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Chinese people answer President Khama’s call to eradicate poverty

To eradicate poverty, the President of Botswana, Ian Khama in his inaugural address of 2009 identified poverty eradication as one of his flagship programmes. The coordination thereof was subsequently housed in the Office of the President.

 Packages introduced were mostly agricultural. Such range from bee keeping, backyard gardening, poultry, backyard tree nursery and landscaping to cite a few. The ineluctable fact is that the government did not take up arms against poverty alone. Embassies, the private sector and other independent stakeholders were implored to help. The Chinese Embassy in Botswana and the Chinese people living in Botswana are among those that answered the appeal, subsequently playing a plausible role in the agricultural sector.
Status quo

The Ministry of Agriculture’s Division of Research and Statistics says, about 69 percent of the population benefits from agriculture –as farmers, labourers or both. However, due to regular and prolonged droughts, the Ministry states that both crops and livestock have not been performing as expected. Notwithstanding challenges exacerbated by climate change, “the Chinese government has contributed to this industry through training. A few of our officers have attended courses in Head Management, Poultry, and Equines. Some travelled to China to benchmark, observing modern technologies employed by China,” says the Ministry’s Chief Information and Public Relations Officer, Boikhutso Rabasha.

Nevertheless, she called on China as a first world country to share its modern technologies. She said China should demonstrate and sell farming inputs and equipment at reasonable prices. As she believes Botswana can learn a lot from China. As for the Chinese community, other than direct involvements in farming, Rabasha says some have added value in the industry by opening food outlets to extend the food value chain.

Chinese Farmers

 “It’s about time we diversified farming in Botswana. We cannot fight changing weather patterns or do anything about unpredictable rains, but we can look for and invest in plants that will cope. Which is why I decided to plant moringa trees,” says HuHe says this at a time when the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development in partnership with the United Nations are fearful that Botswana could fail to reach UN goals on poverty eradication. The Botswana Sustainable Development Goals Roadmap launched by the partners in February 2018 cites high income inequality and failure to achieve inclusive economic growth as factors that demoralise poverty eradication.

Hu Yan, is a Chinese moringa tree farmer based in the outskirts of Tlokweng village. He is one of the Chinese people that responded to the Presidential call, taking to farming regardless of the fact that Botswana is a semi-arid country with unpredictable rainfall. A challenge that continues to discourage local farmers, consequently also hampering the endeavour to end poverty. Hu has been living in Botswana since 1996, and so he now considers Botswana home, a home for which he is doing all he can to help attain food security as he is well aware of the struggle.

In October last year after partnering with property mogul Sayed Jamali, Hu planted 10 000 seedlings at the Tlokweng farm. After three months, most of the trees had grown to over three meters long.  “We packaged several product samples this past week and took them to the President for appreciation and approval,” says Hu. His plans are to produce tea, medicinal powder, green noodles, juice and moringa nuts, then sell them to local shops, eventually exporting the surplus.

 “I plan to export to China, America and Europe. This tree cannot grow in those countries because of freezing weather conditions,” he says, excited at the prospect of commencing production work in his factory in March 2018. Hu’s moringa tree farming project has not only created employment for Tlokweng villagers, it has also inspired local farmers to consider investing into the moringa tree farming business.

“The other day my boss brought moringa mageu. My workmates drank it all and would not stop boasting about how delicious it is. Now I see that a lot of moringa products can be manufactured and sold,” says Kelibileone Diomano, a supervisor at Hu’s moringa farm.
Diomano enjoyed agricultural subjects at school, and because of this job he has been doing for Hu, he is considering planting his own trees.

“I used to think that moringa was a useless thing women liked selling on the streets. I knew nothing about it until Mr Hu. Right now I see the potential this plant has to develop and influence my life for the better,” he expounds. Before investing into the Tlokweng project Hu Yan motivated citizens to farm moringa, but his Gamodubu and Oodi village efforts failed due to lack of commitment and support on the part of his Batswana partners.

