Conservation agriculture is one of the measures Botswana is adopting as an adaptation measure against climate change. The Ministry of Agriculture through the Department of Crop Production has been promoting the ‘smart agriculture model ‘throughout the country and this is slowly taking shape.
Some Non-governmental Organizations are also partaking in the promotion and implementation of the model.
One such is Birdlife Botswana, which is currently leading a conservation agriculture project to help Mokubilo village farmers to upscale their arable farming practices through conservation agriculture.
The Project’s Manager, Motsheregan yi Virat Kootsositse told Sunday Standard that, ”Mokobilo village, in the Boteti District falls within the Makgadikgadi Wetland System where the main source of livelihood is agriculture. By 2010, 30.6 per cent of the population in the Makgadikgadi Wetland System lived below poverty datum line, while 48 per cent of households’ heads had never been to school.”
He said Mokubilo is one area with fertile soils but have over the years had relatively low crop yields due to several factors chief among them, being inadequate knowledge and skills for adoption of model that could relate to the current climate change patterns to arable farming. The Mokubilo village has a cluster fence of over 70 arable fields covering an area of over 650ha. If this area is effectively used, he said it is estimated to address a major part of food security in the region.
Birdlife Botswana is facilitating the project; titled ‘Using Sustainable Land Management (SLM) to improve the integrity of the Makgadikgadi ecosystem and to secure the livelihoods of rangeland dependent communities’ with funds from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Botswana to the tune of USD800, 000.00 over a period of three years.
Kootsositse said to date the project in conjunction with Department of Crop Production in Boteti, has built momentum for farmers to own the process, provided capacity building and exchange programs for farmers to relevant sites in Botswana such as Ngamiland, and set up structures linking to famers’ committee that would facilitate, monitor and oversee implementation on the ground such that even after the project ends, there is still continuity on the ground.
“The project is also addressing critical barriers, of inadequate knowledge and skills for adoption of Sustainable Land Management Principles in livestock management and livelihood support systems (primarily for the hitherto under-utilized veldt products); lack of integrated localized land-use plans and inadequate user-right privileges for resident natural resource users,” said Kootsositse.
He said these barriers are preventing the government and the local communities achieve the long-term solution purpose desired for the range lands. In addition to capacity building and exchange visits the project has bought farming implements such as rippers to support farmers in the area increase yield production. More and more farmers are showing interest in being part of the process.