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BDP MPs finally approve use of UDC hyped hemp

After persistently resisting the wave of industrial hemp, the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has somersaulted on its earlier conservative stand and succumbed to the pressure of growing cannabis to stimulate the economy.

Details emerging from the ruling party caucus meeting this week paints a portrait of a party ashamed of its initial viewpoint and ready to liberalise investing in the forbidden plant.  A resolution on hemp follows a statement by Minister of Agriculture Development and Food Security Dr Edwin Dikoloti in Parliament, who said that the growing of Industrial Hemp also known as Cannabis is prohibited and is punishable by law in Botswana.

Dikoloti’s stance corroborated previous stance adopted by leading BDP members including Vice President Slumber Tsogwane, who on many occasions disapproved industrial hemp. Tuesday this week, the party assembled for their weekly routine meeting and industrial hemp dominated the agenda. The party legislators wanted to know why the party is insisting that hemp is not allowed and challenged Dikoloti to provide for that law which he failed to.

Informants told this publication that the party cartwheeled and agreed that industrial hemp should be allowed in Botswana as it has more economical benefits which will also assist the party achieve its election promises of growing the economy and creating jobs. In discussing this, BDP wants to be armed with answers when a motion or question is moved in Parliament regarding industrial hemp. For a long time, BDP has been reluctant to research more about hemp, but tenacity from the opposition forced the BDP to tone down and change stance.

Ahead of the highly contested 2019 general elections, BDP opposed the use of industrial hemp, a position which was at variance with that of the main opposition parties, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), which anchored its job promises on industrial hemp industrialisation. From the Tuesday meeting chaired by Tsogwane, the BDP legislators agreed that industrial hemp be allowed as there is no law prohibiting it.

“We have a number of products that contain hemp and are sold in our shops. So the argument is, if we have these kind of commodities why is it difficult to allow for industrial hemp?” one legislator who attended the meeting shared with this publication. In terms of the law, Dikoloti has been vehement that; “Industrial hemp is clearly prohibited in Botswana in accordance with First Schedule of the Planet Protection Act of 2007, Cap 35:02, and also according to the Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act of 2018, Part II Section 6 (1).”  

He continued; “Any person who, without lawful authority, cultivates any plant which can be used or consumed as a narcotic drug or psychotropic substance, or form which a narcotic drug or narcotic substance can be extracted, commits and offence and shall be liable to a fine not exceeding P500, 000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 20 years or to both”. However BDP unanimously agree with Selibe Phikwe West Member of Parliament Dithapelo Keorapetse, that there are no laws or rules which regulate or specifically prohibit the growing of Industrial Hemp or use of its products in Botswana.

 “With all the products containing hemp on the shelves, we agreed that clearly it is not prohibited,” added a legislator.  “Now whoever wants to start industrial hemp will have to apply to get the permission. The idea is the applicants should show a value chain in the production. Hemp permission will only be granted for those who will yield products with medicinal value, nothing else,” shared another BDP MP.

BDP MP, John Thiite of Ghanzi North who was not present at the meeting had this to say: “From my own research I would allow it for industrialisation purposes. Industrial hemp has proved that it can stimulate the economy by creating employment and that’s what we need.” Prior to last year’s elections Leader of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko strongly believed that production of industrial hemp could curb unemployment. “Hemp offers a yield of about P13.37 per plant and up to 12 500 000 plants per 5000 acres,” he says.

That gives P167 125 000 per 5000 acres. Hemp growers can employ 10 000 people to maintain a 10 000 hectare farm,” he revealed. He reiterated the need for Botswana to legalise industrial hemp for commercial purposes due to its economic value. UDC leader, Duma Boko has on several occasions said Botswana is missing out big in the industrial hemp wave as it is unlocking economic growth in some of the countries that have legalised it on the African continent.

Industrial hemp is legalized in 13 nations in Africa, with five of them coming from the SADC region- Lesotho, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Eswatini and South Africa legalizing marijuana too. The New Frontier Data 2019 report, the Africa Regional Hemp and Cannabis Report: 2019 Industry Outlook, states that 50 countries in the world have legalized hemp production. Report shows that some of the countries legalised hemp for medicinal purposes whilst others such as Mexico, Canada and Georgia to mention but a few, legalised it for recreational purposes.

More interestingly, the report uncovered that one- third of worldwide cannabis users stay in Africa, noting that Africa’s largest cannabis markets are those with the largest populations. Report further suggests that since Lesotho became the first African nation to legalize medical cannabis in 2017, Africa cannabis use rate has been nearly twice global average use rate of 6%.

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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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