In the villages on the fringes of the Okavango Delta, a festering war between elephants and local flood recession farmers has been ongoing for years with a devastating impact on the farmers.
Some farmers have abandoned their farms in an effort to run away from the elephants but increasingly there is nowhere to run. The village of Tubu is located 10 kilometres east of Gumare village, on the fringes of the Okavango Delta. Farmers in this area describe their village as their breadbasket whose produce they feed other residents and sell the surplus to other villages. One of the farmers even boosted that theirs is a success story in a country like Botswana which has for decades failed to produce enough to feed itself.
Tube residents practice flood recession commonly known as Molapo Farming. This system is practiced along the edges of the river channels or seasonally flooded depressions.A Molapo farmer relies on residual moisture and natural fertilization of the floodplains. According to online information from the University of Botswana’s Okavango Research Institute, there are two different systems of crop farming in the Okavango region: dryland farming and flood recession or Molapo farming.
A land-use assessment utilising satellite images which was carried out by the University of Botswana found that out of 48,900 hectares cleared for cultivation in Ngamiland, 75% consists of dryland fields and 25% of fields temporarily inundated floodplains or Molapo farms. However, coupled with poor climatic conditions and climate change; drought conditions and elephant increase, clashes between elephants and farmers have become more pronounced in the Tubu area. As a result, some farmers have been forced to abandon their farms but the elephants still find them. Journalist Boniface Keakabetse interviewed three farmers in the area to hear their story.
Kebapile Saudu- I wish I was just dead than to experience this misery
59 year old Kebapile Saudu is one of the farmers affected by elephants. He revealed in an interview that he used to farm at Chaa fields. However, Saudu was forced to abandon Chaa by elephants and had to relocate closer to Tubu village in 2017. Saudu’s forced relocation came after a rogue elephant attacked and injured his uncle at Chaa farm. “After this incident my wife said to me let us run away as these animals are going to kill us.”
Saudu continued: “I have been farming here in Tubu for three years now. The elephants forced me to abandon my farm which I was allocated by Tawana Land Board in Chaa. I cannot return there as I fear elephants. But the elephants have now followed me. They are here in Tubu in large numbers. We have nowhere to run.” Saudu continued:” I wish God would just take my life than to suffer like this. How do I live? How do I fend for my family when elephants eat everything I plow? This has been ongoing for more than three years now. We are suffering.”
Saudu continued: “there is no how you can stop an elephant when it comes in to your farm. We always try to chase them by setting up fires at night in an attempt to scare them but these giants are unstoppable. As soon as they come in the middle of the night you will hear dogs barking then we know disaster has come. We would wake up; stoke up the fire in a desperate attempt to chase them away. But all these efforts prove a futility at the end of the day. The elephants will just fall the fence and eat all the crops.
Kelemogile Xao- we will be forced to abandon our fields and become poachers
Another farmer interviewed was Kelemogile Xao whose farm is also located in Tubu. At the time of the interview, Xao was busy preparing for the coming plowing season. However, he explained that he is still uncertain he will get anything from his farm due to the marauding elephants.
Xao said: “I used to plow pumpkins, maize which I loaded in big trucks to sell as far as Gumare and even Maun. These elephants start coming into our fields as soon as the maize starts growing. This farm was my life but elephants destroyed my livelihood. At the moment I do not know how I am going to live or feed with my family.”
“For years I have been planting crops to feed the elephants not my family. I have been turned in to a pauper who would soon enrol for government social services programme because the elephants are stopping me to feed myself. The government must intervene and help us otherwise we would be forced resort to poaching.”
Letsweletse Sarefo: No Money for my Children’s Education
The 45-year-old woman farmer in Tubu also farms a Molapo farm. She explained that for the last two years elephants have destroyed her field by falling fence and eating the crops. “Once elephants fall the fence, cattle comes in through the fallen fence to finish all the crops.
Sarefo stated: “my entire produce values around P 3000, 00 per year. But for three years all my produce was eaten by elephants. I use the money I get from selling the produce to feed my family and spend on my children's education. But the last years have been bad for me due to the elephant’s damage. Sarefo called on the government to help farmers erect stronger farm fences that can withstand the elephants.
Former Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Member of Parliament for Gaborone North, Haskins Nkaigwa has confirmed his departure from opposition fold to re-join the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).
Nkaigwa said opposition is extremely divided and the leadership not in talking terms. “They are planning evil against each other. Nothing much will be achieved,” Nkaigwa told WeekendPost.
“I believe my time in the opposition has come to an end. It’s time to be of value to rebuilding our nation and economy of the country. Remember the BDP is where I started my political journey. It is home,” he said.
“Despite all challenges currently facing the world, President Masisi will be far with his promises to Batswana. A leader always have the interest of the people at heart despite how some decisions may look to be unpopular with the people.
“I have faith and full confidence in President Dr Masisi leadership. We shall overcome as party and nation the current challenges bedevilling nations. BDP will emerge stronger. President Masisi will always have my backing.”
Nkaigwa served as opposition legislator between 2014-2019 representing Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) under UDC banner. He joined BMD in 2011 at the height public servant strike whilst Gaborone City Deputy Mayor. He eventually rose to become the mayor same year, after BDP lost majority in the GCC.
Nkaigwa had been a member of Botswana National Front (BNF), having joined from Alliance for Progressives (AP) in 2019.
