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Climate change: Botswana braces for a new normal

Publishing Date : 05 February, 2018

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Climate trends in Botswana are pointing towards more extreme weather conditions - the climate system warms, according to Prof. Nnyaladzi Batisani of  Botswana Institute for Technology Research and Innovation (BITRI).


According to a Research by Botswana Institute for Technology Research and Innovation (BITRI)’s Climate Change Division in collaboration with the University of Cape Town’s African Climate Change and Development Initiative (ACDI) the findings portray serious implications for Botswana’s socio-economic sectors.


In a research paper submitted to a peer reviewed academic journal “Environmental Research Letters (ERL)”, the study projects a general decrease in total annual rainfall over most parts of Botswana with the northern parts of the country to realize the greatest decrease. On average, Prof Batisani observes that rainfall is expected to reduce by 55.1-75.9 mm, 24.7-61.7mm and 30.4-43.0mm in the northern, central to southeastern and southwestern parts of the country respectively.


“These reductions are significant as they could mean the difference between a good harvest and a complete crop failure as well as an increase in length of the dry season thereby leading to a shortened planting season.” According to Prof Batisani, citing from the research, Rainfall events are to become shorter and more intense leading to increased potential of flash flooding as the climate system warms further. The study also indicates that temperature changes point towards increased number of hot days and decreased cold weather hence longer and more intense heat wave events.


Prof Batisani, an Earth and Environmental System Analyst interested in complex environmental science: the integration of biophysical, social, and information sciences to solve food security and environmental change problems, observes that the findings portray serious implications for Botswana’s socio-economic sectors.


“The agricultural sector will continue to suffer the most as climate becomes more unfavorable for farming activities. The water sector will also be put under considerable pressure due to less inflow into water reservoirs coupled with increased evaporation rates due to high temperatures,” he said. Prof Batisani said the study calls for different stakeholders to work towards adapting to the “New Normal”.


“It notes that concerted efforts need to be made to increase adoption of Climate Smart Agriculture practices. There is also a need to be strategic in planning for future water security, encouraging water saving measures as well as looking to promote rain water capture because potentially long drought periods are expected to increase in frequency. It is expedient that investments in climate change research also be intensified to increase the country’s knowledge base on climate change thereby promoting informed policy formulation.”


The study follows a call by policy makers to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to provide a report on the differentiated impacts of 1.50c and a 2.00c warming above preindustrial levels by 2018. The research looked at how climate extremes are going to change in Botswana at these respective warming levels.     


Botswana's climate is generally semi-arid. Though it is hot and dry for much of the year, there is a rainy season, which runs through the summer months. Rainfall tends to be erratic, unpredictable and highly regional – but according to the BITRI study Batswana should brace for a new normal.

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