President Ian Khama’s pet projects designed to eradicate poverty are working against each other often resulting in negative results ÔÇô a study by BIDPA and GY Associates, a British consulting firm specialising in environment and development issues has revealed.
Among Khama’s interventions that fare badly is the Ipelegeng project which the research team says is a negative cost to agricultural productivity. “The cost of this government intervention on agricultural productivity has been very high because instead of complementing the agricultural programmes the intervention draw away poor farmers and agricultural labour from the risky agricultural pursuit to more certain, though minimal reward of working in Ipelegeng.”
The Integrated Support Programme for Arable Agriculture Development (ISPAAD), another of President Khama’s pet projects finds itself at cross purposes with Ipelegeng.
According to the study, “in some extremes, some farmers cultivate their lands through ISPAAD programme then join Ipelegeng programme leaving the fields un-weeded and not harvested. Hence government intervention is a negative cost to agricultural productivity because it could motivate households to migrate and leave farming operations.”
The team which was tasked with studying “ the contribution of sustainable natural resource management systems to economic growth, poverty eradication and achievement of NDP 10 goals recently presented its report to the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning.
The study also revealed that millions of pula spent by government over the past 30 years in agricultural programmes like ARAP and ALDEP “have not significantly improved the food security in the country.┬á On 30th June 2008 two months after President Khama ascended to office, ALDEP 11 was replaced with ISPAAD to “address challenges facing arable farmers and the inherent low productivity of the arable sub sector. It was envisaged that the performance of the arable sub sector would be greatly improved by establishing Agricultural Service Centers and assisting arable farmers to acquire requisite inputs and draught power to undertake tillage.”
The study, however observed that in Botswana, agricultural activities are not main sources of income for households, including in rural areas, and they less frequently contribute to household income. “This observation is valid despite an acknowledgement based on high participation rates of beneficiaries of government input support programmes that a large proportion of households are engaged in agricultural production. Thus the effects of unsustainable production and use of natural resources in this sector and the problems of the effects of climate change such as recurring droughts have reduced the role of agricultural sector as a significant contributor to household income (cash and food) and therefore limiting the role of this sector in contributing to poverty eradication.
The study says “further work is needed to answer questions of whether Botswana is growing the right crops and if ISPAAD provides the right seed or whether available water is used to its best competitive advantage.”
The report further states that in a country like Botswana where poverty incidences are higher in rural areas, support for agricultural activities is a necessary but not sufficient means to reduce or eradicate poverty.
The study also questions the wisdom of a recent decision to ban hunting. “we note a tendency by government to take a top down approach to Community Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM), in which lack of consultation can lead to serious unintended consequences. “the ban on hunting in a 25 km radius around protected areas and the requirement of al CBNRM hunting to be replaced by photographic tourism ( without taking into consideration whether this is realistic for many communities) is an example.
The report states that “the removal of hunting quotas may pose a serious threat to the sustainability of CBNRM in areas where opportunities for photographic tourism are limited.