UNDP, BITRI, Ministry of Agriculture join forces in pursuit of smart agriculture
In an effort to drive Botswana to becoming food self-sufficient and secure, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Botswana Innovation Technology and Research Institute (BITRI) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MADFS) recently unveiled a manual on Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA).
The manual was put together after the realisation that climate change will continue to affect farmer’s yields; thus negatively affecting the local food security and ultimately self-sufficiency.
Launched on Thursday 11th July 2019, the manual titled ‘Climate Smart Agriculture: Insights from Practice’ is a product formulated through the different stakeholders (BITRI, UNDP through the Global Environment Facility (GEF)/ Small Grants Programme (GEF/SGP), MADFS as well as smallholder farmers in the Kgalagadi South and Borolong Sub Districts.
According to a communique from BITRI, the agricultural sector has experienced a range of vulnerabilities and high variability of climatic conditions across the country which affects especially smallholder farmers.
Through the ‘Insights from Practice’ CSA manual will be rolled out to famers through the Ministry which has a database of all the farmers in the country.
“Climate change has been regarded as a serious natural disaster that leads to food insecurity and poverty due to the loss of crops and livestock,” reads the document in part.
In launching the booklet, BITRI and the other stakeholders held a dialogue to discuss CSA as a solution to global warming, of which climate change is a result.
The dialogue also aimed to build resilience of the local communities, especially the smallholder farmers to speak to the impacts of climate change that they have personally experienced in their various regions as well as come up with ways to mitigate the impacts.
The half-day dialogue session and manual launch are some of the initiatives under the GEF/SGP three-year supported project titled, ‘Climate variability and change risks and management: development of decision support systems for dry-land small scale arable farmers’.
The project targeted small-scale arable farmers in the Borolong and Kgalagadi South Sub-Districts and was implemented by BITRI in partnership with Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security.
The session’s other focus was to equip and increase knowledge to planning managers and farmers on how to minimise losses and improve their resilience to climate change through adaptation of climate-smart agriculture (CSA) in preparation for the next ploughing seasons.
The dialogue brought together participants from government, development partners, the private sector, research institutions, civil society and farmers.
The key themes discussed looked at What is Climate Smart Agriculture, it’s Theory and Practice, The role of climate information in up-scaling adaptation as well as the role of the private sector in up-scaling adoption science and innovation for agricultural development.
Speaking during the dialogue held at Tlotlo Hotel Conference center, BITRI Associate Researcher-Climate Change and Society, Kgomotsego Motlopi said food self-sufficiency and security remain major challenges for Botswana as farmers grapple with unpredictable climate changes caused by global warming.
The book is a culmination of a USD 50 000.00 grant from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grants Programme. It is titled ‘Climate Smart Agriculture insights from practice’ and was handed over to the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security during the launch.
Speaking to the project conducted between the 40 farmers from Kgalagadi South and Borolong collectively, which she was actively involved in facilitating, Motlopi said the farmers realised an increase in production of food and also recorded an improvement in the plants’ resilience to the harsh climate.
She, however, noted that the private sector, which supplies farming essentials, should bridge the information gap by dedicating to teach farmers about their products and how they can be used effectively for increased food production.
“For visible gains in interventions such as CSA, there needs extensive training to be done,” she advised. Motlopi decried that though bearing great results, the CSA project needed more than three years as results started showing towards the beginning of the third year. She said funders such as the UNDP through its various programmes need to know that results for such projects come slowly as the better part of the first year was dedicated to sensitising farmers about the project and convert them towards smart agricultural practices that are climate conscious.
“Climate change is a reality and this booklet will help farmers produce food despite the challenge,” said UNDP Resident Representative, Jacinta Barrins, at the launch. She said the small grant has impacted a group of farmers and let to the formation of the booklet, which the Ministry of Agriculture will disseminate to farmers throughout the country through its extensive networks.
She said lessons in the booklet if practiced and followed, will make agriculture a centre of production in the country.
Botswana Institute for development Policy Analysis (BIDPA) Representative, Patrick Malope, noted that the government’s agricultural policies currently in place, do not support CSA though they were formulated in 1991.
He called for the updating of the policies, acknowledging that the agriculture policy is currently under review.
Malope also stressed the point that in order to feed Botswana and export food to the region, local farmers have to evolve and adapt to new farming practices and technologies instead of the ones they have adopted over the years, advising that changing to new technologies and adapting to the effects of climate change is the only way for the country to produce enough food to feed the nation.
He hinted that for the uptake of farming by locals, government should consider outlining incentives to encourage farmers to take up CSA practices.
For his part, Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security CSA Coordinator, Douglas Machacha initiated that the stakeholders in the formation of the booklet should consider producing the same for cattle and other animals. He was presenting on ‘Climate Change Negotiations and what it means for Agriculture in Botswana.’
Machacha said a lot of people in the country want to participate in the food production process but do not necessarily have interest in arable farming. “These farmers also need to have the knowledge of how to survive climate change,” he said.