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Parliament abolishes Young Farmers fund

The ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is set to abolish the young farmers fund and replace it with a refurbished youth entrepreneurship fund.

Eight years on, the government has moved to pass a motion in parliament that called for the young farmers fund to be replaced, “to carter for other young people with other business ideas other than agriculture”. The motion was passed on Friday by Member of Parliament (MP) for Kgalagadi North, Itumeleng Moipisi.

 However Members of Opposition in Parliament are against the move as they believe it would defeat the purpose of the fund which the BDP created ahead of the 2009 general elections as a tool to empower the country’s youth, which were at the time disadvantaged by existing funds requirements.

The BDP however, has used its numbers advantage to pass the motion.  Several BDP MPs including cabinet Ministers are of the view that the new fund, which is yet to be introduced, would broaden the scope of the existing fund. In fact the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Slumber Tsogwane believes that the idea is progressive.

“I think he has the plight of youth at heart. When the young farmers fund was formed, we were encouraging the youth into farming as you know our youth shun farming. Those who developed interest ventured into the farming industry and some joined in as a last resort and have failed because they did not like it,” Tsogwane debated.

Opposition Members nonetheless maintained that the Young Farmers fund was good initiative and has encouraged young people to venture into farming and food production. The opposition expressed fear that the ruling party was only trying to play a political mind game by reintroducing existing programmes under a new package.

The government has several youth support funds for different business ventures under the Ministries of Youth, Sports and Culture. The grants include Youth Empowerment Scheme (YES), Youth Development Fund, art and culture grants, Kickstart Programme, and the E-nnovation youth empowerment programme which aims to encourage the out of school, marginalised and unemployed youth to venture into sustainable and viable income generating projects.

Of all the youth programmes, young farmers has the highest finance support as a project could be funded with up to P500 000 while CEDA loans go beyond P2 Million.

Opposition MP, Haskins NKaigwa of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) maintained that the reason young people are failing to access other existing funds such as main line CEDA loans is due to accessibility challenges.

“You need a tool to get the funds. You need a business plan and a business plan has to be done by a consultant who in turn needs to be paid. CEDA would not just issue money because somebody needs it. It has to be convinced that the planned business is viable,” Nkaigwa maintained.

Another opposition MP, Ndaba Gaolatlhe of the UDC argued that funding is just one aspect of the eco system which the country needs to develop in order to achieve needed results in as far as youth and citizen empowerment is concerned.

According to Gaolathe the government should consider establishing appropriate well targeted and diversified support mechanisms through smart subsidies, incentives for the growth of agro-industry sector, research and development, training and capacities. Other areas of worth, Ndaba explained would be opening of market access opportunities, local and international access to potential partnerships.

Poverty, poor health, hunger and lack of education continue to limit the potential of the youth in increasing productivity and agricultural incomes in the country and the rest of the Southern Africa region.

According to the Economic Commission of Africa, forty percent of the total unemployed in the region are youth and majority of them live in rural areas. For those that are employed, low productivity, underemployment and meagre earnings characterise their agricultural profile.

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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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