Lingering drought to reduce harvests of Botswana farmers

Lying 70 km west of Botswana capital Gaborone is a series of communal crop farms owned by people from neighbouring villages.


by Lesego Ngwenya

These have formed an integral part of the community’s livelihoods, with crops cultivated at the lands, and livestock, mostly cattle reared at the cattle post.


Despite sizeable rural-urban migration measured by Statistics Botswana over the past decades having significantly affected this lifestyle, for some it remains a way of life from season to season.

That is why arable farmer Oreeditse Sekgabo is a worried man after the country’s meteorology department released a forecast of deficit in rainfall earlier this month.

Botswana have for a long time maintained a culture of having three main homesteads: moraka (cattle post), masimo (lands) and the village.

A deficit in rainfall is expected over the coming rainfall season of Botswana from October to March mainly due to the potentially persistent strong El Nino conditions, Botswana’s Department of Meteorological Services (DMS) said earlier this month.

According to the report, an extremely dry season is predicted for the South Eastern regions of the country, where Sekgabo’s farm lies, which predicted to be the worst dry season for the past 34 years, it revealed, adding that the rest of the country will be moderately dry.

Like many in nearly farms, Sekgabo wakes up every morning looking up to the skies with high expectations of rain. “We will remain hopeful until the rainy season is over. You never know, one day good rains might come. We are ready to go ahead and plough,” Sekgabo told Xinhua in his farm.

The 62 year old has inherited the 150 hectare family farm almost 25 years back. He has fond memories of the farm producing massive yields of sorghum, maize, water melons and beans from since he was a child.

“My grandparents tilted this land for many years and we used to harvest a lot of food to last us until the next season,” he recalled with a gloomy face looking at the large stretch of dry red soil in the farm.

The last ten years had been a rollercoaster in the farm due to high heat and poor rainfalls that have been experienced, he said, adding that the farm was the family’s way of life and they will be left in poverty if they are not able to harvest anything.

In June, Botswana President Ian Khama declared the whole country is drought stricken together with adopted relief measures and actions for the period July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016.

In many good seasons, Sekgabo made enough harvest to feed his family and sell some grains to the Botswana Agricultural Marketing Board (BAMB) the local store for grain. He also acknowledged government’s efforts to assist communal farmers deal with difficult conditions they faced.

The Botswana government provides free fencing of farms, as well as paying for tractors to tilt the land and assist farmers plough. In addition they assist with control of pests and quelea birds, something Sekgabo said was great assistance to them.

Sekgabo’s concerns are shared by neighbouring pastoral farmer Oteng Kelesitse. He told Xinhua that as pastoral farmers, their worst fear is losing livestock due to continued drought, adding that the past two seasons have been becoming drier as never before forcing them to travel long distances in search of pasture and water for their livestock.

Kelesitse said he has seen his herd of over 250 cattle diminish over the last five years as he is now left with around 70 cattle. Droughts have made it very expensive for him to own cattle as he relied on rain water and free range pastures for his cattle.

“We can’t afford money to dig a diesel powered borehole, and it is expensive to pay for your cattle to drink water at someone’s borehole,” he said.

Kelesitse sell cattles to the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) that export Botswana beef to make living.
“Everyone is always looking forward to a good rainy season but we are slowly losing hope, things are not looking good. Our cattle are dying due to thirst and hunger, so we are all worried,” he said.

The poor rainfall has led to an unsatisfactory overall Southern African Development Community (SADC) region food security situation for the 2015/16 marketing year, SADC food and agriculture director Margaret Nyirenda said in a media brief in August.

The regional cereal availability dropped 22 percent compared to the last year’s availability. This year’s maize availability also has a deficit, said the director. Enditem

Source: Xinhua

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