Researchers collaborate with Basarwa to understand drought cycles

13 May 2019

Researchers will this June start working with First Nations in Botswana in to draw on their traditional Indigenous knowledge about climate science. This comes after the release of the Global Sustainability report which highlighted that Botswana’s climate in 2019 is likely to be disastrous and even surpass the 2015/2016 El Nino.

Two geographers who will be undertaking the study state that the study will be the first of its kind. “These human-induced ecological changes have contributed to and created the increased risk of droughts and in some instances flooding for some indigenous communities. The research methods we will use will be beneficial for ongoing flood monitoring and disaster risk reduction activities in Botswana and regionally,” explained James Khalif, a PhD student in Germany who will be part of the team to conduct the research.

To better understand unprecedented droughts affecting Botswana and southern Africa countries, the researchers will tap into the Basarwa’s traditional knowledge through in-depth interviews, drought mapping workshops and photography.

“Basarwa have in the past highlighted some factors they believe cause and exacerbate droughts and flooding,” said Khalif adding that indigenous knowledge is a growing body of knowledge, developing over time, and is instrumental to our understandings of today’s unpredictable climate conditions.

According to Afrobarometer, Botswana is a semi-arid Southern African country characterised by “erratic rainfall, recurrent droughts, low soil moisture, and extreme weather events such as flash floods”.

The pan-African, independent, non-partisan research network also state that frequent drought conditions have had significant impact on domestic food production and other aspects of the national economy in the past.

Botswana also experienced a devastating drought in 2015/2016, which resulted in the Gaborone dam drying up. The timing and extent of droughts in Botswana is exacerbated by climate change and human-induced changes that have affected the water balance in certain areas.