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Climate change frustrates farmers

In Botswana, Agriculture is one of the sectors that is 100 percent reliant on the environment and the environmental dynamics, albeit it is in an uphill struggle of surviving the effects of climate change in Botswana. Effects of climate change are becoming more pronounced at the time when farmers thought they found their way around surviving the semi-arid climatic conditions of Botswana.

According to Botswanas Third National Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change of October 2019, traditional farming is the most dominant in terms of numbers of people involved and the geographical coverage. The majority of farmers are small-scale farmers who typically need continued assistance in capacity building to commercialize agriculture. This farmers are hit by adverse effects of climate change.

Researchers have explained thus, Climate change is characterized by observable changes in seasonal patterns. Usually less favorable weather patterns. In the normal conditions, precipitation recorded in the Northern part of Botswana ranges between 650-750mm, In the Western part range is between 350-250mm while the Southern region receives up to 550mm per annum. With effects of climate change there has been noticeable changes in these patterns. Rainfall now comes later than expected or earlier. This erratic rainfall does not only come late it rains and records different reading than it usually does.

According to one farmer in the Southern District in Rateuyagae lands, Tshepo Mhiko, their ploughing season this year was delayed as it rained continuously. The soils got so wet and they had to wait until there is good soil moisture, suitable for ploughing. Now when we thought it has rained and now the soil is in good condition for ploughing then came heavy rains, he noted. This unprecedented happenings often finds farmers losing hope in farming, my view is that these are the consequences of climate change, he said.

Meanwhile, temperatures have shown a change in their pattern at different seasons. In the recent years, Botswana started experiencing coldest winters and hottest summers unlike before. Summer season in in Botswana has had the highest temperatures of up to 44 degrees Celsius. Attesting to this, Dr Nomazile Chico, a lecturer at Ba Isago University under the Department of Safety Management, Sociology and Environmental Science who is also a Coordinator: Climate Change & Entrepreneurship Centre at BA ISAGO University noted that the temperatures rise astronomically.

For instance, with global warming that means the ozone layer which protects the earth from sun rays will be destroyed leading to the earth receiving excessive exposure to the sun radiation. Again, more heat leads to the melting of the glaziers in the North Pole which lead to the rising sea levels threatening life of those living in islands, she explained. Botswana has been characterized by extreme heat temperatures resulting to heat waves. Such instances affect yield production as in most case crops are destroyed.

According to an Environmental Research and Public Health report by the Ministry of Wildlife, Environment and Tourism soil comprises of many biological and physical processes between the atmosphere and the lithosphere. Soil health is an integrative property of soil that supports agricultural sustainability. As a matter of fact, soil microbes decompose organic matter, but a rise in temperature may alter the microbial population with changing temperature regimes sustainability. Thus high temperatures do not only affect plants it also affect the significant host of plants. Lack of seedling emergence roots from these high temperatures.

Meanwhile the same report suggest that, undeniable is the fact that climate change also has an effect in desertification. Desertification is characterized by the limited growth of vegetation which culminates to land degradation. When the desert releases the dust to the air it compromises air quality which exacerbates the rate of the climate change even more. Some places, due to dryness, has increased loss of vegetation leading to expansion of dunes, especially in sandy environments.

According to Stockholm Environment Institute reports climate change will have a progressively increasing impact on environmental degradation and environmentally dependent socio-economic systems with potential to cause substantial population displacement. This connoting that some animals, pests or livestock gets to desert their actual habitat for a better one. Hence outbreak of new pests or diseases in n area. Livestock in this instances are forced to go from out-skirts into the homes, cities or towns leading to stray animals. Pests and disease, because of the change in environmental conditions finds new habitat and live there.

A Lecturer at the Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural, Prof. Cecil Patrick under the Department Crop Production and Machinery says, Although climate change has adverse impact in farming, farmers have a share in the effects of climate change that face them. He says because of changed environmental conditions, they are supposed to use better means of preserving soil moisture. Farmers should reduce intensive cultivation to reduced cultivation that will preserve the moisture in the soil, he explained.

Climate change presents some inimical challenges to farmers as grazing areas dry up and there is limited supply of food to livestock. Livestock end up having to feed on what is only available. Livestock as cattle on its normal have preferred grass, it does not feed on any grass, now during drought season they are forced to feed on anything available he explained. Prof. Patrick further explained that as cattle gets feed on what is available, they end up taking hard substances like metals wood or plastics. This substances causes stress in the livestocks body, consequently their immune system gets weakened. As the immune system gets weakened the animal gets more susceptible to opportunistic diseases and malnutrition conditions like aphosphrosis.

Lawrence Ratau, a farmer in Potsane in the South East District attests to the adverse impacts of climate change on them as farmers. Citing that the major problem of lack of rainfall or sometimes delayed rains. The problem emanating from erratic rains results in seeds dying under the soil and subsequently no germination or seedling emergence. Ratau notes that this phenomenon has no other remedy except ploughing again.

