HL Deb 23 June 1966 vol 275 cc429-50

4.45 p.m.

LORD MITCHISON rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what steps are being taken to deal with the shortage of food, crops and cattle as the result of drought in some parts of Bechuanaland and whether and when it is intended to provide an adequate water supply. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper. I owe my interest in Bechuanaland primarily to my wife, who returned four days ago from a long stay (by no means her first) in a Bechuanaland village—a town, we should call it, a tribal capital called Mochudi. She has seen the effects of drought, and I hope your Lordships will allow me to say that she has done more than I should have ever expected one person could do to help the tribe in this matter and in other matters with which we are not concerned to-day, notably education.

The information I have had from her has been vivid and painful in detail, but for present purposes I can summarise the position from official reports. I quote from page 8 of Bechuanaland, 1965: 1965 was the fourth drought year in succession for Bechuanaland and there was a virtually complete crop failure throughout the territory. It is estimated that approximately 200,000 head of cattle died of starvation. Farmers were handicapped by the fact that their oxen were in very weak condition as a result of previous seasons' droughts, and in many cases they were unable to take advantage of the early rains for ploughing. Large-scale importations of maize and sorghum were necessary, and from the beginning of 1965 emergency measures had to be taken to alleviate what threatened to become a serious famine. On page 13 of the same report there is reference to "Tragedy for Bechuanaland", which refers to …the drought, the culmination of four, and in some areas, five, poor rainfall seasons. From the end of 1962 to the end of 1955, is was estimated that 400,000 cattle (almost one-third of the national herd) had died; 105,000 people were in receipt of famine relief rations, and the loss of crops virtually complete. The population of Bechuanaland, when last counted in 1964, was a little under 550,000. So by the end of 1965 about one person in five was dependent on the emergency feeding programme. What is sinister is that with additional help this year more than half the population—I repeat, more than half the population—will be dependent on emergency food by mid-1967.

The Bechuanas I have met are cheerful, plucky, intelligent, hard-working people, and very friendly to this country. Bechuanaland is poor, and even an occasional tribal feast in good times falls far short of a City banquet. Emergency rations, however, are neither a feast nor a banquet: they are given only to families where no one is earning, and as from July 1 a condition will be that the family—or such of them as can—work on approved rural development projects. That ration per head is 10 ounces of maize and one ounce of vegetable oil in a day. The current Economist from which I get that information comments that over the months to mid-1967 that will be a monotonous diet. My Lords, it is uncommonly short shrif—10 ounces of maize and one ounce of vegetable oil; that is all.

Now a word about the cattle. This is, of course, a cattle-raising country: beasts are their main wealth, their main product, their main export. In 1965, animal products accounted for 85 per cent. of the exports; labour abroad, largely in the South African mines, for 10 per cent. In such a country, with few other resources, to lose one-third of the total head of cattle is a national disaster, not only in its immediate results but also in the long-term consequences, unless the loss can be made good.

My Lords, there you have a summary of the background at the end of last year. I now turn to this year. On January 8th the most conspicuous headline in The Times read: Mr. Wilson organises drought relief", and under it: Canada and Australia answer emergency appeals. And the paper's political correspondent wrote as follows: A famine relief operation to get grain supplies to the drought-hit countries of Central Africa—Rhodesia, Bechuanaland, Basutoland and Zambia—was begun yesterday by the British Government in collaboration with the Governments of Australia and Canada, the two great grain producing countries of the Commonwealth. Mr. Wilson sees it as a humanitarian operation to prevent death by starvation in an area which may well become a disaster zone if the drought continues… The Prime Minister, it appears, had telephoned Sir Robert Menzies and Mr. Lester Pearson who both agreed that a tripartite emergency scheme should be started at once, the object being to forestall a serious disaster. The first action was to call for reports from the areas affected as to what was required, and it was expected that the first requests would be for maize and fodder for livestock. The Times leader on this was headed, "To the Rescue". There can be no doubt of the need, said the writer. Reports of distress had been multiplying. This was particularly true of Bechuanaland, where the emergency feeding programme supplied by World Food Programme had been in operation for the past six months. And the leader writer, after mentioning the figures I have already given to your Lordships, including the estimate that more than half the population of Bechuanaland would soon be requiring assistance, pointed out the need to ensure that this scheme tied in with the help already being given to Bechuanaland.

