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Agric twist: Botswana benchmarks in Israel

The world is evolving from old ways of doing business, providing service and ways of day to day life-technology is today’s blueprint to almost every undertaking.

World economies are devising innovative ways to create employment, grow their wealth base and better service their people and Botswana as a middle income state and developing economy is no exception. Currently the economy is heavily dependent on the finite mineral sector. The country is food insecure and largely depends on imports from neighbouring South Africa for almost every commodity used in our day to day life and the manufacturing sector remains untapped.

The agricultural space which is viewed with significant potential in economic diversification and employment creation is currently not fully explored. Within the agricultural sector, Botswana currently solicits revenue from the Beef sector but the industry is evidently not performing well, not as much faster adapting to modern ways compared to the Namibian and Brazilian industries.

However Botswana is progressing well when it comes to instilling the innovative culture amongst its economic engines and service delivery mechanism. The fundamental focus currently is on transforming the economy to being knowledge based, export led as well as private sector dominated where government only plays the role of facilitator and regulator. Botswana’s need to come up with cutting edge innovative ways of diversifying the economy was emphasized  at the National Innovation workshop organized by the Botswana Innovation Hub (BIH) in Gaborone on Monday.

It has been reiterated that Botswana needed to come up with national frameworks and blueprints that can cultivate the culture of innovation. Dr Theophilus Mooko Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tertiary Education, Research, Science & Technology said it was no longer a matter of choice whether to be  innovative or not. “Our diamonds and other natural resources are depleting, we have to content with the thought of survival based innovation,” he said.

Mooko said time may not be on Botswana‘s side and that the country needed to tap into existing opportunities within the research and innovation space. He however cautioned that it was necessary to develop innovative strategies that are on the times with the global, technological and innovative outlook noting that otherwise Botswana may realize less progress from any other undertakings. “Our national innovation system would need to link with what is happening with our regional outlook,” he said.

As a developing economy Botswana acknowledges the need to learn and draw inspiration and strategic technical knowhow on issues of planning and policy crafting. In the area of innovation Botswana located Israel which is a country in the Middle East semi deserted with climatic conditions and natural vegetation much similar to that of Botswana or even worse. Israel has done exceptionally well in the area of innovation to attain 95 % food security and almost 100% employment rate. The Middle East country with rich ancient and religious history has also established itself as a ‘start up’ nation.

According to a report recently released by the Israel Innovation Authority,  is Israel home to over 2000 start-ups that were founded in the past decade, 3 000 small medium start-ups and high–tech companies, 30 growth companies, 50 large technology companies and 3 00 research & development centres of multinational corporations. Out of those start-ups 187 raised over 1.7 billion US Dollars in the second quarter of 2016 .The World Economic forum’s Global Competitiveness report 2016-2017 also recognizes Israel as the second most innovative nation in the world . The report ranks countries based on innovation including technological readiness, business sophistication and higher education.

The Agricultural sector which Botswana hopes to explore to reduce its import bill, diversify the economy and create employment with, is a highly developed industry in Israel. Israel is a major exporter of fresh produce and a world-leader in agricultural technologies despite the fact that the geography of Israel is not naturally conducive to agriculture. More than half of the land area is desert, and the climate and lack of  water resources do not favour farming. Only 20% of the land area is naturally arable. In 2008 agriculture represented 2.5% of total GDP and 3.6% of exports. While farm workers made up only 3.7% of the work force, Israel produced 95% of its own food requirements, supplementing this with imports of grain, oilseeds, meat, coffee, cocoa and sugar, figures which have seen a quadruple growth today.

At the workshop on Monday, it was noted that Botswana stands to benefit significantly from their benchmark exercises with Israel.  Gershon Kadar Ambassador of Israel to Botswana said his country takes pride in the agricultural innovation, taking into fact that Israel is relatively a desert .He said their water and irrigation system technology was the best in the world. Kadar revealed that about 35 Batswana students in the disciplines of Agriculture will go for an 11 month program in Israel where they will get exposure to Israel’s high tech world class agricultural innovative centres.

The students are expected to leave for Jerusalem in September this year. He said they will be learning Israel technologies undergoing both practical and academic capacity building from the high level research and innovation centres in the land. Anya Eldan –Vice President of Israel Innovation Authority said it was important that innovation policies have a specific economic call. “Otherwise it will not achieve progress, in Israel our Research & development is the best in the world,” she said. Eldan also noted that Israel had spent 4.5 % of their GDP on research and development. “The idea is not just for government to spent money on research & development to support innovation but to also build programs that leverage that money and brings the private sector on board,” she explained

Mooko asserted that it was important that Botswana learns from Israel’s innovation and to solicit opportunities that arise out of innovation to create jobs and grow the country’s economy. Botswana Innovation Hub Chief Executive Alan Boshwaen said their primary mandate was to drive the national innovation agenda with special emphasis on facilitating the commercialization of innovation.

