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Climate change doesn’t work on our schedule

In a recent edition, we revealed how government walked back on a policy change under which it had decided to limit the amount of support it would give to the planting of maize this season.

For the first time since ISPAAD’s inception, government had decided that of the five hectares it provides communal farmers with inputs for, it would only support two hectares for maize. The balance would have to be alternatives.

The idea, as explained by the Agriculture ministry technocrats, was to push farmers towards alternatives and reduce the domination of maize, a crop that has suffered the worst of the strengthening climate change effects in the past decade.

Farmers, some of them grouped under powerful associations, were able to force government to U-turn from this position just before Christmas and as it stands, farmers are free to approach ISPAAD for maize over their entire five hectares.

The policy reversal is unfortunately consistent with government’s dithering response to climate change, an approach that is exemplified by the continuing failure to produce the long awaited climate change policy.

Many of our peers in the continent have not only produced such policies, but also used them to access much needed funding on the global stage for climate change interventions, something Botswana is yet to broach.

This is despite the fact that nearly all credible global studies show Botswana as one of the areas that will be worst affected by the ravages of climate change in the form of rapidly declining rainfall and increasing temperatures.

Many of the manifestations of climate

change have already hit our shores, as seen in the higher frequency of droughts and heat-waves in the last decade, but those charged with building resilience and leading adaptation appear stuck in stasis.

Even in the smallest or least expensive of interventions, government’s climate change response has not been impressive. For instance, it had been proposed that the development code be amended to force new homebuilders to include rain gutters and some form of wastewater reuse. It had also been suggested that limits be placed on the number of bathrooms or en-suites for new homes.

None of these interventions have taken off and yet these are the “softer” climate change interventions, when compared to the mountains that have to be climate in building resilience and adaptation in the agricultural sector.

It would appear, government’s willingness to tackle climate change is triggered by crises such as Gaborone’s 2015/16 water crisis. This would explain why projects that dominated the headlines at the time such as the Chobe-Zambezi pipeline and the Lesotho Highlands scheme, are rarely mentioned these days.

Budget priorities and needs will change from year to year, but unfortunately for us, we cannot dictate or slow down climate change’s inevitable schedule.

Today’s thought

“In reality, climate change is actually the biggest thing that’s going on every single day.”

 – Bill McKibben




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