There is no doubt that current high food and fuel prices will hit the poor and hungry people hardest, particularly urban net buyers and rural non-food producers in low income countries.
The trend could have important implications for Botswana and its people.
The interpretation of the Sunday Standard article which appeared in the June 1-7, 2008 issue is inaccurate, according to the Office of the FAO Representative in Botswana.
The article headlined “Botswana faces Starvation ÔÇô FAO” was referring to the report of the High Level Conference on “World Food Security, the challenges of climate change and bio-energy, soaring food prices, Facts, Perspectives, Impacts and Actions required.”
The Sunday Standard attempted to interpret Table 4: Net importers of Petroleum Products and major grains as a percentage of domestic apparent consumption ÔÇô ranked by prevalence of under-nourishment (Page 17).
The FAO office in Gaborone says in the table, Botswana ranked third (with 32% under-nourishment) after Kenya (31%) and Nigeria (32%) among the best countries, the worst being Eritrea with (75%) under-nourishment followed by Burundi (66%), Niger, which is the second of the 22 countries after Kenya, only scored 76% on account of percentage of major grain imported compared to Botswana (825) reflecting Niger’s relatively lower exposure under this risk factor.
Botswana only reflected a relatively higher percentage of major grains imported which was not a factor in determining the level of starvation, as interpreted in the Sunday Standard article. The 22 countries were not even ranked according to this measure (or that of petroleum products imported) but according to the level of under-nourishment, from the highly under-nourished (Eritrea 75%) to the relatively lowly under-nourished (Kenya, 31%). Conventionally, according to this analysis, Kenya is the best nourished and Eritrea is the worst nourished of the 22 countries.
Higher prices of major grains and petroleum products imported would indeed reflect the potential imported risks of higher food prices in the local market considering that Botswana is a net importer and this would irrefutably affect apparent consumption and hence nutritional intake.
These are already taken into consideration in projecting prevalence of under-nourishment which places Botswana as one of the best three countries (in terms of nourishment) of the 22 according to the FAO analysis.
Consequently the Sunday Standard interpretation of the analysis is not accurate.
The office further confirmed that FAO did not carry out such assessment in Botswana but the assessment is based on data from the Energy Information and Administration International Energy Annual report 2005, Washington DC (which covers crude and refined petroleum products). FAOSTAT, Archives Commodity Balance Sheets (average 2001-2003 for wheat, rice and maize) and FAOSTAT Food Security Statistics, Prevalence of under-nourishment in total population (2002-2004 preliminary) to proceed from a global perspective to national level impacts and then to household effects.
Delegates to the recent Rome Food Security Summit announced their increased commitment to the fight against hunger and for agricultural development to Botswana’s Minister of Agriculture, Christian De Graaff who attended the Summit.
Even though the Summit was not a pledging conference, a number of donors announced firm financial contributions. The money will benefit countries hard hit by the current World Food Crisis, allowing them to grow enough food for themselves in the coming planting seasons and helping them to achieve Food Security through investment in agriculture and research.
Dr. Micus Chimbombi
Acting Permanent Secretary