Unfortunately, my Lords, for at least three reasons the tripartite emergency scheme, as such, never got under way. In the first place, Australia and Canada met with transport and other difficulties, and could not do all that was expected. Secondly, the scheme was to include Rhodesia. Sanctions were on at the time, and co-operation with the régime proved impracticable. Thirdly, almost immediately there were heavy rains in some parts of the affected areas; in the Mashonaland part of Rhodesia, for instance, but not in Matabeleland; in Eastern South Africa but not in and around Johannesburg, where severe restrictions on the use of water came into force on January 14. The rains provided more than an excuse for not proceeding with the scheme: they gave real help, but not everywhere.

Perhaps, with the benefit of hindsight, one might think that the announcement of the scheme was somewhat overconfident, and one remembers that it was bound to reach, in Bechuanaland at any rate, a number of men in desperate difficulties and to appear to them as a promise of more help. But the reasons which hindered the performance of the tripartite agreement were not of the Prime Minister's making, and in fact there was a substantial increase in the help given. In the circumstances, however, Bechuanaland has, I suggest, a rather special claim to help. Bechuanaland was, after all, in the words of the Guardian newspaper at the time, "the hardest hit area in Africa". I am not altogether surprised to read in an OXFAM advertisement on January 12: This famine has waited nine months for a headline. In Bechuanaland the rains were little help; they were hard, but short. The Limpopo filled up. There were floods and burst dams. Within a short time the water had gone towards the Indian Ocean, with little or no permanent improvement of conditions; indeed, the parched ground shed the water the more readily.

Now I turn to what has been done and what remains to be done. I begin with emergency relief by way of food for human beings. Figures have been given from time to time, in answer to Questions in the Commons, but they are not always easy to follow. I will give the latest figures I have from an official Bechuanaland facts sheet published on May 1, 1966. My noble friend has a copy, and he will find them in the middle of the first column of page 5, converting Rands into a rough equivalent in pounds sterling. The figures are as follows: The world food programme of United Nations had donated famine relief foodstuffs valued at Rs.1,657,000—say £800,000—to Bechuanaland by the 31st March, 1966. United Kingdom emergency aid for famine relief amounted to Rs.552,000—say—£280,000 in 1965. Contributions from OXFAM, War on Want, the World Council of Churches, etc. totalled Rs.159,016—say, £80,000—by the 31st March, 1966. It is not clear to what periods these figures relate, but apparently they are for a year at least.

The total of between £1 million and £1¼ million may seem a substantial sum, but if it is to be distributed among 300,000 recipients it will amount to only £4 per head, or slightly over 2½d. a day. I hope that someone is going to be a bit more generous. If you fed a city tycoon, a prosperous peer, or even a Treasury knight, on that sum for months on end, he would get very cross. The questions I want to ask my noble friend are: how much was contributed during the financial year 1965–66 or, if he prefers it, the calendar year 1965, respectively by the World Food Programme, by Her Majesty's Government and by other agencies, towards the relief of famine—human food in an emergency? What increases have been made, or will be made, as the result of what happened in January, the realisation of the urgency and extent of the need in Bechuanaland? What will be the emergency ration for this year and next?

My Lords, there have been other contributions, smaller ones, by way of Colonial Development and Welfare grants and an Exchequer loan of £150,000 for projects associated with famine relief. But there are two outstanding matters about which I want to ask before I sit down. The first is the national cattle herd. Obviously, nothing could be more important to a cattle-raising country, and the folk in these villages cannot be expected to make good their capital losses by work in the South African mines or wait for some future industrialisation or development. This is an urgent need. How much has been contributed by way of cattle fodder, the requirement stressed in January? Even more important, how soon, by what means, and at what cost, is it proposed to restore the herd to its former numbers?

Before I leave the question of cattle I should like to mention shortly one matter. Pages 55 and 56 of Bechuanaland 1965 describe the growth of co-operative organisation and development since it began in 1964. This has had the active support and encouragement of the Co-operative Movement here as well as of OXFAM and "Freedom from Hunger". The Report refers not only to some progress made under very difficult conditions, but also to future plans for cattle marketing and for the creation of ranches where the condition of livestock can be improved before sale. Mr. Trevor Bottomley has, I am sure my noble friend will agree, rendered invaluable service in all this, as no doubt have others of whom I do not happen to have heard. I hope that every encouragement will be given by the Governments concerned to this most promising movement.

