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WATER SECURITY IS POSSIBLE IN BOTSWANA

Water security is a critical national responsibility and is possible if we effectively on large scale harvest storm water and safely store it; if we build properly designed deep dams; if we use excess water for artificially recharging our underground aquifers and if we meaningfully reuse our used water.

The talk of using used water (waste water) has been on going for more than a decade and still there is no visible action on the ground. Some visionary young leader once said, ‘we can do better, much better’ and we can.  Without water security our industrial base will remain stagnant, our agriculture and food production will not take root, manufacturing industries will remain poor and our economy will not thrive beyond mediocre levels.

Last week I asked a question; is it really impossible to find more dam sites in Botswana. This was after reading a report in one of the local papers stating that we have exhausted all dam sites in Botswana and that we can no longer aspire to build any more dam in Botswana.  I was moved to challenge that assertion as I believe that it is possible to build more dams in Botswana.  I am sorry to say that the problem is that some of our experts are lazy thinkers who are not able to challenge the status quo and explore innovative alternatives and advice the ministry appropriately. 

I challenged the minister and his ministry to ask more difficult questions and demand solutions for our water woes. I wrote before that I do not think we should be wasting our resources bringing water all the way from Lesotho highlands and the Chobe River to Gaborone. These are solutions for lazy minds. Such solutions have far reaching long-term negative environmental and ecological impacts that must be carefully considered before any such action is taken. 

Equally they will also have long term underlying negative economic impacts in that when such systems fail they will inevitably, immediately and significantly affect the whole economy. I maintain that we must find local water for local use; it is possible; we are only limited by our lack of imagination, our lack of innovative thinking and our lack of long term foresight and planning.

I received a lot of feedback locally and internationally that encouraged me to write again on this subject. The feedback says yes it is possible; we can have local water sources and infrastructure that will meet all our water needs locally and nationally. They tell me we have done some work in Botswana and we can build deeper dams, we can harness storm water; we can recharge aquifers and we can make water security a reality in Botswana. 

We do not even need government funding, they tell me. We can find investors to help with the designing, the building, the operating and the maintaining of these facilities provided we have a regulator who will ensure that the investment is paid back over time.

This is the feedback I am getting from industry and the real experts in the field of water engineering out there. I used to run water workshops where we gathered experts from all over the world to deliberate on our water challenges and possible solutions, I know we have practical solutions; we just lack the implementation nerve centre.

I am told studies have been done specifically around Gaborone on storm water harvesting. The result is that with our average rainfall storm water from the built areas is more than enough to fill the Gaborone dam leaving excess water that could be used to artificially recharge nearby underground aquifers. The underground water could then be used when our dam levels go down during dry seasons.  

I am reliably told that the topography around Lobatse, Moshupa, Kanye areas could be used for building big and deep dams that could feed the whole of the southern regions including farming in the area. I am also reliably told that it is not true that all our underground rocks are porous; yes we have some porous rocks but if you go deeper you will find beautiful granite rocks in some areas that are impermeable which rocks could be used as a base for our deep dams. With modern technology it is not difficult to establish where these underlying granite rocks are and what need to be done to use these underground rocks as basement for building our dams.

If we aspire to be ‘an innovative, productive and prosperous nation’ as espoused by our 2016 national vision, we must as a minimum have adequate water to meet all our developmental needs. We need water to produce enough food for the country and export. We need an agricultural and food processing revolution in this country that will help feed the continent.

This can only happen if we identify local water sources that will meet local agricultural needs. We will need milk production and processing, grain production and processing, horticultural produce and processing, meat products and processing; all these must be done with the mind to meet local as well as continentally and international needs.  Storm water harvesting, building local dams (not stopping rivers from flowing) and finding underground aquifers that we can artificially recharge with excess storm and dam water are clear solutions.

Can we be an aspirant innovative, productive and prosperous nation, without the manufacturing industry? Who will come to invest in setting up manufacturing industries here if we have no water security? Forget about the fact that we are land locked; forget about the fact that we have a small population; the world over is our market place. All we need is to have a competitive environment for business to prosper and flourish.

We have Chinese goods all over the world, why can’t we aspire to have our goods all over the world too? We have lots of advantages in this country that should attract any business. We have international good will that we seem to be slowly mortgaging away due to our unfriendly immigration processes, growing corruption and some of our unethical and slow business processes.

We must ensure that we do not continue to lose our sparkle, the sparkle that came with our diamonds and our people. We must build the requisite infrastructure to attract the best entrepreneurs internationally, but we ought to start with the basic infrastructure for water security, energy security as well as a world class health and educational infrastructure, with not only adequate world class facilities but world class staffing at all levels.

