Monday, June 1, 2020

Government should do much more to curb effects of drought

It is now official; we are fully in a drought year.

The long awaited Government assessment has come to that conclusion.

They have also come up with array of counter measures.

According to press release from the Botswana Government, government will subsidise livestock feed and medicine by a further 10 percent to 35 percent.

There will be food rations for young children considered vulnerable.

The western belt areas of Kgalagadi, Okavango, Ngami and parts of the Northwest and North east will receive additional attention.

These are welcome measures to safeguard the weak, and provide a buffer against what promises to be the worst drought in years.

But they are far from enough.

Government needs to go much further to cushion people against exorbitant food prices.

The rains have been very low and very sporadic.

There have been pronged heat waves.

The farmers had tried their best but the odds were heavily stacked against them.

Last year too was a drought year.

But this year it will be worse.

So we fully agree with Government.

But we differ with what has been put forward.

It is not clear just what impact the interventions will have on general food prices.

Over the last few months food prices have gone up significantly.

They are likely to go further up over the next few months.

The price of grain and bread is excessive.

We need to act in such a way that everybody will believe that there is something in it for everybody.

That is not the case.

The drought intervention policies are mainly for large livestock owners.

As for subsistence farmers, there is really not much in it for them.

Then there is the unemployed. As everybody grapples with drought, they have been left on their own, ostensibly to die.

It’s a one size fits all kind of arrangement.

The thinking seems to have been dominated by a need to save farmers.

The farming community is very important, especially in food security.

But we tend to forget that they do so for other people.

When the farmers crops fail, it is the ordinary people who now have to contend with high food prices, as is the case now.

It is unlikely that there will be another review or additions to the list of beneficiaries.

But we need to register our disappointment that things have not turned up the way we had hoped.

What we find lacking is a more targeted set of interventions.

For the farmers it’s all good and well to come up with such interventions.

But how about non-farmers who are collapsing under the heavy burden of food prices?

It is like they have been left on their own to fend for themselves.

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