The Outgoing Chairperson of the Human Resources Development Council (HRDC)-Agricultural Sector Dr Howard Sigwele says an ageing population of farmers in the country is a cause for concern and should be impetus for the youth to seriously take farming as a career. According to Sigwele, the youth are vital to the survival of the agricultural sector which is increasingly becoming important to Botswana whose diamonds are anticipated to run out by 2050.
Giving striking statistics, Sigwele said 70% of the current farmers in Botswana are over 50 years of age. He also said this, therefore, means the active participation of the youth is key in strengthening the agricultural sector in Botswana.
The agricultural sector is also one of the critical industries for the African continent due to economic potential and is projected to become a US$1trillion industry in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) by 2030. Sigwele lamented over the fact that Botswana is not self sufficient but has to rely on other countries, mainly South Africa for cereals. He added that active participation of the youth in food production will significantly improve the situation and position the country on a path towards self sufficiency.
He also applauded the formation of the National Farmers Union in Gaborone last week saying it is vital to local farmers and will help them advocate for them at national and international gatherings. He also said it will help farmers to benefit from opportunities offered by international agricultural bodies.
Botswana and some Southern African countries are is still reeling from the effects of the El Nino weather phenomenon which devastated crops leaving some 18 million people in need of food aid. The World Bank has also encouraged African governments to respond to water shortages by boosting efficiency and allocating even 25% of water to more highly-valued uses, such as more efficient agricultural practices.