Lastly, the most important point of all. All this trouble is the result of drought. There is water in Bechuanaland—rivers, a large swamp, surface water can be held in dams, boreholes can be, and constantly are, made. What is being done to survey the water resources and find out how best to secure a proper and adequate water supply? To do that will mean the end of much human misery and loss—the starving children who appear in OXFAM advertisements. In Mochudi the children have been fed by private gifts or by the community centre for nearly a year. It will mean, too, to the Treasury of this country and the equivalent to that in poor Bechuanaland, the saving of substantial annual contributions which otherwise appear certain to continue and likely to increase. This will be, in substance, famine relief in the right form. The call for it is the call of humanity, and ought not to be hindered by the coming of independence in Bechuanaland.

In this connection it is hard to find out what is going on. Has there been any recent and up-to-date survey of water resources and their prospective use? The Report, Bechuanaland 1964, mentions that the Colonial Development and Welfare Fund scheme for hydrological research into underground water resources in Bechuanaland was approved in January, 1964, but that the scientific assistant required for the work had only recently been recruited and staff shortages had not yet allowed a geologist to be assigned to this work full time. Bechuanaland 1965 is so occupied with the consequences of drought that it contains little or nothing about the water supply. Can my noble friend tell us what is being done and when, if ever, it is proposed to provide adequate water supplies? On May 5, 1966, an answer in the other place indicated a capital contribution in the financial year 1966–67 of £1,100,000 on water supply work. All I can say about that is that it must be no more than a beginning.

I have tried to be concise. This is a question of human suffering. I am here with a begging bowl, held out to the Government, to anybody who will contribute, whoever they are. And when they make those contributions they may have succeeded in saving a rather gallant people from disappearance, in saving a number of human lives, in saving a number of young children from starvation, which we find it difficult to contemplate in our more prosperous condition. Those who can answer that appeal, whether they are Governments or the private agencies who have already done so much, will be doing something which is right by any standards. There is no Party politics in this. There is only a begging bowl.

5.4 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that we are all most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, for asking this Question. Having heard his moving speech, I feel that all your Lordships will want to join together in expressing the deepest sympathy with Bechuanaland in her present plight, a plight which, by any reckoning, must be serious. I also welcome the Question because I hope that it will give an opportunity to the noble Lord, Lord Beswick to elucidate what to me has certainly been a somewhat confusing situation.

The Colonial Office hand-out of December 29 last year said it was possible that three-quarters of the population of Bechuanaland would be on famine relief by the month of July this year—that is to say, in a few weeks' time. On January 8 the whole area was declared to be a possible disaster area. Then, in the blaze of publicity which the noble Lord has described, the Prime Minister telephoned to the Prime Ministers of Australia and Canada in order to organise a tripartite emergency relief scheme. A month or so later, in February, the Prime Minister stated in another place that we were then feeding, as the noble Lord has told the House, 105,000 out of a total population of 540,000. Incidentally, the population has probably increased to nearly 600,000 by now—at any rate, I imagine that it is increasing, although the increase is not likely to be accelerated by the kind of conditions they are facing at the moment. At all events, I understand that more than half of the population is now already on famine relief. This is rather a different figure from that given by the Minister.

From an answer given by the Colonial Secretary on May 5, 1966, it was made clear that no assistance had been received by Bechuanaland directly from any countries other than the United Kingdom. Again the Minister quoted the figure of 105,000 as the number of people to whom supplies have been provided. He added, however, that approval had recently been given for further supplies for up to 360,000 people for the twelve months beginning July 6 of this year.

I should be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, if he could give some estimate of the true figures, because some of these are a little confusing, and of what exactly the drought situation is at present. I would also ask what has become of the Prime Minister's tripartite scheme. It was announced in January, but nothing seems to have become of it. Was this because the drought in Central Africa proved to be less serious, at least temporarily, than anticipated? Or did we not go ahead with the scheme because Australia and Canada withdrew? Or was it because of the Rhodesian crisis? Like the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, I should be grateful for further information, for this scheme, I regret to say, has been described, rightly or wrongly, as one of the greatest non-events organised by the Prime Minister since he took office. Was all that dramatic telephoning done before the Prime Minister made sure of his facts? If so, his action would seem to be most unfortunate and misleading, to say the least. I should like to know exactly what happened.

