Strangely for a country whose citizens place a high premium on cattle farming, the Botswana government does no strategic water planning for livestock in as precise a manner as it does with other components of its national development plans.
“The result is that people end up watering livestock with potable water meant for their own use,” said a participant at the National Stakeholders Conference for Mid-Term Review of National Development Plan 10/District Development Plan 7/Urban Development Plan 3 held at the Gaborone International Convention Centre early last week.
The speaker went farther to point out the oddity of this happening at a time when the government has introduced water-dependent poverty eradication programmes.
The response from a Ministry of Agriculture official was that the Livestock Management and Infrastructure Development – LIMID as it is more commonly known, has a water component. An agricultural support scheme available for citizens only, LIMID is composed of animal husbandry and fodder support, water development, cooperative poultry abattoirs for small-scale poultry producers, small stock, guinea fowl and Tswana chickens. One of its objectives is to promote food security through improved productivity of livestock. Items under its water development component include borehole/well equipping, drilling and purchase and reticulation.
However, the official conceded that even LIMID did not adequately address the specific concerns about systematic water planning in the manner suggested. He added that it was an issue that, funds permitting, would be addressed in the long-term.
Botswana is in a peculiar situation because as a desert country, its forages are mostly dry and thus increase livestock’s water needs. In the near future, global warming will complicate the situation because as water temperature increases, total water requirements for animals will also increase.
Perhaps as a result of there being no systematic focus on water planning, not enough information goes out to farmers about livestock watering needs. While the wont of the average cattle farmer is to pay no mind to the quality of water that his livestock consumes, research findings from the National Academy of Sciences in the United States show that both the quality and quantity of the water given to livestock affect their productivity.
One of its studies (which has been compressed into a document called the “Nutrients and Toxic Substances in Water for Livestock and Poultry”) shows that toxic substances in water for livestock can cause red meat in veal calves, oxidised flavour in cows milk as well as liver damage in the cows themselves, temporary diarrhoea, may be unsafe for pregnant or lactating animals and considerable risk may exist in using contaminated water for any animal subjected to heavy heat stress or water loss. The net effect is decreased productivity for the affected livestock.
Botswana’s water situation (and attendant policies or lack thereof) happens at a time that the government has embarked on water-dependent poverty eradication initiatives like backyard gardening.
A month ago, The Telegraph reported that the South-East District Council was saddled with an astronomical water bill resulting from increased irrigation for crops. In adopting the award-winning backyard garden idea from Somarelang Tikologo, an environmental group, the government left out one very important recommendation – that these gardens should be watered with recycled water.
As it happens, water used for these gardens is the very same one used for human consumption.