Saturday, January 22, 2022

Agro output hampered by failure to adopt new technologies

 The  Office  of  the  Auditor  General (OAG)  has  warned  of further decline  in  agricultural  output  linked  to  persistent  failure  by the  Ministry  of  Agriculture  to  promote  adoption  of  new  methods  of  farming  and  technologies  through a  crop  production  extension  services  program. 

This ┬áis ┬áaccording┬á to┬á a┬á recent┬á performance┬á audit┬á done,┬á after┬á parliamentary┬á debate raised concern┬á that┬á since┬á independence┬á the┬á agriculture’s┬á contribution┬á to ┬áGross┬á Domestic┬á Product┬á (GDP)┬á has been┬á progressively┬á declining.

After┬á the┬á audit,┬á which┬á covered┬á the┬á Ministry’┬á extension┬á services┬á countrywide, the ┬áOAG┬á believes that┬á among┬á other┬á things,┬á employment of incompetent┬á extension┬á officers┬á had led to the decline.

The officers,  among  them  agricultural  demonstrators  in  the  department  of  crop  production,  are  responsible  for  providing   technical  services  to  subsistence  and  commercial  farmers. 

The  audit  report noted that the officers were unable to equip  farmers  with  relevant  skills  associated  with new  farming  innovations  introduced   to  counter  declining  agricultural  output.

From 35 percent at independence, the agriculture sector’s contribution to GDP had declined to 3 percent by 2009. “The ministry┬á has┬á still┬á kept┬á unqualified┬á officers┬á to┬á carry┬á out┬á extension┬á service┬á duties,┬á though┬á they┬á are┬á struggling┬á to┬á introduce┬á to┬á farmers┬á new┬á yield-enhancing┬á technologies,” the audit report noted.

Auditor┬á General┬á Robby┬á Sebopeng┬á said┬á most┬á of┬á them┬á do┬á not┬á possess┬á qualifications┬á commensurate┬á with┬á the┬á advanced┬á technologies┬á they┬á are┬á required┬á to┬á transfer┬á to┬á farmers.┬á “They┬á have┬á limited┬á capacity┬á in┬á terms┬á of┬á practical┬á skills┬á to┬á provide┬á advisory┬á services,┬á especially┬á for┬á commercial ┬áagriculture,”┬á said┬á Sebopeng.

The Public  Relations  Officer  in  the  Ministry  of  Agriculture,  Boikhutso  Rabasha,  said  she  is  not  aware  of  the  situation,  therefore  could not  comment.  However, this paper has learnt that out  of  39  extension  service  workers  in  the  department  of  crop  production,  only  three  have  diplomas  while  eight  posses  degree  qualifications.  The  remaining  29  workers  who  possess  certificates  in  Agriculture  had  long  been  employed  and  never  been  sent  for  training  thereafter. 

Some┬á farmers ┬áhave┬á expressed┬á concern┬á that the┬á government’s┬á agricultural┬á initiatives fail to reach┬á beneficiaries┬á in┬á farming┬á communities┬á because┬á their┬á mobilisation┬á depends┬á on┬á improved┬á extension┬á services.

Kgaupe  Rakereng  one  of  the  subsistence  farmers  from  Mmakgomo  in  Mochudi  said  among  these  initiatives  is  the  Integrated  Support  Program  for  Arable  Agricultural  Development  (ISPAAD)  which   intends  to  bolster  commercialisation  of  rain  fed  crops.  ISPAAD  is  intended  to  introduce  farmers  to  yield  enhancing  methods  and  technologies  that  are  largely  unknown  and  untried  in  Botswana.

Another  farmer,  Ephraim  Gopolang  from  Sikwane,  said  since  the  introduction  of  ISPAAD,  some  officers  cannot  deal  with  farmers  that have  advanced  machinery.  Gopolang  added  that  the  workers  competence  and  confidence  is  already  affected  in  dealing  with  farmers  who  are  abreast  with  new  farming  methods.

The  Auditor  General  said  this  situation  has  defeated  government  efforts  to  develop  farmers  within  the  framework  of  national,  economic  and  social  policies.

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