I should also like to know this. Have we given enough aid to Bechuanaland or have we not? On May 5 of this year, the amount of aid in 1965–66 was stated to be £458,000. The noble Lord mentioned that figure. In 1966–67—this year—it is to be £1,100,000, in addition to a grant of £245,000 and the Exchequer loan of £150,000. I understand that the World Food Organisation, War on Want and the Churches have also made substantial contributions. This obviously represents a considerable effort. But is it enough? I gather from what the noble Lord has said that he does not think it is.

I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, for having raised this matter. I find various points confusing, and I think we should all give serious consideration to this subject, in view of the fact that Bechuanaland is to become an independent Republic in the name of Botswana later this year. I notice that the noble Earl, Lord Longford, at the conference the other day described Bechuanaland as being a model of orderly constitutional progress. I think they deserve our help and sympathy to the maximum. I look forward to the explanations of the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, not only in regard to the somewhat confusing figures, but also as to the death of so many cattle, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, and the supply of water; as to what is in fact being done there, and in regard to the proposed co-operative marketing movement. We were all very moved to hear what an appallingly low ration exists in the country. I can only conclude by repeating our deep sympathy and our hope that the Government will be able to assist further.

5.11 p.m.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, for raising this subject; and perhaps it is as well that it has been raised this week, so that we can get it out of the way, so to speak, before the Constitution Bill next week. I should like to say just a few words on the wider aspect of this problem. I have been associated with it for many years, both when I was in the office which the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, now occupies with such skill and devotion, and also for six years when I was a director of the Commonwealth Development Corporation, from which I was peremptorily dismissed by Mrs. Barbara Castle just after she came into office. In spite of that, my heart is still very much with the work in Bechuanaland, and I have a great interest in it.

This question of water supply, as noble Lords used to the area will know, has always been a problem in that part of Africa. One of the reasons is the chancy rainfall, and a second is that the calcrete layer which holds the water beneath the earth is rather too low for ordinary grass (this, unfortunately, was one of the causes of the trouble with the groundnuts scheme). When people fly over Africa they see this enormous expanse of apparent grassland; they think how wonderful this is, and how many thousands of head of cattle it would sustain. But not a bit of it. This is scrub, and it is there because it has a very long root which can get down to the calcrete layer. When that scrub is pulled off and grass is sown, the grass tends to die, because it cannot get down through the calcrete layer to the water, with the result that, having taken away the scrub (and this is what happened with the groundnuts scheme), you produce a desert. The sun beats down, there is no shade, and the result is something like a concrete runway. I visited the groundnuts scheme at the time, and this is what happened.

The people in Bechuanaland, like everybody else in that part of Africa, are particularly subject to this problem, and to the problem of drought. The year 1965 was, I believe, the worst year for drought in Southern Africa in this century. This came, unhappily, at the end of a series of drought years, and that is why we have there this appalling situation with regard to famine and the lack of water for cattle. And there is a famine, of course, because of the lack of water for cattle, which are, as the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, has rightly said, the main source of revenue for Bechuanaland.

The Commonwealth Development Corporation looked some years ago at this whole problem in Bechuanaland and said: "We must tackle this in a big way, and tackle it from the point of view of the supply of cattle. "Up to that time, the cattle had been exported principally to South Africa, mainly to the Rand and Johannesburg, but also to other parts of South Africa. The South African dealers and butchers would come to Bechuanaland and buy cattle on the hoof, and the cattle would be taken down by rail, or otherwise, to South Africa. As can be imagined, this was a marvellous opportunity for the South African dealers and butchers, because there was practically no other form of outlet for the cattle. It was a monopoly market for them.

We decided that what we needed was another outlet for this cattle. In a drought year, such as 1965, previously hundreds of thousands of the cattle died, because they could not get down on the hoof to the railhead; and they were so emaciated, due to lack of water, that they died even on the rail. So we built an abattoir in Bechuanaland where the cattle could be killed on the spot, and they did not have the long journey to Rhodesia or South Africa.

In 1954, when the building of an abattoir was started, the off-take of cattle was 60,000 head and in 1965 the kill rose to 142,736 head of cattle. So in that time we had taken off from Bechuanaland a large proportion of the cattle export. The cattle owner was paid for his cattle on the spot, and they went into the abattoir and were killed. Some of the meat went as car case to Rhodesia or to South Africa. But we also established a cannery in co-operation with an expert in this field in Johannesburg; and that meat then went, and still goes, to a number of European countries, including our own, canned. This was another extremely good outlet for Bechuanaland, and that is the sort of thing that has been happening.

