The 2015/16 El Niño Business in Botswana: Water Supply Disruptions and Small and Medium Enterprises in The Greater Gaborone Area
The 2015/2016 El Niño weather phenomenon has intensified the already existing drought associated with climate change in Botswana. Drought affects water resources, driving up water shortages for all use, including industrial use. Profound economic impacts are felt across sectors, particularly small and medium enterprises (SMEs) due to their limited capacity to cope. Nevertheless, literature on the impacts of water shortages on SMEs is still lacking. This study investigated the economic impacts of and responses to water supply disruption by SMEs in Greater Gaborone during the 2015/2016 El Nino period. We assessed SMEs from the hospitality and hair salon sectors on the economic impacts as well as responses to the issue. Moreover, in-depth interviews were held with resource managers in the government departments and non-governmental organizations to gain more insights on the nature of El Nino and drought. Results show that most businesses experienced water supply disruption and as a result were severely impacted as their business equipment was damaged. Businesses were also unable to fulfill customer obligations, resulting in permanent loss of customers, forcing them to temporarily dismiss employees. Subsequently, cost of operation increased due to lower annual profits and higher losses during periods of disruption. Despite the fact that businesses employed a number of coping and adaptation strategies to stay in operation, some still felt they were at the risk of closing down. Water supply disruption and its impact on business operations demonstrated that for businesses to stay in operation, water conservation and management is of critical importance. Recommendations are made for enhanced strategies that will increase the resilience of SMEs to future water drought.
Key words- El Nino, drought, economic impact, water supply disruption, small and medium enterprise