Saturday, June 22, 2024

More efforts needed to mitigate effects of looming drought

Botswana is going through the clutches of what threatens to be its worst drought season in many years.

Our concern is that it is the poorest and weakest members of our society that will come out of the looming drought spell most harmed.

We can be sure that food prices are going to go up.

And with unemployment already at debilitating levels, the ability of many people to fend for themselves is going to be badly reduced.

This brings with it many social ills some of which we had started to defeat.

In short, the kind of drought we are facing threatens our society at many levels.

There is the economic aspect ÔÇô which includes the likelihood of annihilating many people’s source of livelihood, especially in the agricultural sector.

Then there is the possibility that many of our social structures and infrastructure will; be destroyed.

Unless enough is done to cushion the weak members of our society from this looming disaster there is a real risk that by the time such drought has past we would have lost all the gains we have made over the years as a people.

We applaud government initiatives to bring back subsidies for things like livestock feed.

Our worry is that given the extent to which the economy is subdued, many of the subsistence farmers, who by the way constitute over 70 percent of uptake at the Botswana meat Commission will still not be able to afford the reduced prices.

The beneficiaries of this Government largesse will as has been the case with many such schemes be the wealthier and less deserving members of our society.

The solution lies in government coming up with more targeted initiatives.

That, we concede will not be easy especially given the lack of capacity in Government.

We want to emphasise that one-size-fits-all initiatives that are often applied wholesale in a straightjacket, without any regard for peculiarities will bring no change in the final analysis.

Money will indeed be spent, but there will in the end be not much to show for it.

Another thing to look at with serious concern is that the looming drought comes at a time when even drinking water is a serious problem, especially in the southern parts of the country.

This will no doubt further affect economic activity as projects especially in building sector will become more costly or just have to be shelved on account of water shortage.

A way has to be found to fast-track the development and renewal of infrastructure that is carrying water from the north to the south.

Perennial breakdowns of North/South Water Carrier have become a source of psychological abuse on our national psyche.

Having said that we want to point out that it is important to start looking at new sources of water because it is clear that even in the medium term, current water sources in the north will not be enough to meet demands.

The situation will get worse in the long term.

All these call for a paradigm shift in the way that we are developing our large capital projects.

Days when such projects were the exclusive purview of Government are gone.

A way has to be found to involve the private sector.

This will mean a change of the current legal regime, but also creating a way that would increase incentives for private sector participation.

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