Natural Hazards

, Volume 59, Issue 1, pp 447–463 | Cite as

Maize yield forecasting for Zimbabwe farming sectors using satellite rainfall estimates

  • Desmond Manatsa
  • Innocent W. Nyakudya
  • Geoffry Mukwada
  • Herbet Matsikwa
Original Paper


Southern Africa rainfall station network is suffering from an unfortunate serious decline while climate-related food insecurity is worsening. In the current work, we demonstrate the possibility of exploiting the complementary roles that remote sensing, modeling, and geospatial data analysis can play in forecasting maize yield using data for the growing seasons from 1996/1997 to 2003/2004. Satellite-derived point-specific rainfall estimates were input into a crop water balance model to calculate the Water Requirement Satisfaction Index (WRSI). When these WRSI values were regressed with historical yield data, the results showed that relatively high skill yield forecasts can be made even when the crops are at their early stages of growth and in areas with sparse or without any ground rainfall measurements. Inferences about the yield at national level and small-scale commercial farming sector (SSCF) sector can be made at confidence levels above 99% from the second dekad of February. However, the most unstable models are those for the communal farming sectors whose inferences for yield forecast can only be made above the 95% confidence level from the end of February, after having recovered from a state of complete breakdown two dekads earlier. The large-scale commercial farming (LSCF) sector has generally the weakest fitting, but it is usable from the first dekad of February to the end of the rainy season. Validation of the national yield models using independent data set shows that an early estimation of maize yield is quite feasible by the use of the WRSI.


Satellite rainfall estimates Water Requirement Satisfaction Index Maize yield forecasting Regression model Zimbabwe farming sectors 



The Zimbabwe Meteorological Services, the SADC-RRSU, and the Central Statistical Office of Zimbabwe are all thanked for providing data for this work. Bindura University is also thanked for partially financing and providing facilities at the University. Dr L. Unganai and comments from the anonymous reviewers are greatly appreciated as they greatly improved the quality of this paper to the standard acceptable in this prestigious international journal.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Desmond Manatsa
    • 1
    • 2
  • Innocent W. Nyakudya
    • 3
  • Geoffry Mukwada
    • 4
  • Herbet Matsikwa
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of OceanographyUniversity of Cape TownCape TownSouth Africa
  2. 2.Department of GeographyBindura University of ScienceBinduraZimbabwe
  3. 3.Department of AgricultureBindura University of ScienceBinduraZimbabwe
  4. 4.Department of GeographyUniversity of the Free StateBloemfonteinSouth Africa
  5. 5.World Food Program (WFP)HarareZimbabwe

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