This was a highly successful project and, having made it a highly successful project, the Commonwealth Development Corporation have now handed it over, on payment, of course, to the Bechuanaland Meat Commission, a statutory Commission established by the Government in Bechuanaland. So at this moment, when we are about to cease to have any further responsibility for Bechuanaland, we have the satisfaction of knowing that we have produced, through the Commonwealth Development Corporation, a public corporation, a first-class operation, in this sense, which will go to the benefit of the people in Bechuanaland; not merely to the farmers, but also to the public as a whole, because they will get the benefit of the substantial revenues that come from the abattoir and the cannery.

My Lords, this is the sort of action, I think, illustrated in Bechuanaland, which is needed in so many of these undeveloped territories like Bechuanaland. Here was a test case. Bechuanaland was a country dependent upon cattle, and the cattle were constantly being prejudiced by lack of water. How could we help them? It is no good putting down steelworks or anything of that kind. It is nonsense to think that the country can be developed in that way. It is necessary to look at the problem to see how it can best be solved with the means at hand, by technical assistance and money from this country. Successive Governments—for the Corporation is not dependent on a single Government—have sustained the Commonwealth Development Corporation; Parliament has sustained it; and this House, in particular, has taken great interest in the Corporation, and I think we can be proud of the work that the Corporation has done in Bechuanaland.

So far as the people are concerned, I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison. I believe that we should help them in every way we can. It is no fault of theirs that they are in this position. They have not spent large sums of money, as so many of these countries have, on Odeon-type embassies, Cadillacs for Ambassadors, and that sort of nonsense. Every penny that has gone to the country has been spent there on projects for the benefit of the country, and I would support to the full the plea that the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, has so eloquently made for our help to these people in Bechuanaland.

5.21 p.m.


My Lords, I take this opportunity of intervening briefly in this debate in order to underline what my noble friend Lord Mitchison has said concerning the desperate need of the people of Bechuanaland. My personal activities over the past few months have given me an opportunity of learning something of that need. However, I wish particularly to refer to a comment which my noble friend made concerning the development of co-operatives in that country, which serves to indicate their anxiety and their willingness to make their own personal contribution towards the development of the country.

It is always better, I think, in terms of helping a nation or a group of persons, or an individual person, if they are willing and capable of helping themselves, and I think that credit is due to OXFAM and to the British Co-operative movement for certain developments which have taken place within recent months, whereby, without a great deal of publicity, there has been a recognition of the contribution that could be made to the people of Bechuanaland by the development of co-operatives. OXFAM is associated in the minds of so many people with charitable hand-outs, but it is using a large proportion of its funds in order to make a practical contribution in assisting self-help in that country by the building of co-operative institutions; and, in turn, the British Co-operative movement has pledged itself to raising immediately a substantial sum of money, no less than £30,000, which from now on will be a continuing sum. I think that in itself is something which indicates not only the generosity of an organisation but a recognition of the close identity of their people with ours.

I think it is worth while to place on record the contribution which has been made by those two organisations, and I mention it on this occasion only because I think it might serve as some further inducement as far as the British Government are concerned in giving additional aid to these worthy people.

5.23 p.m.


My Lords, as the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, has said, we were greatly moved by the way in which my noble friend Lord Mitchison put his Question and, on all sides of the House, we followed what he said with interest and, I hope and believe, with great understanding. He made reference to the fact that some of his information had been derived from reports which had been given to him by Lady Mitchison, and at the outset I should like to offer my humble but deeply sincere admiration for the service which she has rendered to the people of Bechuanaland, among whom she spends, as I believe, some time each year. My noble friend mentioned the tribe with which she was staying. I gather she is now, officially or unofficially, the godmother of that tribe and she puts at their disposal qualities of energy and enthusiasm which I think must be quite unique. It is possible—in fact I know it to be true—that those same qualities of energy and enthusiasm sometimes bring her into mild collision with the central authorities in Bechuanaland. But however sharp the spur which she applies, I am sure the overwhelming feeling towards her is one of affection.