When this happens, we do not automatically plough again, we wait for the report from the meteorological services that forecast better rains, if the forecast is on the contrary we give up and return home to carry out other domestic operations he explained. Ratau further notes that climate change is characterized by droughts. Drought has a very bad impact on us farmers as we lose most of our live stock to it, he narrated. Ratau notes that during those times, most of water sources in our vicinity dries up, forcing our livestock to go long distances in search of water, and that results in lower milk and beef yields. Droughts usually suck a lot from the farmers pocket as supplementary feeding of livestock become needful.

Meanwhile, Dr Chicho, further observed that climate change and climate variation has affected farmers immensely leading to reduced yields, poor quality outputs. This eventually leads to food insecurities. In the long run farmers tend to abandon farming and remain in cycle of poverty as their property as lands get repossessed, especially those funded by financers she said.

Both Dr Chicho and Prof Patrick are of the view that given the issues of climate change and malpractices in agricultural operations, the way towards food self-sufficiency will be a long walk. He noted food-sufficiency for Botswana requires that there be change in our farming practices. Until we drastically change our farming practices, the Government starting to equip benefactors of programs like ISPAAD to change from intensive cultivation to minimum cultivation of the soil then our agriculture would change and yield better, climate change notwithstanding. he explained.

Prof Patrick further encouraged the government of Botswana to consider regulating and encouraging farmers to use herbicides as they are a good alternative in combating climate change. There are better herbicides that are environmentally friendly that can be an alternative to weeding, as weeding results in both soil disturbance and loss of soil moisture- a good required condition for seedling emergence, said Prof Patrick.



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Botswana still weighing in on Maseko’s assassination

27th January 2023

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Lemogang Kwape says Botswana has not taken any position regarding the killing of a renowned human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, who was gunned down at his house in Mbabane, Eswatini.

In a brief interview with WeekendPost, Dr Kwape said Botswana has not yet taken any position regarding his death. He said the purported incident should be thoroughly probed before Botswana can form an opinion based on the findings of the inquiries.

“Botswana generally condemns any killing of human life by all means,” says Dr. Kwape. He wouldn’t want to be dragged on whether Botswana will support the suspension of Eswatini from SADC.

“We will be guided by SADC organ Troika if they can be an emergency meeting. I am not sure when the meeting will be called by Namibian president,“ he said.

However, the Namibian president Hage Geingob notes with deep concern reports coming out of Eswatini about the killing of Mr. Maseko. In a statement, he called upon the “Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini to ensure that the killing of Maseko is swiftly, transparently and comprehensively investigated, and that any or all persons suspected of committing this heinous crime are brought to justice.”

Maseko was chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum which was established as a coalition of non-State actors to advocate for a process of national political dialogue aimed at resolving the security and political challenges confronting the Kingdom.

“SADC expresses its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Maseko, his friends, colleagues, and to the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini for the loss of Mr. Maseko. In this context, SADC further calls upon the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini to remain calm, exercise due care and consideration whilst the appropriate structures conduct the investigations and bring the matter to completion,” the statement says.

Geingob reiterated the need for peaceful resolution of the political and security challenges affecting the country.

Meanwhile political activists are calling on SADC to suspend Eswatini from the block including the African Union as well.

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Kopong Murder: Accused interferes with witnesses again!

27th January 2023

State prosecutor, Seeletso Ookeditse revealed before the Broadhurst Magistrate Jobbie Moilatshimo that the third accused involved in the murder of Barulaganye Aston, has interfered with the State witnesses again.

The second and third accused (Lefty Kosie and Outlwile Aston) were previously accused of interference when they were caught in possession of cellphones in prison. They were further accused of planning to kill the deceased’s brother, who is currently the guardian to the children of the deceased.

Ookeditse indicated that Outlwile had earlier went to challenge the magistrate’s decision of denying him bail at the High Court before Judge Michael Motlhabi.

“The third accused approached the High Court and made a bail application, which was dismissed on the same day,” Ookeditse said.

However, even after the High Court verdict on their bail application, the duo (Kosie and Aston) has once again applied for bail this week.

Ookeditse plead with the court to stop the accused from abusing the court process.

“Yesterday, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) received papers of his bail application filed before the Broadhurst Magistrates Court. However, the papers do not speak to changed circumstances, therefore this back and forth about bail must be put to a stop,” said the State prosecutor.

While giving evidence before court, the Investigations Officer, Detective Inspector Quite Zhalamonto, said his investigations have proved that there is interference continuing regarding the accused trio.

He told the court that on the 12th of January 2023, he received a report from Thato Aston, who is the son of the accused and the deceased. The son had alleged to the Investigation Officer that he received a call from one Phillip Molwantwa.

According to Zhalamonto, Thato revealed that Molwatwa indicated that he was from prison on a visit to the Outlwile Aston and went on to ask where he was staying and where his siblings (Aston’s children) are staying.

