Batswana dismiss backyard gardening as "a big joke"

Staff Writer
Backyard gardening, as a poverty eradication initiative, has been described as "a big joke" by participants in public consultations on the 2011/2012 national budget conducted by the Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (BOCONGO).

The participants said President Ian Khama's initiative was ill conceived and does not add any value to the current efforts to combat extreme poverty in Botswana.

A participant in Selebi-Phikwe described backyard gardening as "a big unsustainable joke...a project that cannot generate much income for those involved in it because it is not attractive". The report says a number of concerns were raised about government's agricultural programmes becuase most people were not in favour of the 'one size fits all' approach. It says several speakers in Tsabong pointed out that the country's different geographical conditions should be taken into consideration in the design of agricultural programmes.

They pointed out that the soil and climatic conditions of the Kgalagadi District do not favour the backyard gardening. Most parts of Kgalagadi are sandy, with poor soil nutrients, inadequate rainfall and limited water supply.

"Because of our geographic location, agric-based poverty eradiation programmes such as ISPAAD do not work for us," said a participant in Tsabong. "Arable farming is impossible in Kgalagadi because of poor soils, extreme heat and water shortages. We prefer

to rear livestock as it is adaptable to our climatic conditions."

Similar sentiments were raised by participants who attended the budget dialogues in Maun where one individual outlined the importance of targeting and addressing unique situations and problems of particular areas in the budget.

Others said it is essential for government to consider changing environmental scopes because Ngamiland is no longer suitable for cattle rearing due to the endemic nature of foot and mouth disease in the area. The participants expressed concerns that government is still failing to develop new and robust initiatives aimed at poverty eradication and for using old strategies that have failed to take people out of absolute poverty. Some of the projects that came in for criticism are Ipelegeng, the football constituency league and ISPAAD and now backyard gardening.

The BOCONGO analysis said the schemes were badly conceptualised and not informed by any empirical research findings or best practice anywhere.  "To this end, such programmes have been downgraded by many critics not as national priorities but President Khama's pet projects," the report concludes.



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