“We are especially concerned with ensuring that new innovative products and services emerge at the end of a chain that involves research and engagement of industry role players and other stakeholders,” said Boshwaen. The Botswana Innovation Hub was established to contribute to the country’s economic development and competitiveness by creating new scientific, technological, and indigenous knowledge-based business opportunities. BIH fosters entrepreneurship and technology transfer, generates knowledge-based jobs, and attracts innovative companies and institutions to Botswana.

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Botswana still weighing in on Maseko’s assassination

27th January 2023

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Lemogang Kwape says Botswana has not taken any position regarding the killing of a renowned human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, who was gunned down at his house in Mbabane, Eswatini.

In a brief interview with WeekendPost, Dr Kwape said Botswana has not yet taken any position regarding his death. He said the purported incident should be thoroughly probed before Botswana can form an opinion based on the findings of the inquiries.

“Botswana generally condemns any killing of human life by all means,” says Dr. Kwape. He wouldn’t want to be dragged on whether Botswana will support the suspension of Eswatini from SADC.

“We will be guided by SADC organ Troika if they can be an emergency meeting. I am not sure when the meeting will be called by Namibian president,“ he said.

However, the Namibian president Hage Geingob notes with deep concern reports coming out of Eswatini about the killing of Mr. Maseko. In a statement, he called upon the “Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini to ensure that the killing of Maseko is swiftly, transparently and comprehensively investigated, and that any or all persons suspected of committing this heinous crime are brought to justice.”

Maseko was chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum which was established as a coalition of non-State actors to advocate for a process of national political dialogue aimed at resolving the security and political challenges confronting the Kingdom.

“SADC expresses its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Maseko, his friends, colleagues, and to the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini for the loss of Mr. Maseko. In this context, SADC further calls upon the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini to remain calm, exercise due care and consideration whilst the appropriate structures conduct the investigations and bring the matter to completion,” the statement says.

Geingob reiterated the need for peaceful resolution of the political and security challenges affecting the country.

Meanwhile political activists are calling on SADC to suspend Eswatini from the block including the African Union as well.

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Kopong Murder: Accused interferes with witnesses again!

27th January 2023

State prosecutor, Seeletso Ookeditse revealed before the Broadhurst Magistrate Jobbie Moilatshimo that the third accused involved in the murder of Barulaganye Aston, has interfered with the State witnesses again.

The second and third accused (Lefty Kosie and Outlwile Aston) were previously accused of interference when they were caught in possession of cellphones in prison. They were further accused of planning to kill the deceased’s brother, who is currently the guardian to the children of the deceased.

Ookeditse indicated that Outlwile had earlier went to challenge the magistrate’s decision of denying him bail at the High Court before Judge Michael Motlhabi.

“The third accused approached the High Court and made a bail application, which was dismissed on the same day,” Ookeditse said.

However, even after the High Court verdict on their bail application, the duo (Kosie and Aston) has once again applied for bail this week.

Ookeditse plead with the court to stop the accused from abusing the court process.

“Yesterday, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) received papers of his bail application filed before the Broadhurst Magistrates Court. However, the papers do not speak to changed circumstances, therefore this back and forth about bail must be put to a stop,” said the State prosecutor.

While giving evidence before court, the Investigations Officer, Detective Inspector Quite Zhalamonto, said his investigations have proved that there is interference continuing regarding the accused trio.

He told the court that on the 12th of January 2023, he received a report from Thato Aston, who is the son of the accused and the deceased. The son had alleged to the Investigation Officer that he received a call from one Phillip Molwantwa.

According to Zhalamonto, Thato revealed that Molwatwa indicated that he was from prison on a visit to the Outlwile Aston and went on to ask where he was staying and where his siblings (Aston’s children) are staying.

“Thato revealed that Phillip went on to ask if he or his siblings saw their father murdering their mother, and he was referring to the crime scene. Thato told me that he, however, refused to answer the questions as he was afraid especially because he was asked about where him and his siblings stay,” said Zhalamonto.

Zhalamonto alluded to the court that he then went to Orange to confirm the communication between Thato and Molwantwa where he found the case.