“Thato revealed that Phillip went on to ask if he or his siblings saw their father murdering their mother, and he was referring to the crime scene. Thato told me that he, however, refused to answer the questions as he was afraid especially because he was asked about where him and his siblings stay,” said Zhalamonto.

Zhalamonto alluded to the court that he then went to Orange to confirm the communication between Thato and Molwantwa where he found the case.

“I have arrested Philip yesterday and when I interviewed him, he did not deny that he knows Aston and that he has indeed called Thato and asked questions as to where him and his siblings resides even though he failed to give reasons for asking such questions,” Zhalamonto told the court.

He further revealed that Molwantwa indicated that he had received a call from an unknown man who refused to reveal himself.

“Phillip told me that the unknown man said he was sent by the accused (Aston), and that Aston had instructed him to tell me to check if there was still some money in his bank accounts, and he also wanted to know where the kids were residing, the unknown man even asked him to meet at Main Mall” the Investigation Officer told the court.

He further informed the court that he is working tirelessly to identify the “unknown caller” and the route of the cell number.

Furthermore, the fourth accused, Kebaleboge Ntsebe, has revealed to the court through a letter that she was abused and tortured by the Botswana Police Services. She wrote in her letter that she suffered miscarriage as a result of being beaten by the police.

Ntsebe is on bail, while a bail ruling for Aston and Kosie will be delivered on the 6th of next month

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Ngamiland Cattle Farmers Gain Green Zone Revenue

27th January 2023

Cattle farmers from Eretsha and Habu in the Ngamiland district, supported by the Community Based Trade (CBT) project, recently generated over P300 000.00 for sales of 42 cattle to the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) in Maun. This milestone was achieved through support from various stakeholders in conservation, commodity-based trade and the government, in collaboration with farmers. Ordinarily, these farmers would not have made this direct sale since the area is a designated Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Red Zone.

Traditional livestock farming contributes toward livelihoods and formal employment in the North-West District (Ngamiland) of Botswana. However, primarily due to the increase in FMD outbreaks over the past two decades and predation by wildlife, the viability of livestock agriculture as a source of income has declined in the region. This has led to a greater risk of poverty and food insecurity. Access across the Okavango River (prior to the construction of a bridge) restricted access for farmers in Eretsha. This lack of access hampered sales of cattle beyond Shakawe, further discouraging farmers from investing in proper livestock management practices. This resulted in negative environmental impacts, poor livestock health and productivity.

To address this challenge, farmers are working with a consortium led by Conservation International (CI), with funding secured from the European Union (EU) to pilot a CBT beef project. The project focuses on supporting and enabling communal farmers to comply with standards and regulations that will improve their chances to access markets. An opportunity to earn higher income from cattle sales could incentivize the adoption of restorative rangelands management practices by farmers.

These collaborative efforts being piloted in Habu and Eretsha villages also include the Pro-Nature Enterprises Project for the People of Southern Africa, funded by Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and Le Fonds français pour l’environnement mondial (FFEM). This complementary funding from AFD and FFEM supports the implementation of the Herding4Health (H4H) model and Rangeland Stewardship Agreements across four rangeland sites in Southern Africa, including Habu and Eretsha, to incentivize best practices that could offer sustainability in the long term for livelihoods, conservation and human-wildlife coexistence.

“We spend a lot of money getting our cattle to Makalamabedi quarantine site, the herder spends on average two months taking care of the cattle before they are taken into quarantine – that needs money. All these costs lead to us getting less money from BMC,” said one of the farmers in the programme, Mr Monnaleso Mosanga.

Farmers that participate in the project agree for their cattle to be herded and kraaled communally by fulltime professional herders (eco-rangers). At the core of this pilot is the use of predator-proof bomas (cattle kraals), planned grazing systems and mobile quarantine bomas (electrified enclosures) for the cattle, facilitated in support with the Department of Veterinary Services. The first successful exit from the mobile quarantine bomas in the Habu and Eretsha villages, in December 2022, saw cattle quarantined on-site and directly transported to BMC in Maun. Farmers received almost double the average sales within this region, as costs including transportation to quarantine sites, herder’s fees and other associated costs incurred before qualifying for BMC sales were no longer included.

“This pilot mobile quarantine is leveraging the techniques and protocols we are using at our current permanent quarantine sites, and we are still observing the results of the project. The outcome of this pilot will be presented to the World Organisation of Animal Health to assess its effectiveness and potentially be approved to be used elsewhere,” said Dr Odireleng Thololwane, the Principal Veterinary Officer (Maun).

Through co-financing of almost P1 billion from the Botswana government and Green Climate Fund, these interventions will be replicated, through The Ecosystem Based Adaptation and Mitigation in Botswana’s Communal Rangelands project, across the country. Both projects aim to improve the economic benefits of cattle owners and multitudes of Batswana households, while contributing to land restoration and climate change efforts by the Botswana government

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