Botswana faces catastrophic 2019

09 Dec 2018

Two reports by independent researchers published this week paint a far direr picture of the immediate consequences of climate change for Botswana than previously thought.

Botswana is expected to suffer its first major climate change crisis next year with an unprecedented drought and water shortage that is expected to disrupt local businesses like never before in the history of the country.

A Global Sustainability report published on Friday warned that next year’s climate change crisis threatens to push Botswana into unchartered territory with effects  surpassing those of the 2015/2016 El Nino effect which was the strongest since at least 1950.

Drought conditions contributed to historically low lake levels in the Gaborone Dam, the main piped water source for the capital Gaborone. By the end of 2015, demand for water in Gaborone surpassed supply by almost 33 million litres a day. Gaborone experienced decreased water pressure and complete cut-off of supply, lasting several weeks in some of the worst affected areas.

The Global sustainability Research published last week revealed that all sectors of the economy were disrupted, with micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), in particular, facing major disruption to their business activities. 

In Gaborone, lack of water for food preparation, butchery, irrigation, laundry, cleaning and sanitation, meant many service and processing businesses were unable to operate, provide services to customers, or maintain hygiene standards. More than half of MSMEs reported lower profits and almost a third believed that their business was at risk of closing down as a result of the disruption. In Gaborone, the estimated declines in profits were anticipated to be between 25 percent and 40 percent, with micro businesses the most concerned.

The report reveals that the El Nino effects of 2015/2016 pales in comparison with the “more extreme and extended periods of drought that are likely in the future due to climate change.”

The report further states that, “with the NOAA Climate Prediction Centre predicting an 80 percent chance of El Niño conditions forming again during the 2018/2019 northern hemisphere winter, the 2015/2016 El Niño is an important learning moment for Botswana....Action is needed to increase understanding of the vulnerabilities in existing water, energy and urban infrastructure – and of the effects of increasing urbanisation and a changing climate. In particular, consideration for MSMEs, which currently experience numerous challenges in their business environment that limit their ability to cope with disruption, need to be supported to cope with a wider range of climate impacts.” 

 Another report also published last week Friday by Afrobarometer however revealed that an overwhelming number of Batswana are not ready for the climate change crisis. The Afrobarometer survey findings “show that only half of Batswana have heard of climate change. Most who have heard of it say climate change is making life worse and has to be stopped, but few citizens are confident there’s much they can do.”

The Afrobarometer report states:“Botswana is a semi-arid Southern African country characterized by erratic rainfall, recurrent droughts, low soil moisture, and extreme weather events such as flash floods (African Climate and Development Initiative, 2015) – a foundation of vulnerability for communities in the country. Frequent drought conditions have had significant impacts on domestic food production and other aspects of the national economy in the past (Seekings, 2016). In 2015/2016, Botswana experienced drought that resulted in the drying up of the Gaborone Dam – the main water supply for Botswana’s capital – and was declared the worst drought in three decades (News24, 2015), and President Mokgweetsi Masisi declared 2017/2018 an arable agriculture drought year

Acknowledging the threats that rising temperatures, possible changes in rainfall patterns, and other effects of climate change could pose to sectors ranging from food security and water to health and tourism the National Committee on Climate Change leads efforts to build consensus around climate-change issues (United Nations Development Programme, 2018).

Botswana is also a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol seeking to limit greenhouse-gas emissions and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (Botswana Guardian, 2018b). But the latest Afrobarometer survey findings show that only half of Batswana have heard of climate change. Most who have heard of it say climate change is making life worse and has to be stopped, but few citizens are confident there’s much they can do.”