Thursday, May 23, 2024

Botswana should do more to prepare for coming drought

It would seem like as a country we are as yet heavily distracted by politics.

Yet the country is on the cusp of a devastating drought.

Botswana’s preoccupation with politics is hardly surprising because later this the country will hold a general election.

But the coming drought threatens to be so severe that as a country we need undivided attention to prepare for it.

If no mitigating efforts are made, the coming drought can easily degenerate into a catastrophe.

Any response has to be properly coordinated. Otherwise we will see the same wastage we saw during the covid pandemic when there was a total lockdown and government tried to feed the nation.

This year all crops failed as a result of low rains, but more as a consequence of high temperatures that started around December going all the way to March.

Experts have attributed it all to El Nino effects.

Because of failed crops this year, many Batswana especially in the rural areas who rely on these crops have been left particularly vulnerable.

The situation is likely to get worse because of the fact that neighboring countries like Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe have also experienced similar crop failures as a result of similar climatic conditions.

Consequently it would be hard for any country to try to import from the other because each county is now struggling to feed its own citizens first.

We must not lose sight of the fact that the drought comes in the face of ongoing high cost of living crisis.

Food prices are especially high.

The situation has been made all the more unbearable by the high number of people that have lost employment over the recent past.

In many instances an entire household has been left with no bread winner.

Too many people have re-entered the poverty trap.

These are the people who had used education to escape poverty.

But mass retrenchments by mining houses and state owned parastatals have laid waste to the achievements we had made as a country.

All those gains have been reversed and eroded.

To make matters worse, the coming drought will affect people and livestock in equal measure.

It is not even winter proper, and early rains can only be expected in about six months or so, yet the grasslands are already dry with nothing for cattle to feed on.

The drinking water for these animals is also in short supply with the situation expected to get worse as the winter season sets in.

As is so often the case it is the vulnerable that will suffer the most.

These are women and also the children.

Women are often the backbone of local rural communities.

The rural economy relies on them as does the agricultural sector which this yaer has totally failed.

If Botswana government intends to come up with relief programs it is advisable to do so now, especially for school going children.

Again the response plan will have to be properly coordinated.

Already government schools are providing food for children. But it is not enough. It is haphazard and not well thought through.

The rations are infrequent and unreliable.

There are days when there is no food available. Or when too manty children are left unfed because the food was itself not enough.

Additionally, it would be more helpful if the diet could be made more balanced.

It is not hard as this can be achieved by buying from local suppliers, especially farmers.

The economy remains suppressed.

And too many promises made by political leadership do not materialize.

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