Drought is endemic to southern Africa. Sustainable livelihoods across the subregion depend to a large extent on how well the subregion's economies can absorb the multiple stresses that arise from drought. The goal of sustainable livelihoods under a highly variable climatic regime can only be attained through environmental monitoring supported by a well-structured research strategy. A number of gray areas exist that limit drought mitigation strategies in southern Africa. Little is known about the physical mechanisms that trigger, prolong, and end drought episodes. Currently, no objective and scientifically sound thresholds and guidelines have been defined to provide effective drought early warning conditions beyond which nature and society cannot cope without intervention. The interface between operational drought monitoring and users of the information is currently either poorly defined or nonexistent. Research to define how operational drought monitoring systems can be better integrated to provide more useful guidance to socioeconomic activities at national level is therefore crucial.

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