The Minister of Agriculture, Christian De Graaff, has urged farmers to look into agriculture as a business venture that will ultimately uplift livelihoods and enhance the economic base of the country.
He said although agriculture’s contribution to GDP is minimal, it still remains the pillar of livelihood for Batswana
“Though the ministry encourages farmers to be involved in food production at household level, there is a dire need to grow and move from subsistence to commercial production in order to increase the sector’s contribution to GDP,” De Graaff said.
He urged Batswana to re-think agriculture for purposes of living up to the Millennium Development Goal of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger. “Indeed it is through agriculture that citizens of this country can become self-sufficient and food secure.”
De Graaff said the re-occurrence of droughts in the continent due to unstable climatic conditions calls on the country to change strategies to achieve sustainable food production.
“It’s our hope that the Zambezi integrated Agro commercial Development project will enable Batswana to embark on large scale production, presenting opportunities for export.”
He said through the government assistance programmes such as ISPAAD, LIMID and other programmes signs of growth in the sector are being realised.
De Graaff said the total area ploughed and planted continues to increase yearly.
During the 2009/10 ploughing season the area planted for cereal production totalled 335 000 ha by 106 000 farmers and for the 2010/11 ploughing season over 374,798 hectares was planted by 118 024 farmers.
The annual target for horticulture production for the year 2010/11 was 42 000 metric tonnes.
However, total production at the end of the year was only 36 138.06 metric tonnes which is 86 percent of the annual target and 48 percent of the national demand estimated at 75 000 metric tonnes.
De Graaff said they continue to strive to achieve their vision of attaining national food security and global competitiveness in agricultural products. “We are mindful that what is important is not only the area ploughed and planted but also the productivity of the area and we are actively working with the farmers to ensure improvement of our production per hectare,” he said.
De Graaff said the livestock sector continues to experience challenges of disease outbreaks with the recent reports of Foot & Mouth Disease [FMD] in Zones 6 and 7 being the worst experienced in a long time. The outbreak in Zone 6 is being controlled by vaccination and depopulation while that in Zone 7 will be controlled by vaccination and monitoring.
Botswana has entered into a bilateral collaborative transboundary control of FMD with Zimbabwe as a long term strategy towards stopping the re-occurrence of the disease. The effort includes a joint vaccination operation along the Botswana/Zimbabwe border from Plumtree to Beitbridge covering about 40kms for the next two years. He said an equally successful agricultural sector leads to economic development.