Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Botswana urged to embrace land restoration commitments to reverse land degradation

A report which explores the cross-sectoral linkages of land-water-energy (LWE) systems that can be used to leverage progress towards achieving land degradation neutrality (LDN) highlights that Botswana should embrace commitments to better manage and restore land resource.

This claim is contained in a report titled: “Regional Thematic Report for Southern Africa Leveraging the Land, Water and Energy Nexus in SADC” published for the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

This Global Land Outlook regional thematic report, which analysed land uses in the Southern African Development Community (SADC), states that Botswana must integrate water management and conflicting water needs into land restoration commitments. “Botswana, DRC and Madagascar should consider the integration of water management and conflicting water needs into land restoration commitments,” reads part of the report.

Land degradation is stressing Botswana’s arable lands and pastures which are critical for food production, livelihoods, and the production and provision of other ecosystem goods and services.

The Global Land Outlook (GLO) study also notes that Botswana’s percentage of land restoration commitments relative to total land area is relatively low. Botswana has a total of 17 commitments to address land-water-energy (LWE) systems which is the lowest in the SADC region. Tanzania has the highest number of commitments, 31 in total, followed by Zambia 27, Zimbabwe 26, Malawi 25, Madagascar and Lesotho 24.

Despite that shortcoming, the report notes that Botswana has given prominence and is leading in response measures to address land cover changes commitments, soil organic carbon commitments, land productivity changes, and energy related commitments. More concerning is that Botswana has zero water management commitments yet the World Resource Institute predicts that the country will see the biggest water crisis between 2020 and 2040.

“Land cover commitments were those which would improve land cover through various mechanisms; Land productivity commitments would improve land productivity; Soil organic carbon commitments would improve soil organic carbon; Water commitments would improve water management; and Energy commitments would move countries towards a low-carbon economy,” states the report.

Statistics on land degradation are complex and difficult to come by in Botswana, but assessments show that 91, 000km2 or 15.5% of Botswana is affected by land degradation or desertification. Furthermore, the annual cost of land degradation in Botswana is estimated at P3.5 billion.

On several occasions, the Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, Philda Kereng reiterated that land degradation is a major cause of the declining agricultural and rangeland productivity in Botswana. She blamed land degradation on overgrazing, excessive cutting of tress and over exploitation of forest and land resources.

“If not controlled it will lead to the deterioration of biodiversity and food security in the country,” she said back then.

However the environment ministry has made considerable efforts to domesticate and implement United Nations Convection to Combat Desertification Convention. The country’s National Action Programme also presents strategy for desertification, land degradation and drought prevention and mitigation. Through the Department of Forestry and Range Resources (DFRR), the environment ministry embarked on a project to restore degraded land and soil in order to achieve land degradation neutrality (LDN).

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 15.3) states that “by 2030, combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and strive to achieve a land degradation-neutral world.” This target is a great prospect for Botswana to curb the budding threats of land degradation and to reap numerous socio-economic benefits.

Overall, the report notes that “regardless of which type of future scenario is projected, the SADC region is going to experience strong pressures on land and land-based resources, exacerbated by various physical and social stressors.


Read this week's paper