Friday, December 3, 2021

Food poverty which is tearing households apart is one understated phenomenon running across classes

There is no doubt that as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic the number of people living in poverty has drastically increased.

Many are out of work.

Many have had their wages cut in some instances by more than half.

Many have had their life savings wiped out.

Others have not been earning wages since the State of Emergency began.

For many households, this has led to what has been termed food poverty.

The situation has been worse for those in the informal sector and those who in various ways are self-employed.

This simply means their inability to buy food has worsened especially during lockdowns.

And this food poverty inevitably leads to hunger.

Absence of food charities and food banks in Botswana serves to only exacerbate the situation.

The economic impact of covid has no doubt affected the poor most.

But its impacts on the middle income and also on young people who were beginning to climb the economic ladder is just as devastating.

People simply have no resources to buy food.

Yet we still deny as a people that there are those among us who are literally starving – including to death.

As was to be expected the burden has been heaviest for poor families and the vulnerable people.

There is a real risk that things will get worse before they get any better.

And from the look of things, intervention on the part of government is not a priority given the country’s fiscal predicament.

Since the pandemic started, the trajectory of food price has been pointing in the upward direction. This has led to many of our people actually being food insecure.

Something should be done about it.

We can not simply wish this away.

Not least because it looks like the pandemic is here to stay. And also because even if it was to come to and, its effects and impacts will linger on for much longer.

At face value there is no shortage of food.

But the ability by households to buy food has considerably diminished.

Just recently the Bank of Botswana announced a big jump in overall inflation.

Bearing in mind that food inflation is a big component of that, this is a major cause for concern.

Botswana Power Corporation has substantially increased the price of electricity.

Water Utilities Corporation has substantially increased the price of water.

And fuel prices have been increasing almost on a monthly basis.

According to Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, global food prices in May 2021 were 40 percent higher than the same time last year.

By any measure this is a very steep rise. And people especially the vulnerable are set to feel the headwinds.

The United Nations further states that over a third of the world’s population could not get access to adequate nutrition in 2020.

Botswana is a net importer of food, largely from South Africa.

And because the South African producers are as affected all their peers across the globe, there is no how an importer lie Botswana would be spared.

In fact Botswana gets more affected because of not just inflation, but other input costs lie transport.

Not only that. As a country, Botswana’s ability to effectively respond to alleviate hunger among its people has been severely curtailed.

Botswana farmers have since the start of Covid been trying to ramp up food production.

An unprecedented number of young people with college education have joined agriculture.

If it stays so, there is a likelihood that some of them will break into the commercial sector and help solidify the country’s food security situation.

The future has never been brighter for Botswana’s agricultural sector.

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