa fall under the low-rainfall category. Despite this, these areas have fertile soils which can support several farming activities with or without irrigation.


Why should you consider farming in low-rainfall areas?

Low-rainfall areas have cheaper land than areas that receive high amounts of rainfall. In Africa, agriculture is largely rain-fed. The absence of rain means that many tracts of land in dry areas have been left to lie idle with no ongoing agricultural activity. This has driven down the cost of buying or leasing land in these areas.


Unknown to many, there are crops and animals that are best suited for these areas. Some of these crops or animals, when farmed in high-rainfall areas, fail to achieve the high production they would have achieved in low-rainfall areas. This article will explore some of these farm ideas.


How we determine our top farms for low-rainfall areas

In view of the misconception that farming can only be practiced in high-rainfall areas, we set out to identify crop and animal farms that can thrive in low-rainfall areas. We use several factors to determine the suitability of a farming idea for a low-rainfall region. Here are the factors;


  • Rainfall requirements of a crop

  • Temperature requirements of a crop

  • Crop variety suitability

  • Breed of livestock and suitability to dry areas


Top 5 farms for low-rainfall areas


Naturally, goats are very resilient animals that can adapt to different climatic conditions. However, you should note that there are goat breeds that are more suitable for low-rainfall areas than others. Typically, low-rainfall areas have a very limited supply of pastures for livestock. However, goats are able to survive due to the wide range of foliage that they can consume.


The goat breed is best suited to dry and low-rainfall areas in the Galla breed. This goat breed is native to the dry arid and semi-arid areas of East Africa. The Galla goat has been reared in these areas for generations due to its adaptability to harsh conditions. Learn more about Goat farming opportunities in Africa.


Cassava is a versatile root-tuber crop that can grow well in both low and high rainfall regions. Cassava can grow in areas of annual rainfall ranging from 500mm to 6000mm.


What makes cassava particularly ideal for low-rainfall regions are the new varieties that are even more drought-resistant than the traditional varieties. Developed by Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, these varieties include Karibuni, Shibe, Nzaluka, Siri, Karembo, and Tajirika. These varieties have an average production of 24 tons per acre. This makes cassava to be the highest-yielding low-rainfall crop. Learn more about Cassava farming opportunities in Africa.


3. Sesame farm

Sesame is a drought-resistant crop that requires between 300mm to 600mm of rainfall per year. A native of East Africa, sesame does not perform well in rainfall that exceeds 600mm per year. As the crop approaches maturity, it requires a dry period.


Technically, there is no need for irrigation when farming sesame. In Tanzania, which is the world’s largest producer of sesame, the open-field cultivation method is used. The areas that grow sesame in Tanzania are places associated with low rainfall. Learn more about Sesame farming opportunities in Africa.


Sorghum is another drought-resistant cereal crop that is ideal for low-rainfall regions. It has rainfall requirements of 400mm to 650mm per annum. Low-rainfall areas also have averagely high temperatures. Coincidentally, sorghum performs well in areas with high temperatures. It requires average temperatures of 25°C to 35°C.


New varieties like KARI Mtama F1 and Hybrid 23012 have been engineered to thrive in harsh conditions. These varieties require less than 500mm of rainfall to perform well. With the increasing marketability of sorghum due to demand from alcohol breweries, more land in low-rainfall areas is continually being utilized for sorghum farming. Learn more about Sorghum farming opportunities in Africa.


Beef cattle farming seems to thrive in areas with low rainfall in Africa. It can be argued that these dry areas have for centuries been occupied by pastoralist communities that value livestock more than crop farming. The beef cattle breeds available in these areas have adapted and can live on low-quality pastures. In addition to this, they are resistant to most livestock diseases that are endemic in dry low-rainfall areas.

Beef cattle breeds that perform well in low-rainfall areas include Zebu, Boran, and Sahiwal. On top of being able to convert low-quality pastures into bodyweight, these breeds can also withstand the high temperatures in low-rainfall zones. Learn more about Beef farming opportunities in Africa.


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