Quick facts

  • At least 17 countries in Africa are struggling to cope with two consecutive years of drought.
  • A senior UN official in March 2017 said that the world is facing "the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the United Nations" in 1945.
  • More than 20 million people in Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and northeast Nigeria are at risk of starvation and famine.



South Africa has been experiencing the worst drought in 100 years. Since the 1990s, the country has lost a third of its farms due to water scarcity. As a result, farmers have had to turn to a hi-tech solution to help cope with dwindling water supplies and harsher environments. 

We speak with Professor Jill Farrant, a professor at the University of Cape Town who has been trying to unlock the secret behind so-called resurrection plants which can survive long periods without water. Professor Farrant believes they may hold the answer to crops surviving long periods without water.

"This type of crop will start off well if there's lots of rain. It will continue well if there's lots of rain. But should there be a drought, the plant won't die," Professor Farrant says. "When the next rain comes, [the crop] will continue growing and the farmer can at least get a harvest. And you can get another chance of life."

Ndoni Khanyile then visits the De Wet family farm. The family has employed a cutting-edge technology called Fruitlook to help run their orchard effectively. The system uses NASA satellite imagery which takes monthly pictures showing soil health and dry areas. As a result, farmers are able to target irrigation to areas that really need it, thus saving water. 

Since the 1990s, South Africa has lost a third of its farms due to water scarcity [Screengrab/Al Jazeera]
Professor Jill Farrant is trying to unlock the secret behind 'resurrection plants' in hopes of creating crops with the same mechanism [Screengrab/Al Jazeera]

Source: Al Jazeera