Farmers in Pandamatenga have raised concern over Botswana Agricultural Marketing Board (BAMB)’s poor cash flow as they say it affects their production. Speaking last week during the Chobe Agricultural Show held in Pandamatenga, the Chairman of the Pandamatenga Farmers Association, Devin Wheeler revealed that many loyal farmers who supply BAMB with their harvest have since resolved to sell their produce to the private millers due to his challenge. He said many farmers are owed by BAMB for large portions of their harvest with some not receiving any payment at all.
“This places farmers in a difficult position as we cannot pay our creditors nor secure competitive rates for the coming season with our suppliers. BAMB plays an integral part in Pandamatenga and we are very concerned about the current state of affairs. It is important to note that Pandamatenga now has 47 000 hactres in production and in a good season BAMB’s Pandamatenga facility will not cope with all our produce,” said Wheeler.
In addition he said over the past season National Development Bank (NDB) was unable to assist farmers and could only provide 80 percent finance to existing clients input loans. He emphasized that farmers cannot operate without support from financial institutions and as such they have written to NDB asking for clarity for the coming season and they are still waiting for the bank’s response.
“Pandamatenga is a growing village and with the growth comes other challenges. One of them being crime, however cases of diesel and grain theft are on the decline as a result of some good police work. We ask the police to keep up the good work,” he said.
Among some of the serious challenges be-devilling the farmers, Wheeler said they are fighting a losing battle against wild animals which ravage their crops. He said herds estimated to be as a strong as 80 elands in the eastern plains as well as 50 in the southern plains of the region are destroying their crops. The animals include the Tshesebe, Kudus and the Giraffes.
“During the breeding season, male giraffes within the fence fight outside causing severe damage to the fence in the process. This means that our fence maintenance crew spend more time repairing the fence rather than maintaining it. The net result is that the game fence is now sub-standard, making it all the more easy for every prying bull elephant to enter. Farmers eagerly await the Department of Wildlife to join hands with us to resolve this problem,” Wheeler said.
In addition he said that the 2015/ 2016 planting season has not been easy for farmers in the area due to the effects of the El Nino weather phenomenon caused by the climate change. He revealed that in the beginning of the season rain was patchy at best with parts of Pandamatenga receiving reasonable early rain while the other parts remained dry as the effects of the El Nino began to taper off from the mid February. He said early crops planted in December and January suffered severely with lack of rain in January and most farmers were unable to start planting in mid to late February.
“In January the government realized that the drought in the southern parts of Botswana had decimated any chance of a reasonable crop. The Deputy Permanent Secretary Dr Baipoledi and Director of Crop Production Mr Ramokapane came to Pandamatenga with the message that Pandamatenga was the last hope,” he said.
He said in some cases farmers changed their crop plans, opting for beans because of the late planting and lack of moisture in the soil profile. He said government incentive to plant legumes such as cowpeas has had a marked effect on sorghum production and said that he is hopeful that farmers across the country will take note of the advantages of including legumes in their cropping plan. On a different note Wheeler lauded the Department of Crop Production for the ongoing support in controlling the quelea bird.
“The bird abatement project had a marked effect this year and hopefully one day this project will be able to change the migratory pattern of these birds,” he added.
He also said that the Department of Crop Production also did a tremendous tracking job along with the Quelea Committee by destroying crop quelea colonies. Wheeler however revealed that this year saw Quelea birds sometimes roosting in the long grass rather than in the trees making its control much challenging.
On a positive note he said that crop farmers across the country should be grateful to government for its continued support through the ISPAAD programme and agricultural credit guarantee scheme which came as a lifeline to many farmers severely affected by this year’s drought. Wheeler said it is important to take cognizance of the fact that government is extremely supportive of farmers.
“Another example of this support is our roads and drainage infrastructure, while there may be snags on the works done by Zongan our roads and drainage committee are working with the Department of Crop production to resolve these issues,” he said.