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Botswana’s food security under threat

Food Security

The Committee on Agriculture, Lands and Housing has found that in order for Botswana to increase agricultural productivity and gravitate towards food and nutrition security, there is a need to develop and implement an agriculture transformation strategy with immediate effect.

For his foreword, Member of Parliament for Jwaneng-Mabutsane and the Committee Chairman Mephato Reatile noted that; “As a landlocked net importer of most commodities, Botswana finds itself in a rather precarious position especially during crisis times as highlighted by the current Covid-19 pandemic. Time and again we find ourselves exposed to external vulnerabilities as a country through our over-reliance on our neighboring countries for almost everything including food.”

Similarly, Reatile said, Botswana’s vulnerability is further exacerbated by aridness and mostly poor soils. Climate change presents further risks to an already declining sector and without meaningful strategies to harvest, recycle and re-use water to support agriculture production, this sector may never realise its full potential. There is an urgent need to address issues of the national head, nutrition, our agricultural support systems and regulatory framework if we are to achieve food security.

He emphasized on the mandate of the committee saying “it is in our responsibility as a Committee of Parliament, to ensure that Government interventions, where they exist, are done within provisions of the laws, budget and meet the needs of the people and where there are none those immediate efforts are made to rectify the situation and there is accountability.”

The report of the Public Hearings on Botswana’s Food Security and the Impact of Covid-19 Pandemic on Agriculture, Lands and Housing industries has revealed that 100, 007 ha of potential arable land comprising thirty six community cluster farms, and that only 45 000ha is ready for cultivation and 55 000 ha needs to be cleared, the concern is that without a clear strategy, the country continues to miss out on opportunity to attain food security.

The Committee also found that Botswana Agricultural Marketing Board (BAMB) despite its recent modest achievements and turn around, still lacked the capacity to procure all the anticipated local harvest of cereals for the 2019/2020. The Covid-19 movement restrictions also led to crops rotting in farms while farmers struggled with accessing implements and labour to harvest the produce.

Even more disturbing to the Committee was Botswana’s seed import bill of P109 million annually attributed to lack of local seed production. The Committee was concerned that local initiatives such as the Phuduhudu cluster farms for seed production, have not taken off or received support to address this anomaly. It is this Committee’s view that ownership and affordability of seeds are essential to the food security resilience of especially poor farmers and farmers’ right to multiply, use, exchange and sell their own seeds should be protected and developed.

It is also worrying to the committee that despite the impact of climate change on agriculture, there appeared to be slow progress in adopting or financing climate smart agriculture. The beef sector is also on life support and it is evident that the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) has not heeded any of the multi-million Pula expert advice from both locals, regional and international stakeholders.

A major part of this decline is attributed to the lack of incentives to producers together with all the associated inefficiencies of the BMC which has enjoyed a monopoly of the sector from time immemorial. What is even of more concern is the decline of the national herd which has fallen significantly over the years from 3 million to 1.4 million.

According to the report, access to land and security of tenure remains a challenge in Botswana. The Committee learnt that current waiting lists for both State land and Tribal land to Batswana stood at over 600 000 with an average waiting period of over 23 years. This concerns the Committee that investors and local elites involved in land deals continue to access and buy land in both tribal and state land to the detriment of citizens.

To save the country on the downward trend, the committee recommended the implementation of the Cluster Development Strategy with immediate effect accompanied by a comprehensive monitoring and evaluation framework to ensure success.

The committee is of the belief that such a strategy must identify high production zones and put in place tailor made support packages with a priority on land allocation, infrastructure and water development. Existing Commercial clusters of Mosisedi, Tuli, Phuduhudu, Pandamatenga, Kweneng, Borolong and Ngwaketse must be afforded priority.

The committee recommended that in light of Climate Change impacts, the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security must develop incentive packages for new Climate farming, adaptation and mitigation methods.

The report also went on that the National Development Bank (NDB) be transformed into an Agriculture Bank with a mandate to provide support to agriculture development including insurance cover to farmers. This because, the current funding models have not yielded much results in terms of boosting production and ensuring food security.

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Masisi to dump Tsogwane?

28th November 2022

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and some senior government officials are abuzz with reports that President Mokgweetsi Masisi has requested his Vice President, Slumber Tsogwane not to contest the next general elections in 2024.

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African DFIs gear to combat climate change

25th November 2022

The impacts of climate change are increasing in frequency and intensity every year and this is forecast to continue for the foreseeable future. African CEOs in the Global South are finally coming to the party on how to tackle the crisis.

Following the completion of COP27 in Egypt recently, CEOs of Africa DFIs converged in Botswana for the CEO Forum of the Association of African Development Finance Institutions. One of the key themes was on green financing and building partnerships for resource mobilization in financing SDGs in Africa

A report; “Weathering the storm; African Development Banks response to Covid-19” presented shocking findings during the seminar. Among them; African DFI’s have proven to be financially resilient, and they are fast shifting to a green transition and it’s financing.

