Botswana has declared 2018/2019 a drought year as "unevenly distributed rains, dry spells, and heat waves resulted in crop failure and livestock condition deteriorating". Last year, a global sustainability report warned that in 2019 Botswana would suffer its first major climate change crisis with an unprecedented drought and water shortage. Botswana thus becomes the latest African country to declare an ongoing drought. The current drought has been linked to the 2015/2016 El Niño.
Drought conditions have contributed to historically low lake levels in the Gaborone Dam, the main piped water source for the capital Gaborone. By the end of 2015, the demand for water in Gaborone surpassed supply by almost 33 million litres a day. Gaborone experienced decreased water pressure and complete cut-off of supply, lasting several weeks in some of the worst affected areas.
All sectors of the economy were disrupted, with micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), in particular, facing major disruption to their business activities. This drought effectively means lack of water for food preparation, butchery, irrigation, laundry, and cleaning and sanitation; meaning many services and processing businesses will be unable to operate, provide services to customers, or maintain hygiene standards. Health and food security are thus also threatened.
One of the industries affected by drought in Botswana is the cattle industry. According to an agricultural census released by Statistics Botswana last year, the country's estimated cattle population fell from 2.5 million in 2011 to 1.7 million in 2015. The number of households raising cattle also has plunged, from about 75,500 in 2004 to 39,000 in 2015, a more than 45% decline.
In Botswana, cattle are more than just beef. Aside from feeding people, they are also a form of savings, and smaller herds affect how families feed their children, buy school uniforms, and pay for everything from weddings to burying the dead. They also form an integral part of Botswana's cultures and traditions as cattle ins have long been used to produce traditional dance attire for men, women and children, as well as clothing for traditional chiefs.
The Botswana government has declared several measures to deal with the drought crisis, including restocking the grain reserve to augment the 98% cereal deficit, increasing livestock drought subsidy for feeds, vaccines and drugs from 25% to 35% and paying 85% of loans to farmers who got seasonal loans from Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency and National Development Bank through the Agricultural Credit Guarantee Scheme.
Header Image Credit: World Vision