Thursday, April 25, 2024

Low grain yields spell doom for the poor

When it comes to grain yields, this year is likely to be the worst in a very long time.

A number of factors have conspired to defeat efforts by farmers and government to increase crop yields; these include low and late rains as well as excessively hot temperatures.

We are already at the end of the rain season and farmers have literally given up on their fields.

In an ordinary year, we are at that time of the year when across the country, Batswana would be busy enjoying the results of their labour through selling their yields.

This year there is absolutely no such.

In a few weeks, the winter season will be setting in, shifting attention to livestock owners where there is not much hope also.

Low rains have meant that the grazing fields are generally barren and unlikely to support livestock into the next season.

What is likely to happen is that food prices will immediately spike in the back of the shortages that are definitely going to happen.

To be affected most will inevitably be the poor.

These are the bulk of subsistence farmers, but also the unemployed ranks.

A way has to be devised to cushion these people from predatory pricing that is almost certainly set to happen the moment shortages hit the market.

The prices will affect all the major food lines including maize, bread, grain and rice.

Thankfully, Botswana Government has a history of declaring droughts and immediately following such an announcement with a suite of interventions that include subsidizing cattle feed, veterinary medicines and indeed supplementary rations for school going children. Our hope is that given the severity of drought that is projected this year, resources permitting, Botswana government will go a little further to come up with new initiatives that would cushion the poor against the high food prices that are definitely going to ensue.

While we are still there, perhaps what has happened this year should serve as proof, if any proof was required that our current agricultural practices have become totally unsustainable, especially in the face of climate changes that the world is going through.

As a country we need to shift our traditional ways towards more technologically sustainable practices.

We should use crops that are bon-reliant on rain, that have a shorter maturity span and also those that are much better adept at resisting drought.

In the long-term we should concentrate on drawing the water from the Zambezi to the south.

It will be an expensive undertaking, the one that alone the Government of Botswana cannot realistically hope to achieve.

A way has to be devised to bring the private sector on board.

Water from the Zambezi is important in the long-term because it will sustain irrigation but also ensure guarantees that the economy would not suffer knocks on account of water shortages such as those we are experiencing today.

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