All too many traditional leaders are still clinging to a centuries-old cultural/farming practice that has become obsolete against the present-day climate change situation.
A few weeks ago, Batawana regent, Kgosi Kealetile Moremi called a kgotla meeting in Maun at which she declared the ploughing season officially open ÔÇô go bolotsa letsema in Setswana. This is a cultural practice that goes back centuries and for as long as rains have started in September, has always made sense. However, the little nuisance called climate change means that around this time, rains are still a long way off.
David Lesolle, Africa’s lead negotiator at the United Nations Climate Change Convention and an environmental science lecturer at the University of Botswana, says that traditional leadership would do well to adjust this practice to a reality that brings rains in a different time period.
While some traditional leaders like Kgosi Puso Gaborone of Batlokwa are aware of this challenge and trying to do something about it, they are not quite where Lesolle wants them. Gaborone says that for the past two years and upon realisation that weather patterns have changed, his letsema instructions have come in mid-October. This year he plans to declare the ploughing season officially open on October 18.
While what Gaborone may be laudable because it is not wide of the mark, ultimately the issue is how the entire traditional leadership (and not individuals within it) is tinkering with cultural practices to make them relevant to the times that their subjects live in. Gaborone, who is the immediate past chairperson of the Ntlo ya Dikgosi, admits that this forum has never really addressed the issue of climate change with a view to adapting cultural practice to it.
“I don’t remember that happening. What I remember is that some officials from the Department of Meteorology came to brief us about and we came to discuss climate change on the basis of such briefing. We all agreed that weather patterns have changed,” he says.
Lesolle asserts that the Ministry of Agriculture’s own programmes are also not climate change-sensitive in that they have not been adjusted.
“Nowadays rains come in November. Don’t tell people to plough in October and then complain about crop failure. The ministry should respond to climate change and its assistance to farmers should reflect that,” says Lesolle adding that the wrong attitude to climate change will continue to impact negatively on Botswana’s food security.