Kgosi Ezekiel Joel Masilo, the Senior Sub Tribal Authority for Bobirwa waxed eloquent last week at the University of Botswana with his narrative of the impact that climate change has wrought in his sub-district.
The ocassion was the presentation of the findings of the five-year Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions (ASSAR) project – a large-scale research consortium that involved six countries in Africa (Botswana included) and three states in India. Kgosi Masilo got involved in the project in 2017 and admits to learning the importance of planning and that Bobirwa communities can adapt to the impact of climate change only if they “work together”.
He said Bobirwa is experincing high temperatures as a result of changes in climate. Before then he said they used to hear about climate change and global warming and thought nothing about it. “It was just stories happeneinig to other people and other communities.These days it is real it has even affected our rain patterns”, he said. “We knew that in certain months it would rain but it is no longer happening. Even our elders (mathogo tshweu) are confiused because what they knew is no longer happenening”, he said of how climate change is distorting indigenous knowledge of reading peculiar changes in our natural habitat and observing the galaxy.
He implored Babirwa to adapt and to do so fast lest they be left hbehind. They can manage this if they practise climate smart agriculture and abandon the old ways of ploughing. He called on farmers associations to take up government interventions and programmes suggested by the agricultural demongtsrors and extension officers. “We see people practsiing conservation agriculture whereby we are advised to conserve moisture and to practice new ways of farming”he said. Climate change has also affacted wildlifein Bobirwa. Kgosi Masilo said they are next to wildlife game reserves like Mashatu and also experience movement of animals from across the border (Zimbabwe).
He saisd climate change has causde animals to move from their traditional areas and are now encroachiing into human areas thereby leading to conflict. Elelphants particularly, are increasingly moving inland and into cattleposts, farm lands and even villages.
The elephants destroy watering points at cattle posts and fences. Even then, “we are told we should co-exist with thise animals, but they are not animals that can be tamed or put in a kraal”. They also affect vegetation because they compete with their livestock for pasture. He said the elephants have incfreased in numbers as a result of the hunting ban of 2014.
“Our livelilihoods as a community have largely been affcted. People along the border no longer plough because elephants and predators harass them.They fear for their lives”. Kgosi Masilo said they are also experiencing reduction in other sectors such as basketry. People that relied on palm tree leaves to make artefacts such as baskets and other items as a way of living can no longer do so on a large scale because they fear to go into the bush.
Yet another stressor is foot and mouth disease. Gpsi Masilo said they are still “in the red” despite the suite of government programmes to respond to this scourge.“It’s a nightmare to fight FMD because animals from Zimbabwe have cut the border fence which has leed to free movement of anmals across the border. This has also led to cross-border crime. Zimbabweans are stealing our cattle as a result”he said about the double trouble.
Bobirwa is also prone to droughts. In fact minister for presidential affairs, governance and public administration Nonofo Molefhi revealed that the sub district was the first to receive drought relief in Botswana. Kgosi Masilo said as a result of the competition between cattle, animals and people for the limited land resource, the young and able bodied are migrating to cities leaving behind dependents – the young and old. Kgosi Masilo said interventions like climate smart agricilture and early warning systems for farmers that are still engaged in arable farming are needed.
He said the community also recommended culling to reduce the high number of elephants. As a parting shot he suggested that electrified farms be set up along Shashe River between Zimbabwe and Botswana to serve as a barrier for elephants and to also reduce cross border crime and the scourge of FMD. Present at the presentation of the research findings were UB Vice Chancellor Prof. David Norris; Assistant district commissioner Lerato Sebola, Principal Investigator Prof. Hilary Masundire and other members of UB faculty staff.