Gaborone — President Mokgweetsi Masisi has declared 2017/18 an arable agriculture drought year following the findings of the Botswana Vulnerability Assessment Committee (BVAC).
The disclosure was made by the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi during a press briefing on drought and vulnerability yesterday.
Dr Venson-Moitoi said while BVAC, which conducted drought and household food security assessment and analysis annually, painted a gloomy picture on the outcome of arable agriculture for 2017/18, the year was, for several reasons, not a meteorological drought year.
Though on the agro meteorological front the country had experienced normal to above normal rains with heavy rains in some parts of the country; the harvest obtained was too low, resulting in a high anticipation of drought for this year, she said.
The unevenly distributed rains, the minister said, coupled with scorching heat that prevailed in the middle of the ploughing season, resulted in a drop in the hectorage planted.
Dr Venson-Moitoi pointed out that in the 2016/17 ploughing season 284 480 hectares were ploughed compared to 185 680 in the 2017/18 ploughing season.
Summing up the scenario, the minister stated that the drop in the hectorage ploughed translated into the country being able to produce only 22 per cent of the national cereal requirement this year.
Explaining why the drought situation only pertained to crop production, Dr Venson-Moitoi said BVAC found that for livestock, surface water was generally available in most districts.
The minister said due to the poor harvest, government had adopted several measures to mitigate the suffering of the people among them supplementary feeding for the under five, expectant and breast feeding mothers and TB patients.
She said direct feeding of children aged between six and 59 months would also be re-introduced in areas with a high prevalence of malnutrition.
She further said there would be a continuation of supplementary school feeding as well as a second meal in primary schools in all remote areas. Another measure, Dr Venson-Moitoi added, would be the increase of the Ipelegeng quota by 3 000 over the current figure of 795 070. On a different matter, the minister expressed concern about hawkers and street vendor licenses which were reportedly used inappropriately.
She said there had been reports of such licenses being used for selling alcoholic beverages contrary to laid down provisions.
Dr Venson-Moitoi also expressed discontent at the rate at which street and traffic lights were being knocked down by motorists. She said the ministry was presently engaging with relevant stakeholders as well as benchmarking in neighbouring countries to find ways of reversing the trend.
Source : BOPA