Gaborone - In a dramatic effort to save wildlife from drought, Botswana has drilled at least 18 additional boreholes to provide water for wild animals.
Delivering his State of the Nation Address in Parliament this week, President Mokgweetsi Masisi said additional funds had been approved for the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism to provide water for wildlife to alleviate the impact of water shortages and augment water points in game reserves and wildlife management areas.
“To date, 18 additional boreholes have been drilled in Chobe National Park, Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve and Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. In addition, two boreholes have been equipped and 10 wells drilled in Okavango (Nxaraga/Qubu) for watering wildlife,” the President said.
Masisi revealed that human-wildlife conflict had escalated due to the current drought conditions. “Government has taken a decision to develop a Drought Management Strategy which would classify drought as a permanent feature in our budget plans rather than an emergency,” said Masisi.
He said the strategy would be completed before the end of this financial year. In view of the prolonged dry spell period, government has since declared the 2018/19 financial year as a drought year with mitigation measures being a 35 percent subsidy on livestock feeds; emergency food baskets in some districts and continuation of rations for children under the age of five and school feeding at primary schools.
“As a drought year, government introduced drought subsidies on livestock feeds, vaccines and deworming drugs. The initial 25 percent drought subsidy elapsed in June 2019 and was preceded by a further 35 percent up to June 2020,” said Masisi.
He said the subsidy is expected to act as a relief measure for livestock farmers.
“Since its inception, a total of 14 599 livestock farmers participated in the drought subsidy, of which 13 220 were males and 1 379 females while youth beneficiaries were 1 378,” said Masisi.
These combined drought interventions, he said, had a positive effect on farmers and private sector stakeholders’ incomes, increased off-take and prevention of losses of animals that could have perished in the deteriorated pastures due to drought.
“As a long term intervention, government intends to establish fodder banks and fodder reserves in such a way that there will be adequate livestock feeds during the dry periods including the production of Napier grass,” said Masisi.
Touching on a related issue, Masisi said there had been a recorded decline of the national cattle population of 3.1 million in the last seven years to an estimated 2 million in 2018.
This is a worrisome trend which government is responding to in a number of ways to increase the national herd. As a way of responding to this situation, government has adopted a Beef Cluster Strategy which has identified areas of improvement which include; ways of upgrading production, research and technology transfer and promotion and marketing of beef,” said Masisi.
This, Masisi said, is done in partnership with the government of New Zealand through the Beef Productivity Training Programme which offers training to farmers and herdsman on best farm practices and animal production initiatives and is meant to equip farmers with industry led, livestock management and increase on calving rate on an annual basis.