“I have arrested Philip yesterday and when I interviewed him, he did not deny that he knows Aston and that he has indeed called Thato and asked questions as to where him and his siblings resides even though he failed to give reasons for asking such questions,” Zhalamonto told the court.

He further revealed that Molwantwa indicated that he had received a call from an unknown man who refused to reveal himself.

“Phillip told me that the unknown man said he was sent by the accused (Aston), and that Aston had instructed him to tell me to check if there was still some money in his bank accounts, and he also wanted to know where the kids were residing, the unknown man even asked him to meet at Main Mall” the Investigation Officer told the court.

He further informed the court that he is working tirelessly to identify the “unknown caller” and the route of the cell number.

Furthermore, the fourth accused, Kebaleboge Ntsebe, has revealed to the court through a letter that she was abused and tortured by the Botswana Police Services. She wrote in her letter that she suffered miscarriage as a result of being beaten by the police.

Ntsebe is on bail, while a bail ruling for Aston and Kosie will be delivered on the 6th of next month

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Ngamiland Cattle Farmers Gain Green Zone Revenue

27th January 2023

Cattle farmers from Eretsha and Habu in the Ngamiland district, supported by the Community Based Trade (CBT) project, recently generated over P300 000.00 for sales of 42 cattle to the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) in Maun. This milestone was achieved through support from various stakeholders in conservation, commodity-based trade and the government, in collaboration with farmers. Ordinarily, these farmers would not have made this direct sale since the area is a designated Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Red Zone.

Traditional livestock farming contributes toward livelihoods and formal employment in the North-West District (Ngamiland) of Botswana. However, primarily due to the increase in FMD outbreaks over the past two decades and predation by wildlife, the viability of livestock agriculture as a source of income has declined in the region. This has led to a greater risk of poverty and food insecurity. Access across the Okavango River (prior to the construction of a bridge) restricted access for farmers in Eretsha. This lack of access hampered sales of cattle beyond Shakawe, further discouraging farmers from investing in proper livestock management practices. This resulted in negative environmental impacts, poor livestock health and productivity.

To address this challenge, farmers are working with a consortium led by Conservation International (CI), with funding secured from the European Union (EU) to pilot a CBT beef project. The project focuses on supporting and enabling communal farmers to comply with standards and regulations that will improve their chances to access markets. An opportunity to earn higher income from cattle sales could incentivize the adoption of restorative rangelands management practices by farmers.

These collaborative efforts being piloted in Habu and Eretsha villages also include the Pro-Nature Enterprises Project for the People of Southern Africa, funded by Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and Le Fonds français pour l’environnement mondial (FFEM). This complementary funding from AFD and FFEM supports the implementation of the Herding4Health (H4H) model and Rangeland Stewardship Agreements across four rangeland sites in Southern Africa, including Habu and Eretsha, to incentivize best practices that could offer sustainability in the long term for livelihoods, conservation and human-wildlife coexistence.

“We spend a lot of money getting our cattle to Makalamabedi quarantine site, the herder spends on average two months taking care of the cattle before they are taken into quarantine – that needs money. All these costs lead to us getting less money from BMC,” said one of the farmers in the programme, Mr Monnaleso Mosanga.

Farmers that participate in the project agree for their cattle to be herded and kraaled communally by fulltime professional herders (eco-rangers). At the core of this pilot is the use of predator-proof bomas (cattle kraals), planned grazing systems and mobile quarantine bomas (electrified enclosures) for the cattle, facilitated in support with the Department of Veterinary Services. The first successful exit from the mobile quarantine bomas in the Habu and Eretsha villages, in December 2022, saw cattle quarantined on-site and directly transported to BMC in Maun. Farmers received almost double the average sales within this region, as costs including transportation to quarantine sites, herder’s fees and other associated costs incurred before qualifying for BMC sales were no longer included.

“This pilot mobile quarantine is leveraging the techniques and protocols we are using at our current permanent quarantine sites, and we are still observing the results of the project. The outcome of this pilot will be presented to the World Organisation of Animal Health to assess its effectiveness and potentially be approved to be used elsewhere,” said Dr Odireleng Thololwane, the Principal Veterinary Officer (Maun).

Through co-financing of almost P1 billion from the Botswana government and Green Climate Fund, these interventions will be replicated, through The Ecosystem Based Adaptation and Mitigation in Botswana’s Communal Rangelands project, across the country. Both projects aim to improve the economic benefits of cattle owners and multitudes of Batswana households, while contributing to land restoration and climate change efforts by the Botswana government

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