Adapt or die
TIME TO ADAPT: Patrick Ralotsia

Sandveld ranchers urged to adapt to climate change

The decision to sell cattle during tough times can prove catastrophic to the country’s beef exports, Agricultural Development and Food Security Minister, Patrick Ralotsia told Sandveld Ranchers Association (SRA).

Speaking at the SRA Field Day held at Bolela Farms near Serowe over the weekend, Ralotsia urged cattle ranchers to adapt to the effects of climate change.

The minister noted it was starting to affect the agricultural sector and encouraged cattle farmers to come up with a contingent plan to survive these ‘ugly effects’.

In recent years Botswana has endured below normal rainfall patterns as well as floods, which has had a devastating effect on crop production in a country famous for its good agricultural soils.

“The ever changing rainfall patterns are slowly but surely posing a danger to the beef industry,” highlighted Ralotsia, warning that if this continues there is a danger Botswana might lose its lucrative European Union (EU) markets.

“In case of lack of natural pastures, cattle ranchers must have the capacity to provide animals with the much-needed supplementary feeds to avoid incidents of animals dying of hunger,” explained the Kanye North Member of Parliament (MP).

The cabinet minister added, “Culling a herd that you (farmers) cannot afford to feed is not an option especially at a time when the country is doing everything within its power to ensure that the existing EU market is retained without failure.”

During drought periods cattle farmers have increasingly resorted to trimming down their respective herds to avoid incidents of losing the animals.

However, according to Ralotsia, instead they should prepare well in time and eventually adapt to climate change.

“It is not only in drought periods that cattle scavenge for pastures. Cattle also suffer when the pastures are covered in floods. And after the floods, the pastures would not be as nutritious as they should be due to leaching of nutrients during flooding,” pointed out the minister.

For his part, SRA chairperson, Kgosiemang Molosiwa said these different scenarios of climate change call for farmers to proactively come up with strategies and provide alternative nutrients.

Echoing Ralotsia’s concerns the country risks losing the EU market, Molosiwa said, “Failure to be consistent will result in Botswana losing the lucrative market. Our beef is in high demand in EU because it is organic and we need to be constant in supplying.”