Southern Africa is experiencing one of the worst droughts in years, with more than 40 million people expected to face food insecurity because of livestock and crop losses. Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Zimbabwe have declared it an emergency.
In semi-arid Botswana, the farmers are reeling after the worst drought in a decade wiped out entire harvests and left the land littered with dead livestock.
Two thirds of the crops planted last season failed, while Ngamiland, a rich beef producing region, has recorded nearly 40,000 cattle deaths.
Rancher Casper Matsheka says there was no food or water, so his animals starved to death.
“The goats died, as well as the cattle, as you can see the carcasses all over. We were really affected. If only the government could subsidize the prices of feed and vaccines for the livestock during such times,” he said.
Nor has the drought sparred wildlife.
National parks authorities have resorted to feeding starving hippos while hundreds of elephants have died.
Environmental nongovernment organization, Kalahari Conservation Society’s Neil Fitt says competition for food and water has increased the risk of human-wildlife conflict.
“The livestock are now putting pressure on the wildlife areas, so the wildlife are also getting pressure on their areas, and that is where the conflict zone is,” he said. “Why I am bringing this up? The… interconnected with the drought is this wildlife-human conflict.”
In Botswana, where drought is frequent, President Mokgweetsi Masisi said the government plans to stop calling it an emergency and instead make drought relief part of the national budget.
“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,” he said. “The strategy will be completed before the end of the financial year.”
Acting director of Meteorological Services Radithupa Radithupa says a robust strategy is needed to deal with the recurring droughts.
“We are looking at climate change as an impact now, we are seeing the impact now in terms of heating, the dry spells and the excessive rains. Therefore, we really need to adapt as a nation,” Radithupa said.
Meanwhile, a forecast for rain has raised hopes among farmers and ranchers for recovery and that this season of severe drought won’t be a total loss.