We associate ourselves with President Ian Khama's plea to farmers during the National Agricultural Show not to be discouraged by the continued dry spells that hit the country but come up with ways of adapting to these circumstances.
Being a semi-arid country we have come a long way to be discouraged by repeated dry spells. That these droughts negatively affect farmers, particularly subsistence or small scale farmers is common knowledge. We therefore need to adapt the resilience shown by our forefathers when faced with such predicament, as they always lived to survive one drought after another. Batswana should adopt farming practices that would mitigate the severe effects drought associated with climate change, rather than surrender and abandon agriculture because of droughts.
The 2015 National Agriculture show was held under the theme ‘practising smart agriculture to combat the effect of climate change’. The theme could not have been more relevant as it calls for farmers to change their traditional ways of ploughing. true to what Khama said drought does not mean it is the end of the world and we should not surrender and abandon agriculture just because of it. We have an option of changing the ways we farm to produce even more food under these circumstances. According to Khama the situation the country is currently experiencing is a lesson that farming practices needs to be modified to fit the current environment. He pointed out that this is an opportunity for farmers to become innovative and resolve to new methods and technologies to produce under trying circumstances. We cannot agree more.
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The example of Israel used by the president is most relevant. He said the country receives less rainfall than Botswana and yet they are able to produce sufficient food for themselves and for exports. The Israelis are managing this because of their innovation and technology they use. This should be a challenge and motivation to Batswana to start being innovative to produce enough food for the nation.
Even as we say this we are aware of challenges faced by local farmers such as infrastructure development that could work against production. We hope government will stop paying lip service and demonstrate her commitment to helping the agriculture sector to improve national food security. It can no longer be acceptable that livestock farmers do not benefit from the agriculture credit scheme like their counterparts in arable farming. Among other benfits arable farmers are also enjoying VAT exclusion while livestock farmers do not. We learn that the agriculture credit scheme is currently under review by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning and hope the process could be completed soon.
Even then, government alone cannot overcome the challenges and therefore all stakeholders need to come on board to help. As much as climate change affects production the large amount of land that remains uncultivated also have a very big contribution. Farmers should start ploughing and planting their lands to improve the country’s food production. It is disappointing that even fields in proximity of suitable infrastructure remain fallow while their owners either wallow in poverty or queue up in cities and towns looking for menial jobs. People should go back to farming and utilised the numerous assistance programmes that government has put in place to help them plough and plant their fields to produce food for themselves to sustain local economies and even for export.
Although the past ploughing season has been a total failure there is still more that can be done to improve food production. As the saying goes "in every adversity there is an opportunity".