Having said that, I also want to make clear that in anything I say in reply to what has been said by noble Lords on both sides of the House, I trust they will not detect any note of complacency, because I know there is real need in that part of God's earth and there is greater need there, as my noble friend has said, than a good many people in this country or elsewhere sometimes realise. However, it must not be thought that nothing has been done or is being done, and I propose to set out some of the facts which may in part answer the pleas made by my noble friend.

I think it would not be useful for me to say much more about the extent of the need after the description which he gave. It has been said (and I give these brief facts) that following about five years of below average season's rainfall there was a total failure of the rains in the early part of 1965, and this drought precipitated the worst crop failure the territory had experienced for 25 years. Virtually all the crops were lost and the cattle died for lack of food and water. The rains again failed at the end of 1965, and although there was relief this year, at the end of January and the first half of February, the heavy rains which then fell came too late to have any material effect on the wretched situation which had developed. The expectation now is that the famine will continue until crops are harvested in mid-1967. Cattle feeding in lieu of the normal grazing will have to be continued until November of this year.

That is the general picture and what it has meant in suffering to humans and animals will be felt much more keenly by people like Lady Mitchison who have seen it with their own eyes than by even the most imaginative of us in this Chamber. I was asked about the number of people affected, and I am told that the number of destitutes has not in fact risen so quickly as was feared. The current figure is about 114,000 souls.

I have to make it clear, however, that the immediate responsibility for dealing with this problem rests as a matter of political or legal fact with the Bechuanaland Government. Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom would not normally be involved except in response to requests for help. The present Constitution of Bechuanaland provides for internal self-government and, of course, on September 30 next she will achieve full independence as the Republic of Botswana. After September 30 responsibility will obviously be even more clearly defined, but prior to that the position is that Her Majesty's Commissioner there is required under the Constitution to act in accordance with Cabinet advice on all matters except external affairs, defence and internal security. I mention this partly to place it on record, but partly also to explain the difficulties which sometimes arise when Lady Mitchison has from time to time raised with Ministers in this country her points about famine relief which, strictly speaking, should be taken up directly with the Bechuanaland Government, or possibly with the local officials in the tribal area or with the appropriate Ministries in Gaberones.

It is, of course, true that Her Majesty's Government are concerned in the relief work to the extent that it is providing aid. I have been asked by the noble Earl and by my noble friend about the tripartite scheme announced by the Prime Minister at the beginning of this year. I must say I rather regret the way in which the question was posed to me by the noble Earl. He seemed to think there was something mysterious. If there was any criticism to be made about my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, it was that he allowed his compassion in this matter to move him to speedy action, but surely that is not to be deprecated?

The brief facts are that just after he announced this scheme heavy rains fell in Central Africa and it was found that the problem was not so acute, except in Bechuanaland and, to a lesser extent, in Basutoland. So far as Bechuanaland was concerned, it was thought that the arrangements I am now proposing to detail were a more efficient way of tackling the problem than through the tripartite arrangements which might have been set up had the difficulties with which we were to contend been spread over a wider area. I can say that all Bechuanaland's requests for aid so far have been met in full.

In the very early stages of the famine a National Relief Fund was established which provided emergency feeding for the first few weeks. Since then relief needs for both the human and the cattle populations have been met mainly on the basis of food supplies provided free by the World Food Programme, with Her Majesty's Government providing the sizeable funds needed to cover distribution and other local costs. It has also been necessary for Her Majesty's Government to provide funds for the purchase of foods needed prior to the arrival of World Food Programme supplies.

I was asked for some figures. £458,000 was provided by the United Kingdom by way of aid in 1965–66, and approval has been given for expenditure of £1.1 million in the current financial year on the human and cattle feeding programmes. In addition, since the onset of the famine Colonial Development and Welfare grants totalling £245 million and an Exchequer loan of £150,000 have been approved for purposes associated with famine relief. The C.D. & W. grants come out of the £2.6 million allocated to Bechuanaland for spending during 1965–67. This all forms part of the increasing help which is being given to Bechuanaland. Possibly I might give the total figures. Over the past few years the figure of budgetary aid has risen from just under £1 million in 1960–61 to £2.66 million in 1965–66, and the final figure for1966–67 is likely to be even higher. The overall total of United Kingdom assistance for budgetary and development purposes during the seven-year period from 1960–67 will be over £19 million. We are therefore, I hone the House will agree, making a financial contribution.

