Sunday, June 16, 2024

Looming drought could prove the worst in years

Although the year has just begun, early signs are that we are headed for a devastating and lengthy drought season. Owing to bad rains, across the country crop yields have proved terribly low.

In other areas nothing has been harvested. Attempts by government to help kick-start the agricultural sector are proving much more difficult than was expected.

All signs are that other than disappointing crop yields, livestock will have a tough half year ahead.
Farmers across the country are looking ahead, not with hope but fear and dejection.

Following closely on the heels of recent devastation by Foot and Mouth Disease, the next few months will no doubt add to their woes as they will once again watch their animals die, this time from thirst and hunger.

And that is just half the story. Already there are fears that food prices will skyrocket. Food prices are already too high. It is almost a given that with such poor yields, the impending shortages will force prices upwards. It is the poor members of our society who stand to bear the greatest burden of the unfolding crisis.

Not for the first time, Government will find itself in a position where there is no alternative but to intervene to save thousands of vulnerable people who will not be in a position to fend for themselves. This is truly a source of concern.

Botswana Government has been very compassionate in the effort to cushion the poor against the effect of drought and poverty.

We hope that with signs already in place that we are headed for one of the worst drought seasons in living memory our government will once again make contingency provisions to help the weaker members of our society against the impending difficulties.

The situation will not be made any better by the fact that this drought comes at a time when the economy is not doing very well. Unemployment, especially among the youth has reached scary proportions.

Even those who are lucky to still be on the job have had their purchasing power substantially ruined by years of continuously growing inflation which owing to a weakened economy has not been set off by any salary adjustments.

Notwithstanding the unreliability of our rains, it still says a lot about our underachievement that with a country so vast, with so much water going to waste and so few months to feed compared with other countries, we still find ourselves in a position where as a country we import close to 90 percent of all our food needs.

We are of the view that attempts at turning the admittedly, low and unreliable rains together with a harsh climate are some of the natural phenomena that we have to deal with as we try to try turn the agricultural sector around.

But there are other man made factors at play. Years of neglect, under investment and a refusal to turn the sector commercial are equally to blame.

Efforts to commercial agriculture should continue. As a country we should not despair.

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