Thursday, July 2, 2020

BDF Retired Soldiers Could Provide Answers to Food Security

The nation has never been in this kind of situation before and we hope it will not come back in our lifetime. The Corona Virus pandemic has tossed everything off balance and life as we knew it has been drastically altered. But there are so many lessons learnt from this pandemic and as a nation we must come out moulded into a better people. This whole thing has humbled us and shown us that it is only God who is in control of our lives.

I have to begin by applauding the citizens of this country for being compliant in the time we remained under lock down. The few cases Botswana has recorded is a thorough indication that while those in government showed leadership where it was most needed, the citizens also played their part in abiding by the rules that have been laid to prevent the spread of this disease.South Africa is de-escalating their situation even though they have now become Africa’s epicentre of the pandemic. See their president on television, he is a man with so much disappointment written all over his face and this is because the people of that country are not cooperating in getting the virus under control. How do you get people on the streets toyi-toying and flouting every public health rule regarding the prevention of this disease?  It is such behaviour that may ultimately come to haunt us as a nation state. We may have shut down our borders for human traffic, but we still have traffic coming to deliver necessities such as food commodities.

And this is where the trick is in as far as all is concerned. We remain at the mercy of the truckers.Truckers last week were demonstrating against the way the Botswana government is treating them at the different points of entry. It is funny that some of these fellows can literally close us out in one stroke. They are holding back from us our food, medical supplies and petroleum products. Just this week Engen Petroleum Company had run out of fuel at most of its filling stations in the country. That is a dangerous sign of over reliance on one source.

In actual fact, this pandemic may bring us to the brink of starvation as it has slowly developed perfect conditions for a severe famine. Surely there are great lessons learnt by our country in this whole episode. Going forward we need to be self-reliant on food and other basic commodities necessary for daily use in our lives. The way forward is to put in place a water tight strategy to overcome this problem.In any modern society, the military remains as the only institution capable of running the country under any circumstances. Like in a situation where a country can lose its capacity to govern in a situation where three quarters of its ruling elite are eliminated by such virus as Corona, it is the military that has the strength and the personnel to run government.

Within the military, there are so many professions that make it easy for the institution to run a government.It is in a time such as this that this country can count on the men who have toiled over the years to provide the security of this country. Retired soldiers can provide the necessary redemption for this country in as far as food security is concerned. The current crop of retired soldiers is from that agrarian society where every family had to provide for its basic food necessities. Most of these men were primary school goers in the 1970s when subsistence farming was the order of the day.Simply put, these men have lived and experienced agriculture. They went on to join the military and for most of them they were providing security in the border and wildlife areas where they were watching our flora and fauna.

They are used to going for patrols that last for days on foot. For that length of period they would have little food and would not bath for a week or so while on patrol walking daily under the searing African sun and yet these fellows would never raise their voices to complain.These are the people that government should target in the new era of agricultural production towards food sufficiency in this country. They can live in those rural and remote areas away from urban comfort and concentrate on food production.These are what I want to call hardened individuals who are ready to get to work any time the country needs them. The BDF Retired Members Association should draw up a strategy and deposit it with government and propose for this collaboration. Government should provide them with loans and fifty percent subsidies for agricultural implements. The organization can in the process guarantee these loans and be in charge of repossessing implements where serious negligence and failure has occurred.These old soldiers will in turn form cooperatives to be able to control the marketing of their products and making sure that they reach the consumers on time and in their freshness.

The interesting thing is that these fellows are found all over the country as there is no village without retired soldiers. So this will afford the country the production of a variety of crops and animals. The implements they will receive from government will be maintained by some of their colleagues who are mechanics. Most of the equipment in the military is heavy duty and therefore working on machines such as tractors will be like a child’s play for them.Next door to us in Zambia, retired soldiers are dominating the animal feed market and are contributing immensely to the beef and dairy production. That country has become self-sufficient in dairy and horticultural products because of the retired soldiers. These men apply themselves like workhorses if needs be and the government needs to knock at their door tomorrow.

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Sunday Standard June 28 – 4 July

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of June 28 - 4 July, 2020.