Thursday, July 9, 2020

Climate change will decimate Botswana’s tourism, agriculture potential

Across the world, climate change has now moved into the center of every public debate and every public policy decision making processes.

It is a life and death matter.

Even those termed sceptics are at least talking about it.

Yet in Botswana there is not much happening around Climate Change.

For many Batswana and indeed their government, it is business as usual; no preparation, no planning, no information and no strategies.

Yet the structure of Botswana’s economy makes a large number of people susceptible to climate change.

There are too many people that are poor. And many of them also rely on agriculture.

The economy itself counts tourism as among its top most engines of growth.

Botswana has large numbers of wildlife animals.

The country also has multiple areas that are scenic enough to attract thousands of tourists every year.

These are a very fragile ecosystem, that even without climate change can easily get harmed or even irreparably damaged by slight changes.

Climate change is a much bigger phenomenon, with far reaching ramifications.

Those ramifications are for a large part irreversible.

Long drawn out droughts threaten the Okavango and also the wildlife found there.

Any significant reduction in water in the Okavango spells a disaster.

And as we know many tourists visiting Botswana have their minds set on the Okavango and the rich wildlife that roams that spectacular area.

Water is really what makes Okavango magnificent.

Were it to dry up, the consequences including in people but more on biodiversity will be catastrophic.

There is absolutely no reason why operations in the pristine wetlands of the Okavango Delta, which is fat too fragile and vulnerable could in this day and era be relying on power from diesel and other hydrocarbons.

And the Ministry of Tourism, together with the commercial wing, Botswana Tourism Organisation see absolutely nothing wrong with it.

Last year alone hundreds of both hippos and elephants had to be lifted due to drought.

Many are dying every year.

It was not always like this.

To be honest not much is happening on the ground to prepare the country for the coming crisis.

It is a fantasy to believe that because our economy is too small, we really have no role to play in mitigating climate changes and or its effects.

Botswana today relies on tourism proceeds to create jobs, but also to finance the national projects.

National parochialism will not take us far.

Across the world, the message is already reaching home.

Not here.

Preparations here have been slow and inadequate.

For a semi desert country that is highly dependent on tourism and also agriculture, a lack of enthusiasm on our government on issues of climate change has been astonishing, to say the least.

Even on basic issues like plastic packaging, our government has been hesitant and non-committal.

Instead of banning one-use packaging plastic or at the least setting a time table to allow companies to prepare themselves and equip their supply chains and operations Botswana government has blatantly sided with big money businesses and not science, much less the environment.

The bigger tragedy is the extent to which Botswana Government continues to facilitate dumping of environmentally hazardous auto-mobiles from Europe, China and elsewhere in Asia. That’s not all!

Global climate summits are either not attended or only junior officers are sent.

As a country Botswana has not even started using first-generation-renewables.

This at a time when other countries are moving into second generation renewables that will chiefly include hydrogen.

Where we can, we need to increase electricity supply and generation from renewables.

It has been a long time since solar and wind generators were planned to supplement national supply.

Corruption by members of cabinet got them postponed.

The implications of climate change on ordinary Batswana way of life are many and immeasurable.

It is on agriculture that those implications become stark and bizarre.

Floods, forever changing rainy seasons, low rains and high temperatures are just some of the few factors killing agriculture and making the sector almost unpracticable in Botswana.

All attempts at food security cannot be realized unless we prepare for climate change.

A way has to be found to make agriculture once again a worthwhile undertaking even in the face of growing hostile effects brought about by runaway climate change.

That involves planning and demonstrable leadership and political will.

Only countries that think long term, and put in place environmental strategies will reap rewards.

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Sunday Standard July 5 – 11

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of July 5 - 11, 2020.