By Portia Nkani, The Sunday Standard
Drought has largely been seen as a ‘normal’ part of Botswana’s climate, with multiple, multi-year droughts having been recorded since the 1950s. Perhaps this explains why the government has finally taken a decision to develop a Drought Management Strategy.
Amongst other things, the strategy will classify drought as a permanent feature thus have it included in annual government budget plans rather than treating it as emergency like it is the case now.
The news strategy is expected to be completed before the end of this financial year which already has been declared a “drought year”. During drought years like now, the government offers a 35 percent subsidy on livestock feeds; emergency food baskets in hard hit districts such as Kgalagadi, Okavango and the North East. The government also pays for food rations for children under the age of five and school feeding at primary schools.
Botswana is not the only country that is going through the drought nightmares as several other Southern African countries are enduring one of the worst droughts in decades, caused by months of over-average temperatures and erratic rainfall.
According to the international aid agency, Oxfam-an estimated 45 million people are threatened with hunger by a severe drought strangling wide stretches of southern Africa.
Nellie Nyang’wa, Southern Africa Director for the international aid agency, Oxfam, from the report published earlier this month, said “We are witnessing millions of already poor people facing extreme food insecurity and exhausting their reserves because of compounding climate shocks that hit already vulnerable communities hardest. They need help urgently. The scale of the drought devastation across southern Africa is staggering.”
Emergency food deliveries are planned for parts of South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe and other countries hard hit by a combination of low rainfall and high temperatures.
Parts of Zimbabwe have had the lowest rainfall since 1981, contributing to making more than 5.5 million at risk of extreme food insecurity, Oxfam said in a report.
Zambia’s rich maize-growing area has been hit hard and exports are now banned; 2.3 million people there are food-insecure, according to Oxfam and the Zambia Red Cross. The drought is also worsening food availability in Angola, Malawi, Mozambique, Madagascar and Namibia, Oxfam said.
Southern Africa has received normal rainfall in just one of the past five growing seasons, which particularly hits the small-scale farmers who depend on rain for their crops, not leaving out Botswana.
The drought has also affected the region’s wildlife. Coming closer to home, in October last month, Botswana recorded more than 100 elephants deaths in two months at Chobe National Park due to drought.
Already the extremely low water levels in the Okavango Delta are proving to be a challenge in terms of water-based activities for a number of operators in the northern part of the country.
In the north and north western part of the country, areas such as Maun and surrounding areas could face a long spell of water shortage following the drying up of Thamalakane River some months ago. Over 130,000 elephants and other wild animals around this area are dependent on the water from the Okavango Delta.
For the hospitality industry this dire situation will impact negatively on their revenue as there are no more water activities that form part of the companies’ source of revenues.