COO, CEDA, James Moribame highlighted that; “Everyone needs food, shelter and all basic needs in general, but climate change is putting the achievement of this at bay. “It is expensive for businesses to do business, for instance; it is much challenging for the agricultural sector due to climate change, and the risks have gone up. If a famer plants crops, they should be ready for any potential natural disaster which will cost them their hard work.”

According to Moribame, Start-up businesses will forever require help if there is no change.

“There is no doubt that the Russia- Ukraine war disrupted supply chains. SMMEs have felt the most impact as some start-up businesses acquire their materials internationally, therefore as inflation peaks, this means the exchange rate rises which makes commodities expensive and challenging for SMMEs to progress. Basically, the cost of doing business has gone up. Governments are no longer able to support DFI’s.”

Moribame shared remedies to the situation, noting that; “What we need is leadership that will be able to address this. CEOs should ensure companies operate within a framework of responsible lending. They also ought to scout for opportunities that would be attractive to investors, this include investors who are willing to put money into green financing. Botswana is a prime spot for green financing due to the great opportunity that lies in solar projects. ”

Technology has been hailed as the economy of the future and thus needs to be embraced to drive operational efficiency both internally and externally.

Executive Director, bank of Industry Nigeria, Simon Aranou mentioned that for investors to pump money to climate financing in Africa, African states need to be in alignment with global standards.

“Do what meets world standards if you want money from international investors. Have a strong risk management system. Also be a good borrower, if you have a loan, honour the obligation of paying it back because this will ensure countries have a clean financial record which will then pave way for easier lending of money in the future. African states cannot just be demanding for mitigation from rich countries. Financing needs infrastructure to complement it, you cannot be seating on billions of dollars without the necessary support systems to make it work for you. Domestic resource mobilisation is key. Use public money to mobilise private money.” He said.

For his part, the Minster of Minister of Entrepreneurship, Karabo Gare enunciated that, over the past three years, governments across the world have had to readjust their priorities as the world dealt with the effects and impact of the COVID 19 pandemic both to human life and economic prosperity.

“The role of DFIs, during this tough period, which is to support governments through countercyclical measures, including funding of COVID-19 related development projects, has become more important than ever before. However, with the increasingly limited resources from governments, DFIs are now expected to mobilise resources to meet the fiscal gaps and continue to meet their developmental mandates across the various affected sectors of their economies.” Said Gare.

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TotalEnergies Botswana launches Road safety campaign in Letlhakeng

22nd November 2022

Letlhakeng:TotalEnergies Botswana today launched a Road Safety Campaign as part of their annual Stakeholder Relationship Management (SRM), in partnership with Unitrans, MVA Fund, TotalEnergies Letlhakeng Filling Station and the Letlhakeng Sub District Road Safety Committee during an event held in Letlhakeng under the theme, #IamTrafficToo.

The Supplier Relationship Management initiative is an undertaking by TotalEnergies through which TotalEnergie annually explores and implements social responsibility activities in communities within which we operate, by engaging key stakeholders who are aligned with the organization’s objectives. Speaking during the launch event, TotalEnergies’ Operations and HSSEQ,   Patrick Thedi said,  “We at TotalEnergies pride ourselves in being an industrial operator with a strategy centered on respect, listening, dialogue and stakeholder involvement, and a partner in the sustainable social and economic development of its host communities and countries. We are also very fortunate to have stakeholders who are in alignment with our organizational objectives. We assess relationships with our key stakeholders to understand their concerns and expectations as well as identify priority areas for improvement to strengthen the integration of Total Energies in the community. As our organization transitions from Total to Total Energies, we are committed to exploring sustainable initiatives that will be equally indicative of our growth and this Campaign is a step in the right direction. ”

As part of this campaign roll out, stakeholders  will be refurbishing and upgrading and installing road signs around schools in the area, and generally where required. One of the objectives of the Campaign is to bring awareness and training on how to manage and share the road/parking with bulk vehicles, as the number of bulk vehicles using the Letlhakeng road to bypass Trans Kalahari increases. When welcoming guests to Letlhakeng, Kgosi Balepi said he welcomed the initiative as it will reduce the number of road incidents in the area.

Also present was District Traffic Officer ASP, Reuben Moleele,  who gave a statistical overview of accidents in the region, as well as the rest of the country. Moleele applauded TotalEnergies and partners on the Campaign, especially ahead of the festive season, a time he pointed out is always one with high road statistics. The campaign name #IamTrafficToo, is a reminder to all road users, including pedestrians that they too need to be vigilant and play their part in ensuring a reduction in road incidents.

The official proceedings of the day included a handover of reflectors and stop/Go signs to the Letlhakeng Cluster from TotalEnerigies, injury prevention from tips from MVA’s Onkabetse Petlwana, as  well as  bulk vehicle safety tips delivered from Adolf Namate of Unitrans.

TotalEnergies, which is committed to having zero carbon emissions by 2050,  has committed to rolling out the Road safety Campaign to the rest of the country in the future.

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