Botswana has received assistance worth over P100 million from Japanese government since 2019, making the latter of the largest donors to Botswana in recent years.
The assistance include relatively large-scale grant aid programmes such as the COVID-19 programme (to provide medical equipment; P34 million), the digital terrestrial television programme (to distribute receivers to the underprivileged, P17 million), the agriculture promotion programme (to provide agricultural machinery and equipment, P53million).
“As 2020 was a particularly difficult year, where COVID-19 hit Botswana’s economy and society hard, Japan felt the need to assist Botswana as our friend,” said Japan’s new Ambassador to Botswana, Hoshiyama Takashi.
“It is for this reason that grants of over P100 million were awarded to Botswana for the above mentioned projects.”
Japan is now the world’s fourth highest ranking donor country in terms of Official Development Assistance (ODA).
From 1991 to 2000, Japan continued as the top donor country in the world and contributed to Asia’s miracle economic development.
From 1993 onwards, the TICAD process commenced through Japan’s initiative as stated earlier. Japan’s main contribution has been in the form of Yen Loans, which are at a concessional rate, to suit large scale infrastructure construction.
“In Botswana, only a few projects have been implemented using the Yen Loan such as the Morupule “A” Power Station Rehabilitation and Pollution Abatement in 1986, the Railway Rolling Stock Increase Project in 1987, the Trans-Kalahari Road Construction Project in 1991, the North-South Carrier Water Project in 1995 and the Kazungula Bridge Construction Project in 2012,” said Ambassador Hoshiyama.
“In terms of grant aid and technical assistance, Japan has various aid schemes including development survey and master planning, expert dispatch to recipient countries, expert training in Japan, scholarships, small scale grass-roots program, culture-related assistance, aid through international organizations and so on.”
In 1993, Japan launched Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) to promote Africa’s development, peace and security, through the strengthening of relations in multilateral cooperation and partnership.
TICAD discuss development issues across Africa and, at the same time, present “aid menus” to African countries provided by Japan and the main aid-related international organizations, United Nations (UN), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank.
“As TICAD provides vision and guidance, it is up to each African country to take ownership and to implement her own development following TICAD polices and make use of the programmes shown in the aid menus,” Ambassordor Hoshiyama noted.
“This would include using ODA loans for quality infrastructure, suited to the country’s own nation-building needs. It is my fervent hope that Botswana will take full advantage of the TICAD process.”
Since then, seven conferences where held, the latest, TICAD 7 being in 2019 at Yokohama. TICAD 7’s agenda on African development focused on three pillars, among them the first pillar being “Accelerating economic transformation and improving business environment through innovation and private sector engagement”.
“Yes, private investment is very important, while public investment through ODA (Official Development Assistance) still plays an indispensable role in development,” the Japanese Ambassador said.
“For further economic development in Africa, Japan recognizes that strengthening regional connectivity and integration through investment in quality infrastructure is key.”
Japan has emphasized the following; effective implementation of economic corridors such as the East Africa Northern Corridor, Nacala Corridor and West Africa Growth Ring; Quality infrastructure investment in line with the G20 Principles for Quality Infrastructure Investment should be promoted by co-financing or cooperation through the African Development Bank (AfDB) and Japan.
Japan also emphasized the establishment of mechanisms to encourage private investment and to improve the business environment.
According to the statistics issued by Japan’s Finance Ministry, Japan invested approximately 10 billion US dollars in Africa after TICAD 7 (2019) to year end 2020, but Japanese investment through third countries are not included in this figure.
“With the other points factored in, the figure isn’t established yet,” Ambassador Hoshiyama said.
The next conference, TICAD 8 will be held in Tunisia in 2022. This will be the second TICAD summit to be held on the African continent after TICAD 6 which was held in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2016.
According to Ambassador Hoshiyama, in preparation for TICAD 8, the TICAD ministerial meeting will be held in Tokyo this year. The agenda to be discussed during TICAD 8 has not yet been fully deliberated on amongst TICAD Co-organizers (Japan, UN, UNDP, the World Bank and AU).
“Though not officially concluded, given the world situation caused by COVID-19, I believe that TICAD 8 will highlight health and medical issues including the promotion of a Universal Health Coverage (UHC),” said Hoshiyama.
“As the African economy has seriously taken a knock by COVID-19, economic issues, including debt, could be an item for serious discussion.”
The promotion of business is expected to be one of the most important topics. Japan and its partners, together with the business sector, will work closely to help revitalize private investment in Africa.
“All in all, the follow-up of the various programs that were committed by the Co-Organizers during the Yokohama Plan of Actions 2019 will also be reviewed as an important item of the agenda,” Ambassador Hoshiyama said.
“I believe that this TICAD follow-up mechanism has secured transparency and accountability as well as effective implementation of agreed actions by all parties. The guiding principle of TICAD is African ownership and international partnership.”
Directorate on Intelligence Services (DIS) Director General, Brigadier Peter Magosi is said to be hell-bent and pushing President Mokgweetsi Masisi to reshuffle his cabinet as a matter of urgency since a number of his ministers are conflicted.
The request by Magosi comes at a time when time is ticking on his contract which is awaiting renewal from Masisi.
This publication learns that Magosi is unshaken by the development and continues to wield power despite uncertainty hovering around his contractual renewal.