The agriculture industry constitutes a significant amount of revenue towards Botswana’s economy. Although people often joke that Botswana’s livestock outnumber its people, the current drought is threatening to wipe out all gains.
Botswana has not been immune to the unprecedented high temperatures currently facing Southern Africa. Apart from humans, livestock have also taken a battering leaving farmers overburdened by the scourge. Keolebogile Semme, a subsistence farmer in Motokwe cattle post in Kweneng West said farmers in his area have been severely affected by the drought. He said the rate at which cattle are dying is a cause for concern. ”We are basically families that have relied on cattle as a source of food for generations,” said Semme.
He said the unpleasant air of carcasses in the area can be smelt from miles away. “I remember the time the Ministry of Agriculture was warning farmers of the drought and advising commercial farmers to sell livestock and remain with manageable numbers, however as subsistence farmers we only rear between 20 and 50 cattle per farmer on average,” said Semme. He said they are starring poverty in the face because the few cattle that remain are likely to die of hunger.
“I am scared for our families because this is greatly affecting our lives. Subsistence farming feeds our families but right now things are looking beyond bleak,” he bemoaned. He said in Motokwe farmers used to take children to school with the little money they earned from selling livestock, but things have since changed.
“We have recently formed a committee with fellow farmers in the area just to have one voice when we approach the Ministry of Agriculture for whatever assistance that might be available,” said Semme. He said he has read about Climate Smart Agriculture and feels asking for support in that respect should be first in his committee’s priority list. “I really think a climate smart approach is probably the only thing that will save us. As farmers we should take the initiative to let the government know what kind of education we lack and we can only do this through reading as much as possible about the issues that affect us so we can ask the right questions,” he advised.
He said they also have to deal with the challenge that most of the farmers in his area are not so literate. This, he says, is a major hindrance as they find it difficult to understand some of the terminology used.
“It can never be advisable to leave those that cannot read and write behind, it is going to be on us to translate whatever material we get and explain it using very simple language that they will be able to grasp easily,” he said.
Semme says farmers lament the low rains. “There will most probably not be any rains in a very long time. It is a sad reality that we need to deal with and we can’t sell our remaining cattle because they hardly have any meat on them. I have a lot faith in The Climate Smart Agriculture approach and feel like together with government we can do all we can to get the best results, I am very hopeful that all hope is not lost,” he said.