Botswana By Sefhako Sefhako Maun In an effort to increase food security and rural house hold income in Botswana, UNDP had on Tuesday (November 8), donated fire-fighting equipment and climate smart agriculture tools to subsistence farmers in Ngamiland district.
This initiative, according to UNDP acting programme specialist, Mr Mmolotsi Mokotedi, was in line with their mandate on enhancing sustainable development and poverty eradication.
Mr Mokotedi who was speaking during the handing over of the equipment admitted that agriculture contributed immensely to the communities’ livelihood but the dilemma was its vulnerability to droughts and rainfall variability.
For instance, he said during the past last 25 years, the country was affected by at least five major droughts.
“This left the poorest and the disadvantaged groups’ food insecure as they tend to depend on climate-sensitive livelihoods such as agriculture, which makes them disproportionately vulnerable,” said Mr Mokotedi.
In this context, Mr Mokotedi commended government for its high levels of financial and extension support to the agricultural sector to address its vulnerability, through programmes such as ISPAAD as well as availing credit opportunities for farmers through Citizen Entrepreneurship Development Agency (CEDA) and National development Bank (NDB).
However, he said this needed to be complimented by support and other innovative ideas from variety of stakeholders including development partners and non-state actors in order to enhance agricultural production and reduce the vulnerability of small scale farmers.
“I strongly believe all of us must join hands to ensure that we take Botswana to a point where the rural households are food secure, and can sustainably feed themselves and complement the market with surplus farm produce and the value added agricultural by-products for local economic development,” explained Mr Mokotedi.
Further he said it was on this basis that UNDP through the Sustainable Land Management (SLM) Ngamiland Project in partnership with department of crop production introduced conservation agriculture to the small-scale farmers in the district as an initiative to capacitate communities for food security of environmentally friendly methods and implements.
The process, he said included different types of minimum tillage farming implements meant to assist small scale farmers.
As for veldt fires, Mr Mokotedi said the frequency of fires in Ngamiland has to be reduced to at least one in three years to allow for recovery of vegetation post fires.
He said UNDP was supporting Tsodilo Enclave fire management strategy produced by department of forestry and range resources through capacity building for communities and the provision of fire-fighting equipment set through the SLM projects.
“It is our wish that the equipment will be used effectively to reduce the frequency of fires in Tsodilo enclave area as well as help improve the quality of the range,” he said.
Government has urged Malawi Defence Force (MDF) soldiers who are deployed to guard Viphya Plantation against destruction to be vigilant by dealing with the perpetrators accordingly.
Msaka (left) walking in the plantantion
Minister of Mines, Energy and Natural Resources, Bright Msaka, made the statement Tuesday after touring the plantation, especially areas under the jurisdiction of Total Land Care and Raiply Malawi Limited.
Incidences of fire destroying numerous hectares of trees every year have been a never-ending song for the Viphya Plantation for over a decade now. The plantation is shared by two districts of Mzimba andNkhata Bay.
However, the issue has raged on in spite of efforts by government and its stakeholders to plant trees and guard them against destruction. Reports have indicated that more often, the fires that destroy the plantation are deliberately set rather than accidental.
The minister said government is aware that some disgruntled workers and individuals whose licences were cancelled are the ones setting fires in the plantation.
People need to know that this is a national asset, so if the department of forestry has denied somebody a licence for the reasons best known by the department, they are supposed to understand instead of setting fires, he said.
To mitigate the challenge, Msaka said government deployed MDF soldiers in protected forests across the country as a way of scaring people from destroying the plantations.
In spite of the effort, some people are still setting parts of the Viphya Forest on fire, regardless of the size of trees.
We have directed the Malawi Defence Force solders to deal with anyone setting bush fires and operating in the forest without licences and that the law will take its course [against them], he warned.
However, Msaka commended Raiply Malawi Limited and Total Land Care for utilizing the forest sustainably and adding value to the trees from the forest.
In the past, we have been cutting trees or sawing and selling them abroad at a very cheap price. We behaved like a prodigal son who squandered all what his father gave him.
We need to be very careful and be proud of what we inherited so that we can benefit from it and pass on those benefits to the next generation, advised the minister.
Earlier, Chief Executive Officer of Raiply Malawi Limited, Thomas Oomen, cited bush fires and encroachment as major challenges facing his company.
This year alone, we have lost about 526 hectares [of trees] to bush fires, unfortunately, most of these trees are below 15 years old but they are supposed to be harvested at the age of 25. This is dooming our future, said Oomen.
Chikangawa Forest consists of seven plantations comprising 53,000 hectares.
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