Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Structural challenges a hindrance for poverty reduction

The poverty rate in Botswana forecasted by the World Bank is projected to remain at a double digit figure over the next two years. It is estimated that it will be at 11.6 in 2018, a decline of 6.6 over a seven year period from the most recent poverty rates obtained in 2009. The poverty rate is defined and measured as a livelihood of $1.9 per day in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms. 

With Botswana expected to make a modest progress towards poverty reduction, the World Bank however postulates that the effort may become daunting. “Achieving further poverty reduction will be challenging with the pace of progress constrained by limited private sector job creation, particularly in urban areas, and reliance on low productivity agricultural jobs in rural areas, combined with reduced credit growth and high levels of household indebtedness,” cites the World Bank working paper titled ‘macro poverty outlook for Botswana’ released in April 2016. It recommends that Botswana ought to engage in medium term structural reforms in sectors such as water and energy; address labor distortions as to ignite growth in the private sector. This, it posits, will manage the volatility and sustainability risks which the country is exposed to due to it being a small open economy. “Recovery to low per-capita growth in the medium-term suggests that gains in poverty reduction are likely to be modest,” cautions the World Bank. 

An initiative that could be related to poverty reduction is the school feeding program which demonstrates multi-faceted benefits outside the primary objective of providing school children with a balanced diet and keeping them in school for the entire day. A Global School Feeding Sourcebook compiled by the World Bank garnered lessons from 14 countries, including Botswana, providing an analysis of the benefits to those with vulnerable livelihoods. It details the links of the program to the local communities through various interactions. 

“The government has made efforts to link local farmers to school feeding by enabling them to sell surplus produce during the cropping season and in 2009, the guidelines for procurement of agricultural produce were developed to support this,” cites the sourcebook.  It also notes that the Botswana Agricultural Marketing Board is expected to purchase nationally first, in order to promote local production.  Notwithstanding the benefit to national agricultural farming in supplying schools with food, the sourcebook however mentions that smallholder farmers find it difficult to access them. It cites that the board attributes this to inconsistency in quality and quantity of produce. 

“The National School Feeding Programme has (as one of its aims since 1993) to create employment for hand stampers and cooks (Bornay et al., 1993). Community members, usually women, therefore, benefit from the program through employment as cooks and as hand stampers (who process sorghum grain with their own equipment). They are paid a small fee, about P300 (US$40.50) per month and the funds are part of the budget. Employment of women, often from poorer families, contributes to household food security and other household needs,” highlights the sourcebook. 

The sourcebook points out challenges of the programme which include shortage of transport, late deliveries by suppliers or irregular supply of certain food commodities, spoilage of food commodities due to unsuitable storage facilities. Despite such constraints, it however makes mention that the programme meets the objective of ‘preventing school children fromfeeling hungry.’ 

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