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Locust swarms invade Gumare area

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Swarms of African migratory locusts continue to ravage crops in the Gumare area ahead of harvest season.

Since the outbreak of the locusts in mid February, 27 fields have been affected, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food resources has confirmed.

Public Relations Officer in the Department of Crop Production in Maun, Clifford Molefe, confirmed the locust outbreak and noted that several fields were affected. “The damage is not so bad, but they have disturbed some crops.”

The locust swarms are concentrated in fields surrounding Gumare village, including Mothokakobo, Qurube and Samotshoka.

“Initially the locusts were reported in Qurube, that is where the outbreak started. Then seven fields were affected.”

Molefe however noted that the swarms are more concentrated in the grassland, albeit closer to the fields.

“The fields in question are closer to the grassland and their crops are nearing maturity. These are farms which are not dependent on the rain but on the river because they are somewhat a part of the delta,” says Molefe.

He added that since these pests could form swarms that can be highly dense and can migrate and cover long distances, the ministry is working hard to keep them under control.

“We have the situation under control and have been spraying on the fields and grassland. We are however using eco-friendly sprays with very minimal chemicals that kills only on contact. We also use mist blowers” Molefe further explained.

The grassland are said to be home to swarms of locust and Molefe says the numbers appear to have multiplied.

Locusts are known to multiply in size and within a very short period of time but have a short life span of about five months, but Molefe stressed that if left unchecked they can leave devastating damage to crops and spiral out of control.

Around Gumare area, the current swarms are said to be covering 940 hectares of land but mostly in grassland.

Locusts, especially the desert type, are considered the most destructive migratory pest in the world.

According to FAO, a small swarm of locusts can consume food enough for 35,000 people, hence they are considered a threat to food security in Africa.

Ever since the beginning of 2020, there has been an outcry about outbreaks of locusts in other African countries especially in East Africa, however Botswana is said to be the first to report such an outbreak within the SADC region.

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Elephant mortality in Okavango rises to 110, Anthrax ruled out

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Wildlife and National Parks department has ruled out Anthrax as a killer disease for elephants along some villages in the Okavango delta.

As of Friday last week, at least 110 dead elephants were discovered in areas of Seronga, Gunotsoga and Eretsha in the past three weeks and were suspected to have died from Anthrax.

However the Anthrax laboratory tests have come back negative, leaving the government departments searching for more answers. 

“Laboratory results have ruled out Anthrax and we are awaiting more results,” explained regional Wildlife coordinator in Maun, Dimakatso Ntshebe.

Ntshebe said his department through the help of veterinary department services are still conducting further tests to find out whether or not this mysterious disease is not a result of poisoning.

The disease according to Ntshebe causes the giant’s front legs to weaken and therefore the unwell animal walks in uncoordinated manner and ultimately drops to its death.

“We don’t know what could be the cause of this disease but we are working around the clock to find out and hopefully work on the cure,” added Ntshebe.

Some samples are to be sent to South Africa for further testing. “We could have taken other samples to the neighbouring Zimbabwe, but because of COVID-19 that brought everything to almost a standstill, we could not send them,” Ntshebe explained before adding that, “before coronavirus outbreak, Botswana and Zimbabwe were in talks and have entered into some agreements including exportation and importation of certain medications, but we have not yet concluded the matter regarding samples, that is why we have not been able to send samples to Zimbabwe.”

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SADC Executive Secretary disturbed by obstacles in movement of goods

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The Executive Secretary of SADC, Dr Stegomena Lawrence Tax, has cautioned member states that any lack of cooperation among then during the COVID19 era has potential to reverse the gains made in the last decades.

Addressing a virtual SADC Council of Ministers meeting this week, Lawrence Tax said that the regional ministers approved Guidelines on Harmonization and Facilitation of Movement of Essential Goods and Services across borders early April. 

She said that whilst the guidelines have played a critical role in facilitation of movement of essential goods, there are notable obstacles that have been noted by the Secretariat.

The obstacles include non-compliance/non recognition of regional legal frameworks; uncoordinated operations at the port of entry among border agencies; lack of harmonization and synchronization of policies and procedures among, and between member states; unilateral decisions outside agreed framework; as well as different approaches to deal with epidemiological challenges,” she said. 

She added that; “all these are resulting in increased cost of doing business, and negatively affecting the implementation of national and regional programmes”.

She advised that there is need to have measures, and coordinated approach in place since the region is in a post lockdown period since the transportation of non-essential goods and services will be resuming.

Lawrence Tax added that COVID19 is a global pandemic and that the SADC regional approach should expand to COMESA-EAC-SADC tripartite and eventually to other continental blocs.

“The Secretariat is already working with COMESA and EAC, specifically, in terms of harmonizing and synchronizing regulations and procedures for movement of goods and services under the Tripartite arrangement. We need to move in unison and avoid unilateral decisions, specifically with regards to cross border movement of goods and services,” she said.

According to the Executive Secretary, the regional office has already conducted a socio-economic impact analysis of COVID19 on the region and the results have shown that the pandemic will impact negatively across many socio and economic sectors.

“The decline in the global economy is projected to lead to a decline in commodity prices, increase in debt and significant contraction of the SADC economies in 2020. This will reverse the gains on industrial development and trade that the region has made in the last couple of years,” Lawrence Tax said.

On the flip side,  the region’s International Cooperating Partners have made pledges to mitigate the impact of COVID19 pandemic on its economy. 

“To date, the Secretariat has secured Euro 7.3 million from the German Government; Euro3.6million from European Union, Euro 190,000.00 under the GIZ/Africa Union Commission, whereas the African Development Bank (AfDB)  has considered a support UA 7 million. Engagements with the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) are also at an advanced stage,” the Executive Secretary said.

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