Thursday, September 24, 2020

Gov’t commits to ramp up poverty reduction efforts

Bijie, China – Presidential affairs Minister, Nonofo Molefhi, came to the conclusion that Botswana’s poverty reduction efforts have fallen short of their objective following his participation in the 2018 China-Africa Poverty reduction and development benchmarking exercise in Bijie, China.

“We have not stretched them to the end of the value chain,” he said in an interview with Sunday Standard when explaining that the poverty reduction programs in Botswana failed because the opportunity for commercialization was not identified beyond just household consumption.

The Minister gave the example of backyard gardening which he pointed out has not worked. In his view the subsistence nature of programs failed to recognize the need for its beneficiaries to earn an income in order to sustain their livelihoods. He suggested that “had we taken that money and found a piece of land for horticultural production and invited or identified potential farmers and divided the land amongst them to grow veggies that are in demand in the market,” the program could have delivered a complete value chain strategy that would have resulted in the beneficiaries being lifted out of poverty.

His judgment of the poverty reduction efforts in Botswana resulted from the comparison he made with the activities he observed in the benchmarking exercise in Bijie. He remarked that the difference is in part, due to the multi-stakeholder approach giving the example of active participation by Universities in finding solutions.

Bijie’s poverty reduction activities included the breeding farming, greenhouse green-pepper farming, and provision of housing and ecological cultural village. Taking the example of the breeding farm, its poverty reduction efforts involved the establishment of a new industrialized development system in which government, private companies and higher learning institutions play respective roles. Government is mainly responsible for policy support and logistics services; private companies undertake operational activities with the support of the Universities. This assists beneficiaries in generating income by way of their labor input from which the revenue is collectively pooled and thereafter dividends distributed equally amongst the households. According to official figures 200 000 people in Bijie have since been lifted out of poverty out of a population of 1.1 million. Additionally, it’s worth noting that the involvement of private companies in delivering housing is done through corporate social investment and is fueled by the fact that it improves the image of the companies in the eyes of government. The housing project is similar to the President’s housing appeal in Botswana which also targets the poverty stricken population. It differs however in that it is not executed through a clear corporate social responsibility but rather pools earnest contributions from various donors ranging from individuals to private companies.

The experiences of China in poverty reduction efforts are considered a benchmark given that of all people in the world lifted out of poverty between 1990 and 2010, 75.7 percent were in China, hence China being the biggest contributor to United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals regarding the eradication of extreme poverty. This is according to the China Foundation for poverty alleviation. The foundation stated that 800 million people were lifted out of poverty since the launch of the country’s economic reform and opening up in 1978. It is estimated that China still has 43.35 million people (2016) living in poverty. People living in poverty are defined as those earning less than 2,300 RMB (approximately $334) per year. The year 2020 was identified as the target year in which the elimination of the remaining of absolute poverty in China will be witnessed. China’s poverty alleviation measures are designed to increase the income of poverty stricken population and in such a way that the poor can be cast off poverty. Examples of poverty alleviation measures include subsidized housing and free access to livestock.

Minister Molefhi participated in the poverty reduction program two weeks ago over a period of four days. The exercise was organized as a pre-cursor to the 2018 Beijing Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) to be held next week. According to the Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, the sub-forums, including that of poverty reduction, fully represent the all-round and diverse cooperation between China and Africa. The umbrella body of the sub-forums, FOCAC, is held every three years to provide for dialogue and the setting up of strategic and cooperative agendas. It is expected that in between the years China and respective African countries work together to comprehensively follow-up and deliver the outcomes of the Forum.

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