The Botswana Agricultural Marketing Board (BAMB) has accessed an amount of P200 million from the Covid-19 fund for use to buy local farm produce to replenish Strategic Grain Reserves (SGR).
Giving an update on national sectorial update on response to Covid-19, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security, Jimmy Opelo stated that the purchase of harvest from local farmers is on-going since 2020. He added that other plans and interventions include providing BAMB with capacity to procure all the anticipated local harvest of 244 706 mt of cereals for the 2019/2020 ploughing season, as per the April 2020 Covid-19 Response plan.
“We are establishing storage facilities for grains in all production areas to reduce post-harvest losses. There is also provision of infrastructural development such as access roads and communications to production areas (clusters),” Opelo stated.
He added that the areas which have shown potential on arable farming are targeted for support under ISSPAAD Tweaking Clusters. Opelo said out of the 100,007 hactrage available, over 45,000 hectares of arable land is ready for cultivation while 55,000ha is yet to be de-stumped.
He is of the view that with the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic increasing, as evident from the weekly reports provided by the Presidential Task force, so is the importance of the agricultural sector and the need to ensure that enough food continues to be produced and availed to citizens of the country.
He further said that agricultural sector operations and activities continue to be classified as essential services. He said this is done while observing all the national protocols for minimising the spread of the coronavirus such as curfew and other COVID-19 protocols. He stated that the delivery of agricultural services is continuing uninterrupted and therefore farmers are encouraged to engage fully in agriculture activities by utilizing all government programs such as ISPAAD and LIMID, at their disposal for sustenance of the economy.
“The Ministry, in collaboration with the National Development Bank is implementing the ISF. The Facility provides all categories of farmers with interest free loans meant to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 pandemic,” he stated.