I mentioned the World Food Programme. Food for 60,000 people was provided during September and October, 1965, and since then the W.F.P. has been providing supplies for 105,000 people. Approval was recently given for further supplies for up to 360,000 people to be made available on a food-for-work basis for the twelve months beginning in July.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord for one moment? Would he not agree that the most practical way in which we could help the people of Bechuanaland would be to provide pumping stations in the Kalahari desert, where I believe it is possible to find water if you bore deep enough?


Perhaps the noble Lord would allow me to say what we are doing in the rather more orderly way in which I have it set out.


My Lords, the economists produced this figure of the emergency food ration. I am very much interested to hear how much has been spent, but is that the right amount—10 oz. of maize and 1 oz. of vegetable oil per head per day?


I am proposing to deal with that. I had not finished. I was going to say that there had been no doubt some difficulties in the initial stages in the distribution of this food, and I thought the House might be interested in the kind of problem which I see was mentioned in one of the earlier reports of what has been done. It reads: There was some disruption of the normal distribution programme during February because certain roads became impassable on account of the heavy rains. Some lorries carrying supplies became bogged down or were held up. Wash ways along the line of rail also meant that rail traffic was held up for short periods. These are the kind of difficulties which are having to be contended with, even though the will and, to some extent, the finance is there to provide assistance for these people.

I was going on to give some details about the World Food Programme. I had said that approval had been given for further supplies for up to 360,000 people to be made available on this food-for-work basis. It is interesting to note what kind of work is expected of the people when given their ration of food. I am told that in the urban areas the sort of work upon which they will be engaged includes public housing for employees, schools and other public amenities, drainage schemes, storage sheds, tree planting, water conservation, market gardens and village sanitation: in the rural areas to provide dams, village roads, bush clearance, de-stumping of arable land, soil conservation works, and so on. I should also say that for the five years' period there will be a supplementary feeding programme for children and pregnant and nursing women. This, too, begins in July. Additionally the World Food Programme is helping with stock feed for the period up to November, when there should be grazing again available for the cattle. The total value of this World Food Programme aid is around £5.7 million. This is in addition to our direct aid.

I might mention that the United Kingdom also contributes through the United Nations Organisation their share of this World Food Programme relief. For the W.F.P. I see that our share amounts to the value of £2.2 million, half in kind and half in cash. I should like to say a word of appreciation of the help that has been given by the voluntary societies, some of which my noble friend mentioned. OXFAM have provided funds for boreholes and stock dams. OXFAM, War on Want, Christian Aid and the World Council of Churches have all played a part. I have details, but I will not go into them all. They have made available lorries for the transport of food. The Save the Children Fund and the Red Cross have joined together in a supplementary feeding programme for 12,000 children under five years of age. The Bakgatla Community Centre in Mochudi has also provided supplementary child feeding. One of the most active persons in collecting money in this country has been Lady Mitchison herself. I do not know whether I am entitled to say this, but I think it should be said because my noble friend has not been content simply to put the begging bowl in front of others.

Reference was also made to the Cooperative Movement. I was very grateful for the kindly words which were used about Trevor Bottomley and his colleagues. I am sure they will be appreciated. The Co-operative Movement, together with OXFAM, are now engaged in trying to collect money in order to continue this constructive work. I gather this aid is being greatly appreciated, and I hope my noble friend will be able to confirm this. He has said, and others have said too, that it is not enough simply to provide food and that there is a need for money in order to meet such things as taxes, school fees and fuel for cooking purposes. I should explain that the food-for-work scheme will require the performance of approximately 25 hours' work a week, and is limited to this amount precisely in order to enable recipients to do other part-time work in order to get the minimum of money with which to meet other needs. And I gather that it is not so much that in the shops there is nothing to be bought; there are supplies if a minimum amount of money can be made available to these people.

Lack of resources, of course, does not permit the Bechuanaland Government to provide money, but I hope that it will be felt that this way of part-time work in return for food, together with the opportunity of earning a certain amount of money, will go a good way to meet the needs. In any case, I am advised that, so far as Government and tribal schools are concerned, no pupil's education would be discontinued simply because the parents were unable to find the necessary school fees.


My Lords, my noble friend is kind enough to mention the community centre at Mochudi. That community school has been feeding the under-7 children at its own expense for a year now.


My Lords, I am sure that this will be taken into account.

