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Academics frustrated by Govt snub in policy formulation

Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (BUAN) academics have expressed disgruntlement over government’s continual snubbing of their research based solutions aimed at revitalizing the sluggish agricultural sector.

At a workshop held this week, organised by Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA) and Food Agriculture, Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) to facilitate policy dialogue on climate smart agriculture, academics revealed that government has ignored their research as well as that of other quasi-government research institutions.

Associate Professor at BUAN, Cecil Patrick, revealed in a discussion that he and his colleagues have found it difficult to influence government policy because government officials are indifferent in engaging them to find the solutions to Botswana’s slow-moving agricultural sector.

When the country gained independence 50 years ago, agriculture contributed 40 percent to Botswana’s economy, but has since degenerated to almost insignificant contribution, with below 3 percent figures registered in recent years. Prof Patrick said this is mainly due to government’s approach of formulating policies which are not informed by research, which therefore fail in helping to revive the sector.

Patrick is one of the academics who have researched extensively on agriculture, with the view of influencing government policy but with no headway as yet. He told the workshop that, in one of his recent researches, it proved difficult for his work to get the attention of then Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr Marcus Chimbombi.

He further noted that when he finally managed to get in touch with the ministry; the research was shelved and ignored for good afterwards. Other academics made comments in the same line, stating that sometimes government chooses to implement policies which are completely different from what the available research recommends.

Government is also accused of being obsessed with recommendation from research carried out abroad without first having to establish if the recommendation can apply in the context of Botswana. According to Patrick, Botswana needs to always utilise researches to justify decision making at policy level. He also said conventional farming methods have their merits and should not be discarded as it has been recommended by government on several occasions.

While farmers have been told to rear other breeds over Tswana, some academics are of the view that reasons advanced for rearing other breeds at the expense of Tswana  breed are not sufficient to justify entire ‘cleansing’  of the Tswana breed.
Dr Olatotswe Kgosikoma said most recommendations in the agricultural sector lack local research backing to validate their implementation. He noted that contrary to what some may believe, if something works in other countries it does not necessarily mean it will work for Botswana. He said it was thus necessary to conduct local research before implementing such recommendations.

Professor Nnyaladzi Batisani of Botswana Institute for Technology, Research and Innovation (BITRI) has highlighted that it is necessary for government policies across all ministries and departments should inform each other in order to produce desired results. Prof Batisani observed that, sometimes an agricultural policy will have a good intended purpose, only to be hindered by what a land policy stipulates, proving counterproductive eventually.

He said there is a need to develop policy frameworks and for government continual finance researches for the purpose of producing best results. It is not the first time that government has been accused of implementing policies which are not influenced by research. Earlier this year in a Human Resource Development Council (HRDC) workshop, Dr Comfort Mokgothu,  Chairperson of Transport and Logistics sector committee, contended that while Botswana might have progressed significantly with regards to well trained human resources, academics still have no place in formulation of policies because government policies are not always informed by research.

The agriculture sector has not been given priority for decades, with its ministry getting lowest funds as compared to other ministries. For the financial year 2016/17, Ministry of Agriculture received the second least share with a recurrent budget of P1.09 billion. Botswana is heavily reliant on South Africa for agricultural produce and the country is unable to produce enough to meet the country’s demand.

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ENVIRONMENT ISSUES: Masisi asks Virginia for help

24th March 2023

President Mokgweetsi Masisi says the issue of sustainable natural resources management has always been an important part of Botswana’s national development agenda.

Masisi was speaking this week on the occasion of a public lecture at Virginia Polytechnic, under theme, “Merging Conservation, Democracy and Sustainable Development in Botswana.”

Botswana, according to Masisi, holds the view that the environment is fragile and as such, must be managed and given the utmost protection to enable the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“It is necessary that we engage one another in the interchange of ideas, perspectives, visualizations of social futures, and considerations of possible strategies and courses of action for sustainable development,” said Masisi.

On the other hand, dialogue, in the form of rigorous democratic discourse among stakeholders presents another basis for reconfiguring how people act on their environments, with a view to conserving its resources that “we require to meet our socio-economic development needs on a sustainable basis,” Masisi told attendees at the public lecture.

He said government has a keen interest in understanding the epidemiology and ecology of diseases of both domestic and wild animals. “It is our national interest to forestall the dire consequences of animal diseases on our communities livelihoods.”

President Masisi hoped that both Botswana and Virginia could help each other in curbing contagious diseases of wildlife.

“We believe that Virginia Tech can reasonably share their experiences, research insights and advances in veterinary sciences and medicines, to help us build capacity for knowledge creation and improve efforts of managing and containing contagious diseases of wildlife. The ground is fertile for entering into such a mutually beneficial partnership.”

When explaining environmental issues further, Masisi said efforts of conservation and sustainable development might at times be hampered by the emergence and recurrence of diseases when pathogens mutate and take host of more than one species.

“Water pollution also kills aquatic life, such as fish, which is one of humanity’s much deserved sources of food. In this regard, One Health Approach imposes ecological responsibility upon all of us to care for the environment and the bio-diversity therein.”

