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When farmers go hungry: The effects of El Niño in Botswana

Local children and caregivers wait at the community water pump
Local children and caregivers wait at the community water pump

A five-year dry spell in Botswana is worsening with the effects of El Niño. The soil is too dry and hard to produce many crops, and expensive imports are crippling the economy. The SOS Children’s Village in Tlokweng is located in the hardest-hit region of the country.

Botswana is experiencing the most extreme dry season in 34 years. Water shortages are a familiar problem for the residents in the south.The main water source in the city of Tlokweng has dried up. 

The SOS team has installed large water tanks at the Tlokweng Children’s Village which the national water utility corporation regularly fills. In the community, local families have to queue for water with the possibility that there might not be any water left when they reach the front of the queue. 

“The situation is more severe for those in the SOS Family Strengthening Programmes. It is tough,” says Joyce Mashinini, 29, who is a beneficiary of the Family Strengthening Programme in Tlokweng. “I wake up very early in the morning, around 3am, to check the nearby standpipes for water. Sometimes we go for a whole week without a drop coming from the taps.”

Joyce joined the SOS Family Strengthening Programme several years ago. With SOS Children's  assistance, she was able to start a vegetable garden to help earn an income and feed her children. The lack of rain has failed her once plentiful vegetable garden.

“Life has become tough,” Joyce explains. “I now have to buy vegetables which I used to harvest from my backyard. We are struggling and we don’t know if this is going to end.”

A contant scarcity of food

Eve Damu, 58, is a single parent looking after 14 children and grandchildren. Since 2009, Eve and her family have been beneficiaries of the SOS Family Strengthening Programme in Francistown. It has been difficult for Eve to keep her family out of poverty, but the recent drought has created another challenge.

Young boy from FSP in Botswana smiles and eats
Wame, 3, is able to attend nursery thanks to SOS Children

“We have a field where we usually plough for our own food crops,” says Eve. “Due to the lack of rainfall, we have not tilled the land and now we face a constant scarcity of food.”

The field is about 19 miles from their home. Eve explains that travelling in extreme heat to tend drying crops is frustrating. Their home has a small garden but the soil is too tough that only weeds and a few herbs are able to grow. Eve is struggling to feed her young children nutritious meals.

No one in the family has formal employment, including the six children who are over the age of 17. The family relies on causal work to survive. As a result, schooling has not been made a priority for Eve’s younger children. Seven of the 14 children are school-aged and attend class regularly. However, the family will not be able to afford all seven children’s secondary school fees.

Dikwena Ngopolang, SOS family strengthening coordinator in Francistown, explains that he is working with the family to plan for their future.

“We have given the family an emergency food parcel and have enrolled the youngest in the household at nursery with all expenses covered. We have also strategize around the family’s options and opportunities to systematically eradicate their poverty status,” says Dikwena.

SOS Children has invited the working age family members to the next SOS career fair to help them achieve their aspirations.

Help us support local families through community outreach today. 

 

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