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Climate Smart Agriculture to rescue farmers

SHARE   |   Monday, 29 June 2015   |   By Othusitse Tlhobogang
Climate Smart Agriculture can improve food security  Climate Smart Agriculture can improve food security

• Botswana faces more droughts due to climate change


The proposed Botswana Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) programme undertaken by the Ministry of Agriculture has brought hope to the agriculture sector. Stakeholders believe that should the programme come up with clear strategies and proper implementation the Climate Smart Agriculture initiative could help relieve them from the current burden of unfavourable weather conditions.
Botswana is projected to experience increased frequency in severity of droughts and within growing season dry spells, increased warming and declining rainfall due to climate change. Nnyaladzi Batisani, lead researcher from Botswana Institute for Technology Research and Innovation (BITRI) said the country already faces critical problems of the land degradation, loss of productive arable and livestock grazing land, diminishing soil productivity and natural resources base supporting poorer communities. He said the relative newness of climate change debate and levels among different livelihood sections and economic development sectors in the country against these critical projections calls for a new thinking in terms of mechanisms and actions.
Batisani said there are increasing regional and international calls for CSA as part of the quest to transform Africa's agricultural systems towards more productive, efficient, resilient, and sustainable systems in the face of global food systems and climate change. CSA is aimed at addressing growing demand for increasing agricultural productivity and socio-ecological resilience of livelihoods systems while minimizing agriculture's contribution to the release of greenhouse gases which cause global warming, said Batisani. He said Agricultural growth is therefore important for stimulation of economic growth in Botswana and total dependence on rain- fed agriculture and poor soil health increases vulnerability of farming systems and predisposes rural households to food insecurity and poverty thus eroding their productive assets weakening their coping strategies and resilience.
Batisani said increasingly, the onset, duration, and intensity of these rains vary considerably from year to year, while frequency and intensity of the extreme weather events such as droughts and floods were on the increase with devastating impacts on the national and economy.
Speaking in an interview on the side-lines of the CSA validation workshop on Tuesday, Douglas Lecholo, acknowledged that as farmers they have been affected by climate change hence the low production experienced over the years. Lecholo said the time has come to introduce new ways that will help farmers cope with the devastating effects of climate change. “These days we rely only on the All Mighty for good production since the weather conditions are no longer suitable for agricultural production. Coming up with such a programme to help farmers adapt to this is a step in the right direction,” said Lecholo who is a farmer in Kweneng region.
When introducing the programme to the participants at the workshop Douglas Machacha explained that the main intentions of CSA is to come up with ways that will help improve the ailing food production in the country during the trying times of climate change. “We need to have a pro-growth agenda that supports agricultural sustainability that also include better targeting climate change impacts in order to improve resilience and climate change adaptation,” he said. 
According to the Machacha there are areas that have been identified as a stumbling block to agricultural production and if addressed they could help alleviate climate change aggravations. A document that Machacha and his team of expert produced outlined over dependence of agriculture on erratic rainfall as one of the constraints facing agriculture production in Botswana. This is despite the already existing irrigation systems in the country. According to the document this is escalating the problems. 
Calvin Nhira, an official from the Southern African Development Committee (SADC) concurred with Lecholo saying it is time to take climate change effects head on to come up with adaptive measures. “Climate change has always been a major threat to the farmers and they need assistance to fight the effects,” he said.
Nhira said he is happy with what the team of expert have come up so far in regard to this. However, the SADC official advised that for the strategy to work it has to be tailored to address gender issues as well as youth matters. Other stakeholders also called for the programme to outline clearly the strategies that would be used to address the current problems.
Reacting to this Professor Nyeledzi Batisani who is a member of the team that produced the document said since the aim of CSA is all about maximising benefits and minimising negative trade-offs across the multiple objectives agriculture is called to address there is need to begin using climate friendly methods. “Since there is visibly less moisture due to reduced rains, farmers need to start using minimum tillage methods of ploughing to preserve the moisture, said Batisani. He also added that the programme will be promoting the use of less greenhouse gas emitting machinery to slow down climate change. 
Even though the stakeholders have welcomed the programme some feel that the absence of climate  change policy in Botswana could prove to be a stumbling block.  They argue that if the policy was present things would be a little easier. Even the document established that without a budget directly allocated to climate change it is going to be difficult task. “Botswana’s access to international climate change finance is very low, and a lot need to be done to improve the country’s readiness to access this,” reads the document.      
The CSA validation workshop brought together all relevant stakeholders to try and come up with proper ways and strategies to drive up productivity even in times climate changes effects. CSA programme is jointly implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism and is looking at a 10 year period from 2015 to 2025.  It was sponsored by among others Southern African Development Community (SADC), Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security and COMESA. 

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