Published on Nasikiliza

The road ahead: Achieving sustainability in the livestock sector in Botswana and Namibia

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Photo of brown and white Mahalapye cattle in Botswana Photo of brown and white Mahalapye cattle in Botswana

There is tremendous potential in the livestock sector in Botswana and Namibia. Tapping into it hinges on transformative actions that boost its competitiveness and sustainability. It needs to promote a sound business environment and increase productivity of the value chain, without compromising the quality and safety of products. An already daunting challenge in itself, this needs to be done while protecting natural resources, improving social and economic conditions of smallholder producers—by far the largest share in Botswana and Namibia—and safeguarding animal health and welfare.

Botswana and Namibia have come a long way in developing competitive livestock value chains. Their industries are well-organized, meet quality and sanitary requirements of high-end markets, and have good animal identification and traceability systems in place. However, productivity has stagnated in the past years due to repeated climate shocks, animal disease outbreaks, and weakened health systems. Business environment remains constrained with limited private capital flows to much-needed critical segments of the value chain, due to a prevailing high degree of direct government involvement and state-owned institutional architecture. The participation of smallholder farmers remains limited. Outdated policy and regulatory frameworks continue to create inefficiencies along the value chain segments, especially for input supply, quality of logistics, labor, and support infrastructure.

For the livestock sector, sustainability is a function of interwoven economic, environmental and social inclusion dimensions.  In economic terms, the sector in both countries has proven to be profitable with substantial scope for further development. However, this potential is only likely to be achieved if both countries take bold actions to improve environmental and social aspects for reaching regional and global competitiveness, and gain access into high-end markets.

Both countries have shown increasing commitment to build up resilience in the sector in the face of climate change. However, there is still much to be done to prepare for future shocks and reduce vulnerability. They need to support community-driven programs on integrated crop-livestock systems, rangeland management plans, and strengthen knowledge and capacity. Both countries need to systematically adopt climate-integrated approaches for planning and implementation of livestock support programs. To promote adoption of climate-smart livestock practices, inefficiencies hindering investment need to be removed and entrepreneurial skills necessary to implement innovative technologies and practices fostered.

Achieving social sustainability of the livestock sector in Botswana and Namibia is a challenge with no simple solution in sight , given the strong divide between producers based on their scale and their location in the regional sanitary maps in the respective countries. Large-scale producers have the integration and necessary access to finance to implement innovative solutions towards sustainability, and they tend to be located in areas with a sanitary status that enables export-oriented business. Small-scale farmers, on the other hand, not only would require strong governmental support to adopt sustainable livestock practices, but because of their location, they have a limited scope of target markets, mostly in the low-value spectrum. The governments in both countries tend to favor producers located in areas with stronger sanitary status, given their target markets and because they have the potential to expand and diversify their production, but this bias only amplifies the underlying differences. Achieving integrative sustainability warrants a shift towards increased attention to those who are not yet duly integrated in the market, namely smallholders in the communal areas, to effectively level the playing field and expand the impact of climate-smart livestock practices.

The Roadmap for Sustainable Livestock Value Chains in Southern Africa is the first analytical exercise of its kind that compares and combines beef value chains in Southern Africa, covering Botswana and Namibia, two main exporting countries.  It presents a transformation pathway that builds on smallholder inclusion in the value chain, improved productivity, and increased resilience to climate change. It provides a framework of action for country-specific and cross-country collaboration to modernize and enhance competitiveness of beef value chains in Botswana and Namibia. The Roadmap is envisioned to inform multiple ongoing dialogues on analytics and investment to foster regional collaboration and integration for increased competitiveness in the Southern Africa Region.

The socioeconomic potential of the livestock sector in Botswana and Namibia is immense. However, it will not be achieved without climate-smart livestock practices and bold action towards increased and sustainable social inclusion. Only by interlacing the environmental and equity dimensions of sustainability into the livestock sector it will become a true driver of sustainable development, a contributor to food security, and the source of improved and resilient livelihoods. 

This blog is third in a series on the intersection between public health and the health of the livestock, as vital to wellness, livelihoods and prosperous communities. Read more in the previous blogs, Healthy humans, animals and ecosystems – One Health in Eastern and Southern Africa and Climate-resilient livestock in Botswana and Namibia.  


Tahira Syed

Senior Rural Development Specialist

Zano Mataruka

Senior Investment Officer with the International Finance Corporation

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