The government seems to be painfully slow in taking advantage of available opportunities. There is always a lot of talk with very little action on the ground.  Nevertheless, the ministry must go back to the drawing board as regard water security in the country and find new ways of getting things done. They should gather local and international experts on water but must be prepared to be criticised for sloppiness must and be willing to charter a new course for delivery of a practical water security system within ten years.

We are fortunate that we are not talking about breaking new grounds; we are talking about things that are already regionally and internationally available. We just need political will and the nerve to make things happen and happen fast.

I must remind the reader that this article together with the previous one was provoked by a story in one of the local papers that stated that a water expert has confirmed the assertion by the Minister of Minerals Energy and Water Affairs that we have exhausted all the dam sites and that the last dam was the Dikgatlhong dam which the minister described as the largest evaporation pan.

This touched a raw nerve. I therefore publicly challenged that assertion with the hope that something good will emerge out of this discourse. I trust that the minister and ministry will not take this personally but will use it to challenge the relevant authorities to relook at the current water strategies.
Let us wear our thinking hats for the sake of developing this, our beautiful land.

Unfortunately like I said last week, we do not have dams already designed and built for us by God. He has given the rain, the rivers, the brains and the resources in abundance to design and build our own water systems.  ‘A man shall live by the sweat of his brow’, we must knuckle down just like those in the developed world did to develop their countries. 

We must counter our physical limitations with renewed determination.  We must not allow fear of the unknown to hinder our innovativeness and creativity.  As a nation we must not shy away from challenging the minister, government, our engineers and hydro geologists to think differently.  Our topography and the porosity of certain rocks will not change, but we can change and do things differently.  

In conclusion let us accept that we can design and built new deeper dams that have more capacity with minimum surface area for reduced evaporative losses. Let us design systems to harvest storm water to fill our dams rather than allow the water to go away to feed the ‘flooding’ seas. We must find more aquifers and artificially recharge them. We must start seeing used water as a new source of water. We must believe that if others can do it we can surely do it and even do it better.

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Botswana to Become a Vaccinated Nation: Pandemic Anxiety Over?

30th March 2021

OSCAR MOTSUMI

This is a question that should seriously exercise the mind of every Botswana citizen and every science researcher, every health worker and every political leader political.

The Covid-19 currently defines our lives and poses a direct threat to every aspect and every part of national safety, security and general well-being. This disease has become a normative part of human life throughout the world.

The first part of the struggle against the murderous depredation of this disease was to protect personal life through restrictive health injunctions and protocols; the worst possibly being human isolation and masks that hid our sorrows and lamentations through thin veils. We suffered that humiliation with grace and I believe as a nation we did a great job.

Now the vaccines are here, ushering us into the second phase of this war against the plague; and we are asking ourselves, is this science-driven fight against Covid-19 spell the end of pandemic anxiety? Is the health nightmare coming to an end? What happy lives lie ahead? Is this the time for celebration or caution? As the Non State Actors, we have being struggling with these questions for months.

We have published our thoughts and feelings, and our research reviews and thorough reading of both the local and international impacts of this rampaging viral invasion in local newspapers and social media platforms.

More significantly, we have successfully organised workshops about the impact of the pandemic on society and the economy and the last workshop invited a panel of health experts, professionals, and public administers to advance this social dialogue as part of our commitment to the tripartite engagement we enjoy working with Government of Botswana, Civil Society and Development partners. These workshops are virtual and open to all Batswana, foreign diplomatic missions based in Gaborone, UN agencies located in Gaborone and international academic researchers and professional health experts and specialists.

The mark of Covid-19 on our nation is a painful one, a tragedy shared by the entire human race, but still a contextually painful experience. Our response is fraught with grave difficulties; limited resources, limited time, and the urgency to not only save lives but also avert economic ruin and a bleak future for all who survive. Several vaccines are already in the  market.

Parts of the world are already doing the best they can to trunk the pestilential march of this disease by rolling out mass-vaccinations campaigns that promise to evict this health menace and nightmare from their public lives. Botswana, like much of Africa, is still up in the disreputable, and, unenviable, preventative social melee of masked interactions, metered distances, contactless commerce.

We remain very much at the mercy of a marauding virus that daily runs amuck with earth shattering implications for the economy and human lives. And the battle against both infections and transmissions is proving to be difficult, in terms of finance, institutional capacities and resource mobilization. How are we prepared as government, and as citizens, to embrace the impending mass-vaccinations? What are the chances of us  succeeding at this last-ditch effort to defeat the virus? What are the most pressing obstacles?

Does the work of vaccines spell an end to the pandemic anxieties?

Our panellists addressed the current state of mass-vaccination preparedness at the Botswana national level. What resources are available? What are the financial, institutional and administrative operational challenges (costs and supply chains, delivery, distribution, administering the vaccine on time, surveillance and security of vaccines?) What is being done to overcome them, or what can be done to overcome them? What do public assessments of preparedness tell us at the local community levels? How strong is the political will and direction? How long can we expect the whole exercise to last? At what point should we start seeing tangible results of the mass-vaccination campaign?

