Since independence in 1966 we have demonstrated strong economic growth, with nearly 9% growth recorded year on year for more than four decades. Historically this growth has been driven primarily by the nation's natural resources: mining, nature-based tourism, and agriculture. The development of these resources have been supported by sound macroeconomic policies, strong financial management and the implementation of incentives to attract private enterprise against a background of political stability. Recognising the importance of the environment to securing this sustainable growth, this has been accomplished with relatively little environmental degradation or loss of biodiversity. Although the economy has been on a regressive mode in the past eight years, there are elements that if properly done, will restore growth again.
Reflecting on these economic achievements, levels of poverty have been halved over the past 20 years and there have been substantial improvements in a range of social indicators. However, there are a number of persistent challenges. Just under 6.5% of the population is estimated to live on less than US$1 per day. High levels of income inequality and persistent unemployment, at around 17.8% of the population continue to disproportionately afflict the youth. Despite significant advancements and one of the most progressive campaigns, HIV and AIDS continues to have devastating impact across the nation.
Our next focus is to enhance the quality of life of all people who live in Botswana rural areas. The primary target would be to reduce poverty and improve in rural livelihoods, through popular participation in the development planning and implementation process, as a basis for broad-based, balanced and sustainable development. There are abundant natural resources in Botswana. Think of the fish in northern Botswana! The Revised National Policy for rural development Government paper of 2002 clearly articulates what ought to be done. My qualm is we are good in writing legislatives and policies but the implementation process is very hard.
(i) Need for protection of existing land rights for the marginalized people, and vulnerable groups, including widows, orphans and remote area communities. Provisions of stringent laws to protect land rights of vulnerable groups, widows, orphans, RACs, Land has provided the means for food, shelter, identity, and survival for indigenous peoples for a long time. The importance of indigenous land conservation must be recognized by national governments and international entities. International bodies and organizations such as the UN, IUCN and CBD already have acknowledged indigenous people's role in the conservation of natural resources and land. This could be achieved by Discourage dispossession of their land rights and sensitise the members of the Remote Area Communities on the importance of land rights and ownership, as they sell their land. Councils are expected to develop comprehensive and integrated land plans and water management strategies (through DLUPU) which are gender sensitive and environmental friendly. Therefore, land has to be reserved for local municipal
(ii) Reverse the urban rural drift. Globally the nexus between migration and development has remained an issue under vigorous academic debate. Therefore, the process of people migrating to other areas in search of a better life is not a novel one. What has however gained currency is the increasing voluntary movement in quest of better quality of life by low-skill and low-wage workers as well as high-skill and high-wage workers from less developed rural areas to more developed urban areas, especially among the poor in the developing countries. Rural-urban drift could be curbed by:
1) Land reform, security of tenure for farmers and creating medium sized commercial farms. The government helps in the creation of hundreds of thousands of 100 hectare farms, and helps in basic infrastructure creation, rainwater catchment and basic machinery.
2) In urban areas, it should be possible for people to get jobs from local companies. That means there has to be massive government (legislative, infrastructure, even financial) support for the Batswana to help them expand and officialise their businesses.
3) Decentralisation of government. This involvers redistributing authority, responsibility and financial resources for providing public services from the national government to local units of government agencies, sub national government or semi-autonomous public authorities or corporation. This would make government jobs available at the district or council level, instead of the ministerial level. Putting more money into actual service delivery would also make more jobs available.
(iii) Harvesting natural resources to help rural economies
The term "natural resources" designates renewable and non-renewable resource stocks that are found in nature, such as mineral resources, energy resources, soil resources, water resources and biological resources. Renewable natural resources are resources from renewable natural stocks that, after exploitation, can return to their previous stock levels by natural processes of growth or replenishment. Examples of renewable resources include timber from forest resources, freshwater resources, land resources, wildlife resources such as fish, agricultural resources. Non-renewable natural resources are exhaustible natural resources whose natural stocks cannot be regenerated after exploitation or that can only be regenerated or replenished by natural cycles that are relatively slow at human scale. Examples include metals and other minerals such as industrial and construction minerals, and fossil energy carriers. Natural resources, both renewable and non-renewable, and ecosystem services are a part of the real wealth of nations. They are the natural capital out of which other forms of capital are made. They contribute towards fiscal revenue, income, and poverty reduction. Sectors related to natural resources use provide jobs and are often the basis of livelihoods in poorer communities. Owing to this fundamental importance of natural resources, they must be managed sustainably. The poor generally depend upon natural resources directly for their livelihoods, especially the rural poor. Consequently, policies that improve natural resources management can have immediate and meaningful poverty reduction impacts
For example Strategy 4 of the objective three of the Elephant management policy of Botswana as read with strategy 6 of the rural development policy can help create markets and jobs at the rural areas!
Two prime activities
i) Make a very robust and strong case for opening trade in elephant products by demonstrating effective control of illegal hunting, monitoring elephant populations, hunting operations (safaris) and problem animal control activities and maintain complete transparency in all activities regarding the elephant management strategy
ii) Carry out a feasibility study of the elephant market for elephant meat and other products. If they prove to be a market for elephant products, undertake feasibility studies on the development of an abattoir for processing elephant products and on the development of a tannery
(iii) The much effort we gave to mineral exploitation especially diamonds should be given to other resources such as wildlife and fish. Then Botswana will be great again. If we fail in this regard then DOLOLO.