Voices of the most affected should be heard

Climate change is bound to increase vulnerabilities that exist within communities in Botswana, studies continue to show, local climate change researcher and a fellow at PlanAdapt, Chandapiwa Molefe has cautioned.

She was speaking at Media for Environment Science Health and Agriculture MESHA science café for the upcoming COP-27. Molefe says Botswana should be aware of the climate change impacts and their causes. This will allow for a better representation at COP27, she said.

"Botswana needs representation in order to be heard and do better on adaptation and mitigation issues surrounding climate change," she said reiterating that vulnerable communities are affected by climate change issues and should as well have representation when it comes to climate change solutions, according to her research.

"It is evident that climate change will increase vulnerabilities and inequalities. Women are usually at the front and centre when it comes to climate change impacts," she said, clarifying that research has shown that women in Botswana lead in household provisioning.

"This means they tend to rely on small scale arable farming, and this is one of the sectors that is hard hit by climate change," she explained.

She told Botswana Guardian that lack of self-sufficiency and high poverty levels make women prone to gender based violence.

"Climate change is not only a stressor to the bio physical environmental conditions, but its effects can be felt at the household level," Molefe said, explaining that at the local level adaptation may be hindered by a number of factors including financial resources.

However, these challenges often find other vulnerabilities that might be inherent in any community. Her studies have shown that women, the elderly and people living with disabilities tend to be particularly vulnerable, which often limits the diversity of income generating activities for households.

She said that developing countries are currently tackling issues of poverty alleviation and development but issues of climate change adaptation seem to be less catered for in development policies and strategies.

A report of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), which was compiled between 2014-2016 shows a gender imbalance in the Agricultural sector. The report mentions that the Botswana’ College of Agriculture did not train female scholars in the past as Agriculture was viewed as a role for men.

"This shows a disconnect because at the household level, women are in charge of food provisioning, hence Agriculture is a way to achieve food security and some household income," Molefe pointed, adding that the FAO mentions that in 2006 the Ministry of Agriculture had about 11 percent of females compared to 89 percent of males in decision-making positions.

"As a way forward, we need polices to mainstream issues of gender, particularly from the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry on Environment. Mainstreaming of gender into climate change policies and other development policies would ensure that women have a likelihood of being empowered and hence enabled to perform better in their roles as caregivers within households," Molefe said.

She added that by ensuring that women are empowered within their households would improve nutrition status of their families especially children and the family’s general wellbeing.

Molefe noted that sending relevant candidates to COP-27 could help Botswana mitigate and negotiate better on issues of climate change.