A report on the Drought and Household Food Security Assessment and Analysis conducted by the Botswana Vulnerability Assessment Committee (BVAC) on annual basis,was released on Friday. This year the exercise was undertaken from the 16th April to 25th May 2018. To this end, a seminar was held in Gaborone on Friday for stakeholders to share their experiences and propositions on issues related to drought and vulnerability. The seminar was also used to share the findings of the assessment, recommendations and remedial measures put in place to address the situation.
Agro Meteorological Situation
The 2017/18 rainfall season was characterised by two distinct patterns. During the period October to mid-January normal to below normal rainfall was experienced. This was followed by normal to above normal rains. The bulk of heavy rains were observed in the northern and eastern part of the country and areas such as Gweta and Zoroga were affected by the floods. Generally, the 2017/18 rainfall season was normal over most parts of Botswana with a tendency to moderately dry over the southwest. Nonetheless, the 2017/18 season is not a meteorological drought year even though rainfall was unevenly distributed.
Human Water Supply
The water situation in major rivers indicates that about 56% of the rivers have increased water levels compared to 2016/17 season. The current water situation is good despite relatively low water levels in some major dams, wellfields and rivers. However, most dams were over 90% of their water level capacity. The country is however anticipated to experience a non-hydrological drought.
Agriculture (Arable and Livestock Situation)
The unevenly distributed rains coupled with scotching heat wave that prevailed in the middle of the ploughing season resulted in lower hectorage planted. The estimated total area planted for 2017/18 was 185,680 ha by 34,056 farmers (19,357 females and 14,699 males) compared to 284,480 ha ploughed/planted in 2016/17 by 70 102 farmers. The area planted in commercial farms, [Pandamatenga (38,420ha) and Mosisedi (7,280 ha)] – the increase is attributed to the allocation o0f new plots in those areas. Due to unfavourable weather conditions, production was negatively affected and overall cereal production is estimated at 66,093 metric tonnes. This is 22% of the national cereal requirement (300,000 MT) and calls for importation of grains. An arable agricultural drought is therefore anticipated.
Livestock body condition in all districts indicated a significant improvement from fair to good. Generally, surface water is available for livestock in most districts and the available surface water will go a long way in relieving the overstressed underground water sources. However, the situation may change in the lean period. Some grazing areas where rated below fair. The Ministry of Agricultural Development and Security will continue to monitor the situation. A notable improvement was on the livestock mortality, which was recorded to have declined by 34%. The livestock sector is anticipated to survive until the next rainy season.
Forestry and Range Resources
The regeneration of vegetation has shown improvement mainly due to late rains that occurred from February to April 2018 in some parts of the country. However, some districts have patchy spots where the range condition is good (Kweneng, Southern, Kgalagadi and Ghanzi) whereas some were poor (Ngamiland, North-East and Kgatleng) due to effects of overgrazing, least mature grasses and effects of previous fire events.
Fire outbreaks are still anticipated in fire prone areas in 2018/19 fire season, especially in protected areas as a result of accumulated high amount of combustible biomass.
Generally, wildlife was observed to be in very good condition in most of the districts. It is worth noting that incidences of human wildlife conflict are on the increase. Communities are therefore urged to work closely with the Department of Wildlife and National Parks to put into practice mitigation measures advocated for.
The Supplementary Feeding Programme is a government intervention aiming at providing safe and quality food commodities to alleviate malnutrition amongst children under the age of 5 years, expectant, lactating, teenage mothers and TB outpatients across the 966 health facilities countrywide. Food commodities supplied in Health facilities include; Tsabana and vegetable oil for children aged 6 – 36 months, Malutu, vegetable oil and beans for the other groups.
The programme is also responsible for feeding all children in the 756 primary schools country wide. The schools food basket consist of sorghum/maize meal porridge, stewed steak with gravy, samp with beans, UHT milk and bread with peanut butter or jam.
Despite these efforts, the malnutrition among the under 5’s still remains a concern. However, it is worth noting that total underweight reduced from 4.7% in 2016 to 4.2% in 2017. The lowest total underweight prevalence was reported in North East at 2.2%, South East at 2.4% and Ngami at 2.5%.
Performance of Community Development Activities
From 55,358 beneficiaries who qualified to benefit from Poverty Eradication Programme, 29,113 have been funded. Efforts are made to ensure that those who have not received their packages are assisted.
A total of 2,709 projects were planned for implementation during the 2017/18 financial year and 43 spill over projects from 2016/17 financial year. Since April 2017, cumulatively 795,070 (96%) beneficiaries were engaged, comprising 539,364 females and 255,706 males. Youths comprised of 269,358 (34%) of the people engaged.
Due to unfavourable weather conditions, which did not facilitate positive agricultural output, rendering most households to be food insecure, His Excellency the President declared 2017/18 an arable agricultural drought year.
The following relief measures, actions and assistance will therefore be implemented.
Restocking of the strategic grain reserve to augment the 78% estimated cereal deficit and continue to monitor the situation.
Payment of 30% of the seasonal loans to farmers who got loans from Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) and National Development Bank (NDB) through the Agriculture Credit Guarantee Scheme (ACGS) to supplement their losses which are anticipated to be one third of their total produce.
Increasing of the Ipelegeng quota by 3000 slots to cater for referred eligible beneficiaries as well as inclusion of running and material costs for new projects in the budget to enable efficient implementation of the programme.
Re-introduction of direct feeding initiative for children (6 – 59 months) in localities with high prevalence of malnutrition.
Continuation of provision of supplementary school feeding to all primary schools and a second meal in all Remote Area Communities primary schools countrywide.
Continuation of provision of food rations for vulnerable groups (Under 5’s, TB Outpatients, medically selected lactating and expectant mothers) be continued.
Continuation of provision of urgent basic food relief packages (North East, Mabutsane, North West, Okavango, Kgalagadi – BORAVAST area).