Overweight Botswana: How food security can determine a healthier nation

Mmabatho— By Mmabatho from Botswana

“Nooo man, you’re gaining weight.” -African Proverb

Thanks to global integration of human politicking, it has become taboo to speak on one’s weight or body image (well…at least it is frowned upon).

However, Botswana’s President Ian Khama disgruntled a few social media users in his last State of the Nation address, sharing that the 31% of the nation’s  population is overweight. Though notably, the government has a national nutrition strategy aimed at reducing malnutrition and diet related conditions such as obesity and being overweight, the percentage is a sharp increase from the previous year. In 2016, it was documented that 20,11% of the nation’s population is overweight, showing a sharp rise in an overweight population in Botswana.

While one can take the knee jerk reaction of subscribing over eating to an overweight population, many factor including mental health are contributors to being overweight. However the largest factor is access to nutritional food.

Studies have shown a relation between food insecurity and diet related health conditions. It has been hypothesized that lower income households are more dependent on high energy, inexpensive and highly palatable foods. There is a further to a cyclical relationship of having enough food at the beginning/ direct end of the month followed by food scarcity from mid-month towards month end. This is a determinant of access to nutritious foods which are typically set at higher prices based on demand and supply.

Environmentally speaking, Botswana has become a host to increased droughts and rainfall variability due to climate change. Low agricultural productivity and competitiveness in the country is a growing culture due to poor availability and access to markets and a lack of cohesive irrigational farming.

According to 2016 SADC report on food security and poverty eradication, Botswana’s history of insufficient and unsustainable financing and investment in agriculture by the private and public sector has led to constrained growth in agricultural GDP, fueling food insecurity and poverty.

While FAO has estimated a total of 1 million living in the country as food insecure, the country is facing a slow pace journey towards food security. While Botswana currently imports most of its food from South Africa (P595.5 million in as of February 2017), FAO suggests that the situation on food security is expected to improve between now and 2018.

Additionally, Minister of Finance and Economic Development proposed for the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security be allocated the fifth largest budget of P983.81 million, which is aimed at majoring projects towards improving food security. This can lead to better implementation of mitigation strategies that need to be rolled out to ensure our nation’s people as food secure.

While an overweight population does not directly determine Botswana’s state of food security, one cannot help but notice the relativity between 1 million of the populous being food insecure and of that fraction, those that are subjective to diet related illnesses. If the state of the nation’s dietary health is of national concern, implementing mitigation strategies to ensure food security is an easy top of the to-do list for the government.


The African Mathematician & Writer


— By Kearoma from Botswana

My educational background is a little humorous but also very inspirational. My journey went from being an aspiring doctor to a writer and I’m currently completing my final year for a BSc in Applied Sciences with a double major in Mathematics and Statistics. Quite unexpected right? I also want to say I went to the school of life, but I don’t think I have garnered enough experience yet in that aspect to make that claim.

My fondest memory of my childhood is being four or five years old with a play set of medical doctor’s tools- stethoscope, plastic injection set and the like. I would put all my teddy bears and dolls on chairs and play hospital; this hospital of course had one doctor who did everything from bathing the patients to giving injections. I grew up knowing that I wanted a career in medicine, in fact I wanted a life around medicine.

Life of course doesn’t always work out the way we plan it, you could be planning to go live a life of solitude on an island and life will bless you with one in a busy city with a huge circle of friends. This of course didn’t happen to me, I still wish for a busy city life though. In my case life handed me Mathematics and Statistics.

Fast-forward two years later, I did not reapply for med school. In fact, the dream was slowly drifting away from my mind and I was trying to decide what I wanted to major in for my Applied Sciences course. I chose Mathematics and Statistics because the past two years had made me fall irrevocably in love with the two. I was excited and giddy at the prospect of trying something new and taking leaps towards my future.

What I am most thankful for is my family’s support. They never once questioned my decisions; they only just made sure I was certain this was the path I wanted to take. My mother of course was scolding me for wasting my writing talent in journals and books I allowed no one else to read. She was truly one of the people that urged me to share my writing with others. Her constant questions about why I was hiding my talent and her mention of the award I had received at 18 for best in English Literature for my high school leaving exams at the national level and a day of toying around with starting a blog led me to actually start my blog.

Writing has always been one of my main hobbies, I would write poems about teenage love affairs and mighty female characters. I guess the truth of the matter is that, in Botswana, the arts are not something we grew up knowing could feed someone. Maybe at the time it was because I wanted to be a doctor but it was also due to the fact that we grow up noticing how everyone is a nurse, a doctor, a teacher or a politician. Only first world countries had people who made careers from blogging or singing on YouTube.

I love writing and I love African literature even more. I love how African writers weave ordinary stories into gems that just make so much sense. I wrote a story that was on brittlepaper about a young woman who lost her father who had been a mathematician. My Ghanaian lecturer who is a Mathematics Professor well into his seventies came to class one day and shook my hand because he had read the story. I didn’t know where he came across it but the mere fact that he was congratulating me filled me with so much joy I cried in class.

My academic life is only at the beginning. There is so much I want to do, so much I want to write about and as my lecturer likes saying “so much to calculate and find derivatives of” because that’s what life is all about; living it to your best ability. I wouldn’t change anything even though sometimes when the theorems and formulas don’t come to my mind in a test I think I would be better of learning about verbs and stuff and studying English.

I have learned that life might not always turn out the way we want it to but it will always lead to somewhere better. I have learned that making plans is good but sometimes the unplanned life is also worth it. I also learned that Africans need to stop looking down on other careers; I could decide I want to spend my days singing and reciting folklores in Setswana at the mall for the rest of my life and people would call me a mad woman. There is a need to let young people do what they love. Its better being happy with what you are doing, that I believe is what makes one excel.