He said the production and use of animal vaccines is an important space and tool for conservation, particularly to deal with trans-border animal diseases.

“In Botswana, our 43-year-old national premier pharmaceutical institution called Botswana Vaccine Institute has played its role well. Through its successful production of highly efficacious Foot and Mouth vaccines, the country is able to contain this disease as well as supply vaccines to other countries in the sub-region.:

He has however declared that there is need for more help, saying “We need more capacitation to deal with and contain other types of microbial that affect both animals and human health.”

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Masisi saddened by deaths of elephant attacks

24th March 2023

President Mokgweetsi Masisi has expressed a strong worry over elephants killing people in Botswana. When speaking in Virginia this week, Masisi said it is unfortunate that Batswana have paid a price with their own blood through being attacked by elephants.

“Communities also suffer unimaginable economic losses yearly when their crops are eaten by the elephants. In spite of such incidents of human-elephant conflict, our people embrace living together with the animals. They fully understand wildlife conservation and its economic benefits in tourism.”

In 2018, Nthobogang Samokwase’s father was attacked by an elephant when travelling from the fields, where he stayed during the cropping season.

It was reported that the man couldn’t run because of his age. He was found trampled by the elephant and was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.

In the same year, in Maun, a 57-year-old British woman was attacked by an elephant at Boro and died upon arrival at the hospital. The woman was with her Motswana partner, and were walking dogs in the evening.

Last month, a Durban woman named Carly Marshall survived an elephant attack while on holiday in the bush in Botswana. She was stabbed by one of the elephant’s tucks through the chest and was left with bruises. Marshall also suffered several fractured ribs from the ordeal.

President Masisi Botswana has the largest population of African elephants in the world, totaling more than 130 000. “This has been possible due to progressive conservation policies, partnerships with the communities, and investment in wildlife management programmes.”

In order to benefit further from wildlife, Masisi indicated that government has re-introduced controlled hunting in 2019 after a four-year pause. “The re-introduction of hunting was done in an open, transparent and democratic way, giving the communities an opportunity to air their views. The funds from the sale of hunting quota goes towards community development and elephant conservation.”

He stressed that for conservation to succeed, the local people must be involved and derive benefits from the natural resources within their localities.

“There must be open and transparent consultations which involve all sectors of the society. It is against this backdrop that as a country, we lead the continent on merging conservation, democracy and sustainable development.”

Masisi stated that Botswana is open to collaborative opportunities, “particularly with identifiable partners such as Virginia Tech, in other essential areas such as conservation, and the study of the interplay among the ecology of diseases of wild animals and plants, and their effects on human health and socio-economic development.”

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Gov’t commit to injecting more funds in fighting HIV

24th March 2023

Minister for State President Kabo Morwaeng says government will continue to make resources available in terms of financial allocations and human capital to ensure that Botswana achieves the ideal of eradicating HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.

Morwaeng was speaking this morning in Gaborone at the High-Level Advocacy event to accelerate HIV Prevention in Botswana. He said the National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency (NAPHA), in partnership with UNAIDS, UN agencies, the Global Fund and PEPFAR, have started a process of developing transition readiness plan for sustainability of HIV prevention and treatment programmes.

“It is important for us, as a country that has had a fair share of donor support in the response to an epidemic such as HIV and AIDS, to look beyond the period when the level of assistance would have reduced, or ceased, thus calling for domestic financing for all areas which were on donor support.”

Morwaeng said this is important as the such a plan will guarantee that all the gains accrued from the response with donor support will be sustained until the end when “we reach the elimination of HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 20230,” he said.

“I commit to continue support efforts towards strengthened HIV prevention, accentuating HIV primary prevention and treatment as prevention towards Zero New Infections, Zero Stigma, Discrimination and Zero AIDS related death, to end AIDS in Botswana.”

He reiterated that government commits to tackle legislative, policy and programming challenges that act as barriers to the achievement of the goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat.

In the financial year 2022/2023, a total of 119 Civil Society Organizations, including Faith Based Organizations, were contracted with an amount of P100 million to implement HIV and NCDs prevention activities throughout the country, and the money was drawn from the Consolidated Fund.

Through an upcoming HIV Prevention Symposium, technical stakeholders will use outcomes to develop the Botswana HIV Prevention Acceleration Road Map for 2023-2025.

Morwaeng stated that government will support and ensure that Botswana plays its part achieving the road map. He said there is need to put hands on the deck to ensure that Botswana sustains progress made so far in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

“There are tremendous achievements thus far to, reach and surpass the UNAIDS fast track targets of 95%- 95%- 95% by the year 2025. As reflected by the BAIS preliminary results of 2021, we now stand at 95- 98- 98 against the set targets.”

“These achievements challenge us to now shift our gears and strive to know who are the remaining 5% for those aware of their HIV status, 2% of enrolment on treatment by those aware of their status and 2% of viral suppression by those on treatment.”

Explaining this further, Morwaeng said shift in gears should extend to coming up with robust strategies of determining where these remaining people are as well as how they will be reached with the necessary services.

“These are just some of the many variables that are required to ensure that as a country, we are well positioned to reaching the last mile of our country’s response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic.”

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