HUKUNTSI: The government of Botswana is gravitating towards knowledge-based economy in a bid to diversify the country’s economy. The move has been hailed by many pundits as a diversification strategy which is capable of relieving the local economy from dependency on minerals resources which have taken over the economic spectacle.
However, in a knowledge-based economy, research is fundamental to survival of any developmental policy. It guides the policy makers to determine whether the envisaged policy will produce the desired results or not.
Unfortunately, this is not the case with most of government policies in Botswana more especially poverty eradication policies. Though government policy makers usually claim to have done a detailed research prior to implementation, attaining real value for the funds spent on these policies is always elusive.
This, devoid of accurate research has been visible in the past decade when our government engaged in another gear of eradicating poverty. During this period, there has been consecutive mushrooming of poverty eradication policies. The aim of these policies, the government announced, was to improve the socio-economic welfare of citizenry who are on the receiving end of high levels of poverty and unemployment which had besieged this country.
Critics stood their ground as usual, arguing that all these policies will create dependency syndrome on the government and they cannot transform the livelihoods of Batswana. They further labelled them populist policies which are formulated to appease voters with little consideration to key factors that fuel sustainable growth. However, their contention fell on deaf ears as many Batswana espoused various poverty eradication packages.
With criticism being levelled against such policies as a result of lack of proper research, the government intensified the campaign for these policies. Additionally, millions of pulas were spent in workshops and trainings of beneficiaries by the government. Masterminding a campaign to win the hearts and minds of Batswana has always been the arsenal for the ruling elites.
Just a year before the world economy experienced recession in 2002, Livestock Management and Infrastructure Development (LIMID) was introduced. The introduction of LIMID was not limited to poverty eradication only but also to improve food security. Perhaps, that is why the then Ministry of Agriculture added segment of Food Security when realigned 9 years later.
Out of that document came out seven packages with 3 packages focused on resource-poor households (smallstock, Tswana Chickens and guinea fowl) and the remainder is infrastructure development (animal husbandry and fodder support, borehole equipping, borehole drilling and reticulation, borehole/well purchase and cooperative poultry abattoirs).
Two years into its existence, policy surgery was done by the then Ministry of Agriculture whose portfolio is poverty eradication together with Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development. A short survey was conducted in seven districts (Southern, Kgalagadi, Kweneng, Central, North West, South East and Kgatleng) to determine whether LIMID is realizing its objectives and to use the findings of the study to improve it. A sample of 412 beneficiaries, out of 829 beneficiaries who were interviewed on the baseline study were also simultaneously interviewed on the survey-based evaluation. The survey method measured the outcome and the impact of the policy.
According to the study, the infrastructure development component was accessed by only 2.43% people and the majority of the beneficiaries were males. The low uptake of this component was attributable to high contributions that farmers had to pay before grants could be disbursed. A LIMID document further revealed that the participation of youth was low across the villages and was only restricted to the resource –poor packages. Only 15% of youth applied for LIMID components and the results of LIMID evaluation demonstrated that females participated in LIMID in large numbers than men, especially in the resource-poor section.
Small stock population increased from 9007 to 11405, representing an increase of 25.4 %. Kgatleng district achieved the highest increase in smallstock population of 47.85% (395 to 585), followed by Kgalagadi and Kweneng with 39.52% (2057 to 2870) and 25.20% (861 to 1078) respectively. Across the districts, smallstock population on average increased by 25.40% indicating significant improvement in productivity.
The findings of the survey further revealed that 98.06% beneficiaries said that LIMID should continue while the remainder gave no views on whether the policy should cease or not. The reasons advanced by beneficiaries for continuity of LIMID; it helps to alleviate poverty, it creates self-employment opportunities, it promotes livestock ownership and it encourages the youth to venture into agriculture.
Though the study was conducted with the objective of using its findings to improve LIMID, since then the government has not done any amendments to it. A study by this publication shows that though LIMID which is praised by those in corridors of power, the infrastructure component of this policy which includes borehole drilling at a current P120 000 ceiling is not beneficial to livestock farmers in Kgalagadi. Farmers in Kgalagadi drill deeper than their counterparts in other districts to reach water table.
A farmer in Monong settlement who spoke to this publication in condition of anonymity said they applied for LIMID 6 years ago and their application was approved the following year. He said on top of P120 000 that the government help them with, they paid 290 000 to a drilling company that has tried to reach water at 350 metres deep but to no avail.
“To reach water table in Kgalagadi is more challenging because water table is deep. We have pleaded with relevant authorities to review LIMID to cater for our geological problem but it seems as we are beating the air, ‘’ he lamented.
Another livestock farmer, Pogo Doctor of Lehututu had the same ordeal. He said they were helped by LIMID to drill their borehole just few kilometers outside Make Settlement but they did not reach water table though they incurred extra costs of P200 000 on the current P120 000 ceiling. He also calls for the policy to be reviewed to cater for their geological problem.
Beside the geological problem, Kgalagadi District is also faced with problem of salty underground water which cannot be tasted by livestock. Ratshoga Letlotlo, a farmer in Kgalagadi also lamented that they drilled a borehole through funding from LIMID and they reached salty water. He said they cried to relevant officers to help them since their case was unique but their plea felt on deaf ears.
The predicament of Kgalagadi farmers has also been acknowledged by Member of Parliament for Kgalagadi North, Itumeleng Moipisi. He said there is need to dispense a special LIMID programme for farmers in Kgalagadi to enable them to drill boreholes without going beyond the current P120 000 ceiling.
Though Botswana had intensified the battle of poverty eradication, the country needs to work towards developing policies that will move towards equal beneficiation. That may provide a clue as to why the former Kutlwano Magazine Sub Editor, Rebaone Tswiio once observed that “for a race to be fair, all athletes must have legs and differ only on how fast those legs can carry everything north of the waistline”. Unfortunately, this is not the case with Kgalagadi farmers as their predicament seemed to require a special dispensation in LIMID just like in Affirmative Action Policy of 2013 which gives a waive in admission of rural students at universities.
One size- fits- all approach that the government is using in drafting of policies has always failed dismally. The government should revisit its research methodologies that it uses in preliminary study before it can implement the policies.