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Botswana responds to improving food insecurity caused by poor rains

Meekaeel Siphambili

Gaborone, Botswana-

May, 30 2019

 

 

The Botswana Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security is responding to food insecurity caused by poor rains and the devastating fall armyworm which has attacked some of the country’s regions last april.

The government aided by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation and the Japanese government has launched an emergency response to improving food and nutrition insecurity caused by climate change and promoting sound pest and pesticide management.

The Japanese government awarded the Botswana government a grant of 500 thousand US Dollars to strengthen the country’s agricultural sector through awareness, surveillance and early warning, impact assessment and sustainable management and coordination.

Helping food security

The pest and pesticide management launch follows the recent regional level launching which was on 19 February 2019 in Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. The launch came after the fall army worm was identified in 2017 in the Kweneng district, 70 to 80 kilometers west of the capital city of Gaborone. According to the country’s agricultural ministry, the fall armyworm has now spread to other districts.

Patrick Ralotsia, Minister of Agricultural Development and Food Security says the agricultural sector in Botswana has been hard hit by this pest which is destructive to maize and sorghum.

“The fall armyworm has greatly affected the livelihoods of farmers in Botswana resulting in low yield and financial losses. If not urgently controlled, the fall armyworm will detrimentally affect crop production resulting in the country being food insecure. The food insecurity will contribute to the food bill increasing significantly,” says Patrick Ralotsia.

He said the outbreaks of pests like the fall armyworm represent a major obstacle to increased cereal production, food and nutrition security in Botswana and it is a challenge that has to be urgently addressed to improve agricultural production. Food security, nutrition security, employment opportunities,   economic development, trade and increased resilience to shocks and challenges are alleged to be what Botswana is increasing facing according to the minister.

Understanding the disease in agriculture

“The fall armyworm is new in Botswana and one of the key challenges farmers face is the lack of awareness and information. Effective dissemination of information of information on this pest is of paramount importance. Commercial chemical pesticides alone pose health risks to build up of pesticides resistance and higher economic losses,” says Minister of Agricultural Development and Food Security.

Patrick Ralotsia says misinformed usage of chemical pesticides could result in the killing of potential indigenous natural enemies of the fall armyworm and other pests. The damages caused by fall armyworm and the use of pesticides require an integrated approach with various stakeholders from farmers to policy makers.

The Japanese Ambassador to Botswana, Kozo Takeda said he is aware that Batswana (citizens of Botswana) depend on agriculture for their livelihood and with the effects of climate change and low rainfall, Batswana face challenges in their harvest which will affect food security in the country.

“The government of Japan through Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI) has set some priorities in the agriculture sector. We believe this project will promote Japan’s efforts in commitments to increasing agricultural as well as enhancing nutritional status of Africa,” says Kozo Takeda.

United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (UNFAO) representative in Botswana, Dr Rene Czudek said the pest has been detected and reported in almost all the Sub-Sahara region and his organization is finding sustainable solutions to control the fall armyworm.

“There are needs for farmer field schools to necessitate technical assistance that needs to be provided to Botswana. There is need to know the crops attacked and the vastness of the effect,” says United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (UNFAO) representative Dr Rene Czudek.

Botswana has also been affected by some other pests like the fruit fly which is another disease imported from the neighboring countries, especially South Africa where most of the fruits and vegetables are imported from.

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