“I constantly encourage locals to buy and plant these trees, some do yes. But some think two years is a long time to wait for the tree to fully mature. They overlook the fact that you plant once, and for twenty years or so after, all you do is reap the benefits,” says Hu, adding that, “after three months of planting even, the leaves can be harvested and used as herbs when cooking eggs or they can be boiled in hot water to make tea.”

 The benefits of investing in moringa he says are almost immediate. As a farmer Hu’s interests do not solely lie with moringa. At the Tlokweng farm, he and his partner are currently constructing a 1,800 square meters green house with the intention to plant vegetables, fruits, and flowers to sell to the local market. “This first one is only a pilot project, if it succeeds, we will construct three more. If this farm produces to capacity we will construct other green houses in Selibe Phikwe on the land President Khama promised us,” says Hu.

The green house under construction will be made of glass, custom made from China. In it, Hu plans to have a restaurant that will serve as a place of relaxation for town people, while students can visit and learn about traditional and modern ways of doing agriculture. To succeed, Hu says they could use financial support.

Chinese donors

 Chinese farmers like Hu have taken up farming at a time when citizen farmers are dispirited. Kabelo Thari, of the Botswana Workcamps Association (BWA) is of the view that, “the climate change phenomenon has worsened Botswana’s unfriendly weather conditions, causing agricultural output to fall drastically in recent years.”

Before the Chinese took to direct farming, Chinese nationals and the Chinese Embassy often donated farming machinery like tractors, and availed funds to citizen farmers to acquire farm land when needed and even went as far as facilitating agricultural skills transfer.
Thari’s association is a beneficiary of the Chinese Association of Botswana’s financial support for agricultural projects.

Other than financial support given to them to establish a horticulture farm in Oodi village, the association availed leadership development training workshops to BWA members. “Unfortunately, our horticulture project did not bear fruit as the main challenge was pests, mainly termites,” he explains. Despite the failure, Thari and his team have not given up on the project, but hope the Chinese will continue assisting them so they realise their goal.

According to Statistics on Agricultural Produce with South Africa (SAPSA), collected between January and December 2017 by Statistics Botswana (SB), the country imported fruit juices worth over BWP178 million, but only made BWP950, 703.00 in export of the same product to South Africa (SA). Should farmers like Thari excel, Botswana would spend less on imports and export more for a change.

Overall, Statistics Botswana says over 80 percent of Botswana’s fresh produce comes from SA therefore Chinese people, like the Botswana government, would love to see Botswana become food sustainable, hence their active commitment in the ‘fight against poverty inequality and exclusion’ within the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, focusing on the principle of “leaving no one behind.”

 Chinese advocates

While some like Hu Yan have taken to direct farming, others like Miles Nan who has also lived in Botswana for over two decades have established themselves as advocates of the development of the agricultural sector with the hope to see Botswana desist from importing food.

“Last week I went to Jiangsu Province in China. While there I visited a university and inquired on their ways of doing agriculture. I wanted technology on developing a new model of maize which does not need too much water and can survive Botswana’s climatic conditions. After consultations the professors there said they could help,” Miles reveals elated.

 Should his efforts bear fruit, Botswana will spend less money on maize imports. Last year alone according to Statistics Botswana’s SAPSA, the country spent BWP10, 296, 729. 87 on maize seeds imports from SA, in turn making only BWP294, 975. 00 from exports of the same to SA. The seeds where meant to ensure the country produces its own maize meal as it spends millions buying from SA. Last year BWP23, 775, 698.00 was spent on maize meal imports from SA, and only BWP6, 996, 754.00 was gained from exporting maize meal to SA.

 Miles is the Founding Director of a company called Mileage Air, a company he founded in 1999 driven by the desire to afford Botswana mechanical construction services. At present Mileage Air is the sole agent of GREE air-conditioning in Botswana.
In 2009, Miles invested into yet another passion, venturing into the media. His media company, other than running a newspaper, offers events management services.

