Botswana food security under threat

Nicholas Mokwena
Wednesday, 17 February 2016
Famine may be looming up in Botswana due to drastically reduced rainfall patterns. Famine may be looming up in Botswana due to drastically reduced rainfall patterns.

Lead Researcher at Botswana Institute for Technology Research and Innovation (BITRI) professor Nnyaladzi Batisani says the current drought combined with volatility in global markets poses a serious challenge to the country’s food security.

In his position paper titled ‘Climate variability, yield instability and global recession: the multi-stressor to food security in Botswana’ Prof Batisani notes that changes in rainfall patterns and droughts increase the likelihood of short-run crop failures and long–run production declines causing food insecurity.

“ Just like in 2008/09 where food price increase and financial crisis co-acted to amplify the already dire climate induced food insecurity in the country, the same is likely to happen this year. Although the shortfall in domestic food production could be met through imports, the slump in the country’s major imports during the same drought periods means that the country may be financially constrained to meet this deficit”, he said.

The professor said the impending recession due to among other factors the slowing down of China’s economy is likely to worsen the food security situation.

The results of his study show that in the past 31 year period considered, rainfall has been decreasing both annually and monthly across Botswana. Even though communities may have developed resilience to the worsening drought situation it may still be difficult to ‘adapt perfectly to agricultural drought’. “The results clearly call on government to help dry land farmers to adapt to the increasing climate variability and yield instability through timely dissemination of information such as weather forecast. Furthermore, mainstreaming climate change in the broader economic agenda, rather than taking a narrow agricultural perspective may be a viable option for achieving food security under this financially constrained environment”.

Monthly rainfall trends for eight stations over the last 30 years, he said are generally towards drier conditions, especially during the months of January, February and March being the latter part of the crucial rainy season. Prof Batisani said Lobatse, Molepolole and Serowe show significantly decreasing rainfall trends of 22.5, 22.3 and 20.5 mm/month for January, and Tsabong has a significantly decreasing trend of 21.9 mm/month in February.

“There is also an especially strong trend towards decreasing rainfall in the late-inter/early-spring dry season. August has significantly decreasing trends for Francistown, Lobatse, Molepolole and Tsabong, September has significantly decreasing trends for Francistown, Lobatse, Molepolole and Serowe, and October has a significantly decreasing trend in Francistown.”

The professor stated in his findings that maize yield displays the highest instability in the east while sorghum displays the highest instability in the eastern and northeast parts of the country. He explained that likewise, rainfall shows similar spatial instability as maize and sorghum with the eastern part having the highest instability.

“The country’s major mineral exports plummeted in the first quarters of 2009 leading to negative growth in real GDP and subsequently negative balance of payments. To compound these financial woes, domestic food prices rose sharply during the same period following behind the 2007 – 2008 global food price increase.”

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