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.
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.