One event that’s of interest to the discussion at hand is his Africa China Agricultural Cooperation and Development Summit. Through this event Miles advocates for the development of agricultural industries in Botswana, Zambia, Namibia, South Africa, Kenya, Egypt and Morocco.  “Our first event ever was held last year in Zambia after we failed to have it in Botswana. Subsequently, we held the second one in August last year in Zimbabwe. Over a hundred people attended. We had invited professors and entrepreneurs from China, and discussions centred on technological development and cooperation,” says Miles.

The first 2018 summit will be held in May in South Africa, to be followed by small seminars in Botswana and Namibia. Besides the 2030 Agenda, Miles’ actions are in tune with African countries’ committed to implement the African Union Agenda 2063, which is both a vision and a plan to build a more prosperous Africa in 50 years.

 “In August we will have similar events targeting Zambia and Kenya, and in October we do Egypt and Morocco,” elucidates the man who believes that to advance in the sector Botswana needs to capitalise on technology so that it can create models of plants that can survive the country’s temperatures. He said Botswana should design farm implements which suit its weather conditions.

Chinese networks

One manufacturer that is delighted by his custom-made equipment from China is Michael Hallam. “Our organic capacity before China was 5 000 tonnes per year. After China came on board the capacity of our granulation plant rose to 30 000 tonnes. Meaning 25 000 extra,” says Hallam, the Managing Director of the Organic Fertilizer Manufacturers Botswana company based in Mmamashia village. Hallam established his company in 2011, following his employment with a local feedlotting company.

“I saw mountains and mountains of manure lying around. Often I used the manure to grow crops that I then fed to animals. So naturally when I left my job I decided to put cow dung and poultry manure to good use rather than let it go to waste as it had been,” he says. His association with manure dates back to his childhood when he observed his grandfather use manure on his fields. The impact that organic fertiliser had on his grandfather’s plants never left him. At university in 1979 he wrote a thesis on the use of manure in cropping production.

When establishing his company in partnership with colleagues from Zimbabwe, Hallam saw an opportunity not only to live a dream, but one to encourage climate change mitigation. His desires would not have been realised without a Chinese company called Qingdao Seawinner Machinery and Engineering.  “The first machinery we acquired was from India, when using it we found out that it was not appropriate for our requirements,” shares Hallam.

Fortunately for him he had spent eighteen months in China a few years before. When he found himself in desperate need of custom-made machinery, he took advantage of the networks he had created and located a company that made him a happy man.  “I found Qingdao very professional. They shipped equipment and sent two engineers to come and assist with installing. We have not had issues with our machinery since installation in 2016,” he says.Hallam produces fertilizers like the Kalahari and the Neem eco organic by mixing manure with enriching products from India, Mexico, Europe and America.

The company invested in and installed a state of the art blending, coating and bagging plant with a capacity of 40 000 tons per annum, and a packing and sealing plant primarily for its organic products with a capacity of 20 000 tons per annum. With this massive investment and the granulating plant from china the company is well placed to cover all of Botswana’s fertilizer requirements and become a major exporter of products into the region.

Sixteen products are already registered in Botswana. Seven of these products are 100 percent organic. Hallam has already started selling his products in South Africa and Zimbabwe.   “As the only registered fertilizer manufacturing company in Botswana, we are removing a problem from the environment while creating direct and indirect employment. Cow dung releases methane into the sky,” he says. Adding that, people are now going back to using organic fertiliser instead of chemical fertilizers which have since contaminated ground and surface water resources, and increased salinity of soils, almost wiping out a reasonable population of bees crucial for pollination across the globe.

With the contribution of the Chinese, Botswana seems to be making strides in the right direction. The Botswana Government is looking to reduce its reliance on imports and therefore fully supports local developments. When fully realised, hunger will be a thing of the past in this upper middle income country.

The irony of this being that for every undernourished person there are now two overweight people in the world. This work was produced as a result of a grant provided by the Africa-China Reporting Project managed by the Journalism Department of the University of the Witwatersrand.

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Gov’t has no budget for Magosi’s SADC chase

12th April 2021
Elias Magosi

Despite the government of Botswana’s ambition to have one of its own to lead Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) since its establishment in 1980, the Presidency says there is no budget specifically dedicated to the campaign.

