President Mokgweetsi Masisi has declared 2017/18 an arable agricultural drought year, following the second drought assessment in six months. Farmers will receive a range of subsidies, including a 25% discount on livestock feed, as a result of a disastrous season. Mmegi correspondent GOITSEMODIMO KAELO reports
Drought and Household Food Security Assessment and Analysis report conducted in April/May this year found that a poor harvest from 2017/18 had left hundreds of thousands of families across the country at the mercy of government’s emergency drought relief programme.
Now an update of that report conducted between October and November has established that the situation has worsened with livestock and wildlife also affected. The second assessment was carried out to determine changes that may have taken place subsequent to the first one.
The first assessment prompted government to set aside more than P850 million for cereal imports, feeding of orphans and other vulnerable people as well as interventions around preventing wildfires, amongst several interventions.
Government will now have to dig even deeper into its coffers to provide subsidies for livestock feeds as well as drilling boreholes to provide water for wildlife due to severe effects of drought. This time around, a budget of P54 million has been allocated.
The latest report year shows that grazing conditions have depreciated in most parts of the country due to inadequate forage caused by lack of rainfall.
The report indicates that because of the extreme weather conditions, which resulted in poor grazing conditions, livestock conditions are anticipated to deteriorate.
Following the latest assessment, government has declared 2017/18 an arable agricultural drought year.
“In view of this, in addition to the approved relief measure that effected in July 2018 and ending in June 2019, interventions amounting to P54 million are to be implemented effective December 1, 2018 until March 31, 2019. The ministry of agricultural development and food security will provide a 25% subsidy on livestock feeds, vaccines and drugs for farmers,” stated the report.
This 25% applies on recommended locally procured feed stuffs such as Composite feeds, drought pellets, coarse salt, Bran (maize, sorghum and wheat 20-50kg), processed lablab and Lucerne bales (20-30kg) while those to be procured outside the country include Di-Calcium phosphate (50kg), Vitamins ADEK and injectable dewomers, botulism vaccine.
Rocky Gofhamodimo, the editor of Farmer’s Review magazine and a passionate farmer, says government and farmers should change tact and review the idea of declaring drought on a short-term basis.
“We have been declaring drought every year in the last few years and we need to change and look at a longer strategy because we can see that climate patterns have changed,” he says.
“There are no rains every year and therefore drought. Farmers should also not wait for government to declare drought before they act. We should come up with strategies to mitigate or beat this thing.”
Gofhamodimo believes the situation is worse this year for pastoral farmers than arable ones since “it is very expensive to feed livestock”.
He says although welcome, the 25% subsidy is not enough as suppliers start reducing quality or increasing prices.
According to Gofhamodimo, normally the country receives its first rainfall in October. But that has not been the case in recent years with the first rains occurring late in December.
“The quicker farmers accept that there is a shift in seasons, the better.
“This shift of late rains has forced many communal farmers to abandon their fields and it has left people dependent on government handouts.
“Already Mosisidi farmers have said that they will not plough this season because of the late rains. The situation is really bad and I know for sure that the Botswana Agricultural Marketing Board will struggle to meet its target of grains, especially maize this season.”