They also addressed the challenges of the anticipated emerging Vaccinated Society. How to fight the myths of vaccines and the superstitions about histories of human immunizations? What exactly is being done to grow robust local confidence in the science of vaccinations and the vaccines themselves? More significantly, how to square these campaigns vis-vis personal rights, moral/religious obligations?

What messages are being sent out in these regards and how are Batswana responding? What about issues of justice and equality? Will we get the necessary vaccines to everyone who wants them? What is being done to ensure no deserving person is left behind?

They also addressed issues of health data. To accomplish this mass-vaccination campaign and do everything right we need accurate and complete data. Poor data already makes it very hard to just cope with the disease. What is being done to improve data for the mass-vaccination campaign? How is this data being collected, aggregated and prepared for real life situation/applications throughout Botswana in the coming campaign?

We know in America, for example, general reporting and treatment of health data at the beginning of vaccinations was so poor, so chaotic and so scattered mainstream newspapers like The Atlantic, Washington Post and the New York Times had to step in, working very closely with civil society organizations, to rescue the situation. What data-related issues are still problematic in Botswana?

To be specific, what kind of Covid-19 data is being taken now to ready the whole country for an effective and efficient mass-vaccination program?

Batswana must be made aware that the  end part of vaccination will just mark the beginning of a long journey to health recovery and national redemption; that in many ways Covid-19 vaccination is just another step toward the many efforts in abeyance to fight this health pandemic, the road ahead is still long and painful.

For this purpose, and to highlight the significance of this observation we tasked our panellists with  the arduous imperative of  analysing the impact of mass-vaccination on society and the economy alongside the pressing issues of post-Covid-19 national health surveillance and rehabilitation programs.

Research suggests the aftermath of Covid-19 vaccination is going to be just as difficult and uncertain world as the present reality in many ways, and that caution should prevail over celebration, at least for a long time. The disease itself is projected to linger around for some time after all these mass-vaccination campaigns unless an effort is made to vaccinate everyone to the last reported case, every nation succeeds beyond herd immunity, and cure is found for Covid-19 disease. Many people are going to continue in need of medications, psychological and psychiatric services and therapy.

Is Botswana ready for this long holdout? If not, what path should we take going into the future? The Second concern is , are we going to have a single, trusted national agency charged with the  mandate to set standards for our national health data system, now that we know how real bad pandemics can be, and the value of data in quickly responding to them and mitigating impact? Finally, what is being done to curate a short history of this pandemic? A national museum of health and medicine or a Public Health Institute  in Botswana is overdue.

If we are to create strong sets of data policies and data quality standards for fighting future health pandemics it is critical that they find ideological and moral foundations in the artistic imagery and photography of the present human experience…context is essential to fighting such diseases, and to be prepared we must learn from every tragic health incident.

Our panellists answered most of these questions with distinguished intellectual clarity. We wish Batswana to join us in our second Mass-vaccination workshop.

*Oscar Motsumi: Email:oscar.motsumi@gmail.com

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The women you see in the news matter. Here’s why

9th March 2021
Jane Godia

Jane Godia

Today is International Women’s Day – it’s a moment to think about how much better our news diet could be if inequities were eliminated. In 1995, when the curtains fell in one of the largest meetings that have ever brought women together to discuss women in development, it was noted that women and media remain key to development.

Twenty-six years later, the relevant “Article J” of the Beijing Platform for Action, remains unfulfilled. Its two strategic objectives with regard to Women and Media have not been met. They are
Increase the participation and access of women to expression and decision-making in and through the media and new technologies of communication

Promote a balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media.

Today, as we mark International Women’s Day, it’s an indictment on both media owners and civil society that women remain on the periphery of news-making. They cannot claim equal space in either the structures of newsrooms or in the content produced, be that as sources of news or as the subjects of reports. Indeed, the latest figures from WAN-IFRA’s Women in News Programme show just one in five voices in news belong to women*, be they as sources, as the author or as the main character of the news report.

Some progress was evident several years back, with stand-out women being named as chief executive officers, editors in chief, managing editors and executive editors. But these gains appear short lived in most media organisations. Excitement has turned to frustration as one-step forward has been replaced with three steps backwards. In Africa, the problem is acute. The decision-making tables of media organisations remain deprived of women and where there are women, they are surrounded by men.