The Government has released the name of Permanent Secretary to the President, Elias Mpedi Magosi, as the candidate for the SADC Executive Secretary position. Magosi is expected to face off with Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) candidate, Faustin Mukela. The position will become vacant in August this year.

However, despite the optimism the Botswana Government has not yet set aside a budget to assist Magosi to win against the seemingly DRC giant. “We all know that the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected the country’s ability to effectively fund any new project. This campaign is not an exception. As such, we do not have any budget for the campaign. However, we have so far managed to take advantage of His Excellency the President’s working visits to the neighbouring countries to also carry out the campaigns,” Press Secretary to the President, Batlhalefi Leagajang, explained.

Botswana has housed SADC since the establishment of the then SADCC in 1980, but has never occupied top most leadership positions at the SADC Secretariat.  “We therefore, strongly believe that we should also have an opportunity to contribute to the management of our regional body as it continues to drive the important issues of regional integration industrialization and socio-economic development.

This will also profile Botswana as a strong advocate of regional integration,” he responded to this publication’s questionnaire as to why the Government wants to occupy the plum post. SADC is a Member State driven organization. As such, Leagajang said, needs a well-grounded Executive Secretary with a blend of management and leadership acumen; a transformational leader with political awareness and integrity; private and public sector experience; a deep culture of corporate governance; as well as strategic agility and result-oriented consummate diplomat.

“These are the unique attributes of our candidate,” he said. So far President Mokgweetsi Masisi has visited nine out of 16 SADC member states on a working visit and also taking an opportunity to present to them his candidate.

“The countries have appreciated this effort and we remain hopeful. However, it is important to note that this is a democratic and competitive process which must be respected,” he responded when asked about the reception and assurances from various countries to cast a vote for Magosi.

In 2018, when Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi challenged for the Africa Union (AU) Chairperson, the government appointed former President Festus Mogae to be the campaign leader. Does the Government have anyone apart from Masisi to help with the campaign?

“The campaigns for the candidate are strictly led by the Government of Botswana. Since this is a candidate for Botswana, not just the Government, it will be appreciated if all Batswana, including the media, could also shoulder the responsibility to campaign for the candidate in their own spheres of influence,” Leagajang responded.

While there are sceptics on Magosi winning against the DRC man, the Government is confident and believes that with the unique traits that he possess, Magosi stands a chance. He is said to be a strong advocate of justice and fairness as he has played this role in his current role as PSP and in his previous roles as PS and in the private sector. He has helped individuals and companies to find justice and fairness in most of their dealings with Government.

Magosi is also said to be a proponent of corporate governance and which he has relentlessly pursued in most of his career including in Government and other sectors. A strong believer in following laid down procedures and laws. “He carries a variety of skills as an HR expert with experience in different sectors, a strategist and an Organization development specialist.

His experience and exposure spans government, parastatal, private sector and at regional level as well, thus making him a suitable candidate for the regional role. He has worked with governments, businesses, development partners and politicians and is comfortable navigating through all of them,” Leagajang concluded.

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Mzwinila’s P4.3 Billion gamble to keep water flowing

12th April 2021
orth-South-Carrier

The Minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services, Kefentse Mzwinila looked a politician set to shoot the moon as he laid bare his billions of pula development agenda recently in Parliament.

His Ministry’s combined Recurrent and Development Budget Proposals for the 2021/ 2022 Financial Year is pegged at Four Billion, Three Hundred and Sixty – Five Million, two Hundred and Nineteen Thousand, Five Hundred and Sixty Pula (P4, 365, 219, 560). This is a budget 38.3% more than the allocation for the 2020/2021 Financial Year.

Mzwinila preluded his request to parliament with a demonstration that his Ministry has no champagne taste on a beer budget – indicating that his ministry’s expenditure at the end of February 2021P2.111 Billion or 96% of development budget; and P910 million or 90% of the recurrent budget.

