It's only going to get hotter

As farmers around the country prepare to gather their failed crops and stalks from the fields, from yet another disastrous cropping season, climate experts say the summers are only going to get hotter and drier. Mmegi Correspondent SIYABONGA GAETSHAJWE writes

Farmers countrywide are exhausted from rolling years of droughts, but they have little choice. Subsistence and commercial farming activities are in the DNA of hundreds of thousands of Batswana across the country and every season they dutifully trudge to the fields, hoping the heavens are kinder to them.

In the past five seasons, farmers have suffered devastating losses on the fields and climate change experts say they should not only get used to this, but also expect the situation to worsen. The Department of Meteorological Services’ Dorcas Masisi said while temperatures had risen by one degree Celsius since 1900, between now and 2100 they would rise by four degrees. “The northern parts of the country will be more severely affected by climate change in the future,” she said at a workshop on the impact of climate change held at Sebele this week.

Global climate change scientists say Botswana will be amongst countries hardest hit by climate change in decades to come due to its position on a tapering, landlocked part of Africa, ‘squeezed’ between two oceans.

The Met Services Department has long warned that climate change interventions are urgently needed particularly in the farming sector, where the country is heavily dependent on rain-fed agriculture. The droughts of recent years and the billions of pula the government had spent both on input programmes and drought relief are spurring policymakers to step up their efforts to initialise climate change adaptation.

Botswana Farmers Association president, Diane Sibanda said farmers need to be on the forefront of inventing ideas that fit into to the ever-changing harsh climate conditions.

“It is essential to lobby for support from both the public and the private sector regarding the impact of climate change within the realm of food and livestock production.

“However, farmers should not rely on government for taking care of their projects. “The farmers association should be included in the relevant national committees where there is room to engage and escalate these issues,” she said. Another Met Services representative, Chipo Nkomazana stated that as demand for agricultural produce would always keep rising, climate smart agriculture was recommended for farmers. The type of agriculture needed going forward is one that minimises tillage or involves least possible amount of cultivation.

In addition, innovation is required around the crops being planted.

“We are recommending short duration varieties such as sorghum whose seedlings are able to survive in harsh conditions,” she said.  “Climate change presents an opportunity for technological innovation such as the use of plastic rain gauges.

“Farmers are advised to have rain gauges in their farms so that they measure and record the amount of rain for them to have assurance of whether the rain is sufficient for them to plough.  “Measuring and recording of rain amount is done at specifically 8:00am.

Rain gauges are not to be installed under a tree or beside tall buildings, as that would limit the amount of water collected.

“For horticulture, use of grey water would enable farmers to use less amount of water as rivers and dams are getting dry.” Climate change is also expected to impact livestock resulting in poorer quality, growth of new pests and diseases as well as higher mortalities.

Farmers were encouraged to brainstorm around interventions necessary in pastoral agriculture, including availability of pasture, rehabilitation of degraded ecosystems and the costs of developing healthy animals

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