I was asked, and have been asked again by my noble friend, about my views as to the situation which would develop if Treasury Knights, or indeed noble Lords in this House, had to exist for long on the meal which is now made available under this food-for-work scheme. One might say that it is a diet which in some areas of the world, at any rate in the Western World, we should find completely inadequate. But I am told that it is the standard diet which was considered reasonable and balanced by the experts of the W.F.P. who went into this most carefully; of course it is possible to supplement this with sums of money which they are able to earn. Up to now, at any rate, it has also been supplemented by sales of cattle.

One criticism which has been made is that this food is given out at fortnightly intervals. I have been asked whether it would not be better if it were given out at weekly intervals, or, better still even, if there were a daily issue. Naturally this would be preferable, and I understand that in July consideration will be given to this possibility, although clearly this would create additional administrative problems. I have heard from my noble friend, although he did not refer to it specifically to-day, that tribes and not only individuals are short of money; and one reason why the Bakgatla are short of water is that they do not have funds to pay for the equipment necessary for borehole repair. No doubt revenues in Bechuanaland have been affected by the famine, but I am informed that it is incorrect to say that boreholes are left unrepaired because of tribal finances. All the boreholes in the Bakgatla area, according to my information, are owned by syndicates who are responsible for raising their own funds for maintenance purposes.

At present, two boreholes in the area are not being used—but this, I gather, is because the water is unpalatable—and the two newly drilled boreholes have yet to be equipped. If there are other delays in carrying out repairs to equipment, it is likely that this is due to the limited number of maintenance units and to the physical difficulties of getting them about the countryside. But I agree with the noble Lord, and with the noble Lord, Lord Somers, who intervened, that water development is of basic importance, and is, indeed, the major factor limiting development in Bechuanaland.

I only wish that a speech of mine in this House could solve the problem. But of course there is no easy answer to a physical situation of this kind. There is, however, a continuing programme of borehole drilling and equipping. Dams have been constructed to provide water supplies for the new capital at Gaberones and Lobatsi, and a number of stock dams have been constructed throughout the territory. The estimated total expenditure on the improvement of water supplies during the two-year period 1965 to 1967 is about £1 million. I agree that much more is needed.

An approach is now being made to the United Nations Special Fund for the preparation of a comprehensive plan for the development of irrigation in the Okavango Delta and the Limpopo River watershed. The total cost of this preparatory work alone will be around £650,000 in a three-year period. I have no doubt that some will say that Her Majesty's Government have a responsibibility to provide additional funds for this water development, but I can only point again to the total aid which has already been allocated to Bechuanaland, and to say that it is primarily for the Bechuanaland Government itself to decide priorities as between one form of economic development and another.

I might add just a word about the future; and first of all, about the development of the cattle herds when the feeding is available again. I am given to understand that efforts are being made to keep a basic herd for breeding purposes of around 200,000. It is hoped that this will be about the figure when the rains come and the crops are growing again. This is in addition to the large herds that are maintained by the bigger cattle owners. It will mean a lone haul ahead, but I am sure that the efforts which are now being made to achieve this minimum basic herd is the right policy. I would also mention that talks will shortly take place at the Ministry of Overseas Development on aid for Bechuanaland; or Botswana, as it will be after independence. I hope and believe that what my noble friend has said about need there will carry some weight when discussions take place.

My Lords, I doubt whether I can add a great deal more to what I have said, except that, quite apart from money, there is a need for people to help. There is a need for human beings. You cannot have an administration without administrators, and one reason why the Food for Work programme could not be mounted before July 1, was not only that the necessary supplies were not there, but because the administrative staff were not available. I understand that three administrative officers and four of the necessary executive officers are already in post, out of a needed eleven, and that two more executive officers will be arriving early in July. But there is also a great need for volunteers with the necessary qualifications. So far, there have been four volunteers, out of an immediate total needed of sixteen, to serve with the voluntary services overseas. What is needed are volunteers with agricultural, engineering or building experience and qualifications, capable of supervising work on the community development projects.


Or water supplies.


I should like to think that in addition to filling, to some extent, my noble friend's begging bowl, there might be a response to this appeal for voluntary service. If there are qualified people in this country who are moved to offer their services, then they should apply to the Voluntary Societies Committee for Service Overseas, whose address is 26 Bedford Square, London. I hope that there will be a response. I should like to think that there are many more people in this country who are capable of following the example of selfless service set by Lady Mitchison and also, if I may say so, by my noble friend.