Notwithstanding the budget dust, the Minister justified this year’s increase in the Ministry’s total budget. He attributed the escalation to the commencement of major projects under the water sector. These include the implementation of the North South Carrier (NSC) 22.2 covering various sub projects. Mzwinila noted that these are all public value projects which are aimed at improving the lives of Batswana.

Mzwinila’s Ministry has projected that the sum of Nine Hundred and Sixty –Three Million, Nine Hundred and Forty – Seven Thousand, Five Hundred and Sixty Pula (P963, 947, 560) be permitted for the Recurrent Budget and stand part of the 2021 / 2022 Appropriation Bill ( No. 1 of 2021).

“55% of the Recurrent Budget is geared towards the Revenue Support Grant for 12 Land Boards and their subordinate authorities while the sum of P5 Million is allocated to the Real Estate Advisory Council (REAC). The remaining 44% is proposed for the Ministry Departments.”

The sum of Three Billion, Four Hundred and One Million, Two hundred and Seventy –Two Thousand Pula (P3, 401, 272, 000), for the Development Budget was approved and stand part of the same schedule of the appropriation (2021/2022).

When breaking down the Development Budget, Minister Mzwinila noted that Water Supply and Sanitation projects will account for P1.098 Billion to finance the Maun Water and Sanitation project, Molepolole Sanitation projects and the Shakawe Water Treatment Plant Rehabilitation.

With all the implementation bottlenecks troubling several projects in the country, Mzwinila had to satisfy the question of whether his Ministry demonstrated a dire need for the budget with reference to its execution of the budget for the financial year 2020/2021 and its delivery of strategic initiatives and projects?

Mzwinila’s pitch found favour with parliament and his ministry will get an aggregate budget of P3.198 Billion for the 2020/ 2021 Financial Year. Within this allocation, P2.188 Billion is for the Development Budget and P1.010 Billion will cover the Recurrent Budget.

The Minister revealed his strategic interventions for land management, water and sanitation services. Highlighting that efforts by Government to provide serviced residential land to citizens on the waiting list are being hampered by limited resources. He shared that his ministry needs P94 Billion to cover such costs which will directly link to water, sewage, roads, electricity, telecommunications and storm water drainage leading to the allocation of 4 587 plots on un-serviced land.

The minister projected that 22 952 un-serviced residential plots are planned to be allocated in the next financial year. However, there is a trend where allocated land remains fallow and undeveloped which raises misgivings that the requests could have been made on speculative plans.

Mzwinila noted that in the spirit of forging stronger International connections, the Ministry will in June 2021 sign a Memorandum of Understanding on Land matters between Namibia and Botswana with the aim of opening doors to the creation of Dry Ports in the country, facilitate international trade through Walvis Bay Sea Port.

Botswana is already challenged by scarcity of naturally occurring water resources due to the aridity of the country creating persistent water shortages. The type of infrastructure required to improve national water security is a true reflection of intensive investment needed in the water sector The Minister stressed.

“An emerging issue such as the COVID -19 pandemic poses serious challenges as the control of the virus requires reliable water supply. In an effort to mitigate the challenge, the Ministry has undertaken extensive bowsing throughout the country which included the provision of additional capacity for supplementary bowsing to areas with pervasive water shortages, plus an additional forty one (41) un-gazetted settlements.

Operational costs due to bowsing were at an average of P6 Million per month before the COVID-19 pandemic and increased to an unsustainable amount of the order of P13 Million per month, since the beginning of the State of Emergency in April 2020,” the minister shared.

Through the support of a World Bank Loan, the Ministry is implementing several initiatives under the Botswana Emergency Water Security and Efficiency (BEWSE) project. Through BEWSE the Raw Water Pricing and Abstraction Strategy will assess the pricing of water in a manner that enables the provision of water to support new economic development, the strategy is planned to be completed in June 2021.

The Ministry has commenced the development of a long term National Water Security Strategy to improve resilience to climate change impacts. The strategy development entails prioritization of the proposed future mega water transfers such as the Chobe – Zambezi water transfer, the Atlantic Ocean water transfer to Botswana through Namibia and Lesotho – Botswana water transfer.