Few women have followed in the footsteps of Esther Kamweru, the first woman managing editor in Kenya, and indeed sub-Saharan Africa. Today’s standout women editors include Pamela Makotsi-Sittoni (Nation Media Group, Kenya), Barbara Kaija (New Vision, Uganda), Mary Mbewe (Daily Nation, Zambia), Margaret Vuchiri (The Monitor, Uganda), Joyce Shebe (Clouds, Tanzania), Tryphinah Dongwana (Weekend Post, Botswana), Joyce Mhaville (Independent Television -ITV, Tanzania) and Tuma Abdallah (Standard Newspapers,Tanzania). But they remain an exception.

The lack of balance between women and men at the table of decision making has a rollback effect on the content that is produced. A table dominated by men typically makes decisions that benefit men.

So today, International Women’s Day is a grim reminder that things are not rosy in the news business. Achieving gender balance in news and in the structure of media organisations remains a challenge. Unmet, it sees more than half of the population in our countries suffer the consequences of bias, discrimination and sexism.

The business of ignoring the other half of the population can no longer be treated as normal. It’s time that media leaders grasp the challenge, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it also makes a whole lot of business sense: start covering women, give them space and a voice in news-making and propel them to all levels of decision making within your organisation.

We can no longer afford to imagine that it’s only men who make and sell the news and bring in the shillings to fund the media business. Women too are worthy newsmakers. In all of our societies, there are women holding decision making positions and who are now experts in once male-only domains such as engineers, doctors, scientists and researchers.

They can be deliberately picked out to share their perspectives and expertise and bring balance to the profile of experts quoted on our news pages. Media is the prism through which society sees itself and women are an untapped audience. So, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us embrace diversity, which yields better news content and business products, and in so doing eliminate sexism. We know that actions and attitudes that discriminate against people based on their gender is bad for business.

As media, the challenge is ours. We need to consciously embrace and reach the commitments made 26 years ago when the Beijing Platform for Action was signed globally. As the news consuming public, you have a role to play too. Hold your news organization to account and make sure they deliver balanced news that reflects the voices of all of society.

Jane Godia is a gender development and media expert who serves as the Africa Director of Women in News programme.  
WOMEN IN NEWS is WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. www.womeninnews.org

Jane Godia, Director, Africa, Women in News

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Why is the media so afraid to talk about sexual harassment?

9th March 2021

MELANIE WALKER

The eve of International Women’s Day presents an opportunity for us to think about gender equality and the long and often frustrating march toward societies that are truly equal.

As media, we are uniquely placed to drive forward this reflection and discussion. But while focusing on the challenges of gender in society, we owe it to our staff and the communities we serve to also take a hard look at the obstacles within our own organisations.

I’m talking specifically about the scourge of sexual harassment. It’s likely to have happened in your newsroom. It has likely happened to a member of your team. It happens to all genders but is disproportionately directed at women. It happens in every industry, regardless of country, culture or context. This is because sexual harassment is driven by power, not sex. Wherever you have imbalances in power, you have individuals who are at risk of sexual harassment, and those who abuse this power.

I’ve been sexually harassed. The many journalists and editors, friends and family members who I have spoken to over the years on this subject have also been harassed. Yet it is still hard for leaders to recognize that this could be happening within their newsrooms and boardrooms. Why does it continue to be such a taboo?

Counting the cost of sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is, simply put, bad for business. It can harm your corporate reputation. It is a drain on the productivity of staff and managers. Maintaining and building trust in your brand is an absolute imperative for media organisations globally. If and when a case gets out of control or is badly handled – this can directly impact your bottom line.

It is for this reason that WAN-IFRA Women in News has put eliminating sexual harassment as a top priority in our work around gender equality in the media sector. This might seem at odds with the current climate where social interactions are fewer and remote work scenarios are in place in many newsrooms and businesses. But one only needs to tune into the news to know that the abuse of power, manifested as verbal, physical or online harassment, is alive and well.

Preliminary results from an ongoing Women in News research study into the issue of sexual harassment polling hundreds of journalists in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia indicate that more than 1 in 3 women media professionals have been physically harassed, and just under 50% have been verbally harassed. Just over 15% of men in African newsrooms reported being physically harassed, and slightly less than 1 in 4 reports being verbally harassed. The numbers for male media professionals in Southeast Asia are slightly higher than a quarter on both forms of harassment.

The first step in confronting sexual harassment is to talk about it. We need to strip away the stigma and discomfort around having open conversations about what sexual harassment is and isn’t. Media managers, it is entirely in your power to create dynamics in your own teams that are free from sexual harassment.

Publishers and CEOs, you set the organisational culture in your media company.

By being vocal in recognising that it happens everywhere, and communicating to your employees that you will not tolerate sexual harassment of any kind, you send a powerful message to your teams, and publicly. With these actions, you will help us overcome the legacy of silence around this topic, and in doing so take an important first step to create media environments that truly embrace equality.

Melanie Walker is Executive Director of Media Development of the World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). She is a creator of Women in News, WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. www.womeninnews.org

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