Following the signing of the tripartite Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) between Botswana, Lesotho and South Africa in November 2017 for the Lesotho –Botswana Water Transfer project, a 24 months contract for a combined prefeasibility and feasibility study for the development of a bankable Lesotho – Botswana Water Transfer project feasibility study was signed and is to be completed in 2022.

One of the Ministry’s famous major water supply projects such as the North South Carrier (NSC) 2.2 has experienced hiccups; having tenders for contract 1 (Masama to Mmamashia Pipeline) and Contract 2 (Mahalapye to Masama Pipeline) cancelled due to budgetary constraints.

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Will Botswana’s Climate Change policy climax?

12th April 2021
Botswana Climate

The Botswana Climate Change policy draft of 2021 was tabled in Parliament by the Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, Philda Kereng for consideration and adoption.

The policy attempts to indicate the country’s environmentally conscious development agenda as Substantial resources are being dedicated to research and policy efforts to mitigate climate change and support adaptation to the current and future impacts of greenhouse gas emissions.

Kereng indicated that Botswana is not immune to the impacts of climate change and it continues to delay the country’s national development efforts and that the key economic development sectors dependent on the climate system have recorded declines over the years due to the variability of the rainfall and other climatic conditions. Experts elsewhere have pointed out that lack of consideration of population dynamics hampers the development of stronger, more effective solutions to the challenges climate change poses – hopefully this policy if effectively implemented could partly answer this question.

Kereng underscored that sectors such as agriculture, water, bio diversity, health and tourism have suffered the most and the consequences of these have contributed significantly to the decline of livelihoods in Botswana especially in rural areas.

To respond to the changing climate, Botswana has embarked on sectoral reform such as climate smart agriculture, poverty alleviation initiatives, building resilience on the economic productive sectors, diversification of tourism for the improvement of livelihoods and income generation, local economic development and sustainable environment.

The efforts require a coordinated mechanism that will provide an enabling environment for an integrated approach to the formulation and implantation of development plans and socio economic related policies in Botswana that are responsive to the changing climatic conditions.

Minister Kereng explained the draft policy is characterized by an inclusive and integrated approach to social, economic development and governance modalities that would enable the country to achieve a sustainable development pathway. It provides opportunities for improved livelihoods through creation of green jobs, development and transfer of relevant technologies as well as creation and ease of access to both local and international markets. It also commits the government, private sector and non-state actors to adopt adaptation and mitigation measures that would facilitate sustainability and building of resilience of all sectors.

While Members of Parliament were trying to comprehend the policy, this publication got in touch with Green Botswana to solicit their views on the policy draft. Ms. Sela Motshwane, the Founder of the Trust highlighted that “the Climate Change policy was meant to be read in August 2019. It is long overdue, and we all need to see it and understand it in full.

I understand the current budget does not allow for a full implementation- but I could be wrong. More funds could have been allocated since. I think generally, Batswana need to understand fully what this means to our daily lives. I believe the true understanding is by policy drafters and the Ministry of Environment only.”

In the same vein, Green Botswana Trust took to the streets to provide a community solution to climate change on World Health Day (Wednesday). Green Botswana held a “Free Trees for Babies” at Extension 2 Clinic where fruit trees were gifted to parents, expectant mothers, 25 health workers, police officers and the prison officers who had accompanied prisoners to the clinic.

Motshwane said: “The decision to do the “Free Trees for Babies” by gifting fruit trees was to raise awareness to our imminent food security issue as stated by the Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security, Mr. Thabang Botshoma and encourage the general public to plant a tree so that we can reach our SGD Goal 13 : Climate Action. The trees gifted are to be named after the baby recipient”.

Green Botswana is calling for the urgent action from government and members of the public to create a culture of community accountability and collegiality in moving Botswana towards climate action and sustainability. To achieve the 2030 Paris Agreement Pledge, it will take all citizens and not just the government to reach goals.

Parliament resolved to adopt the Botswana Climate Change Policy, 2021.

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