Botswana is facing a serious food deficit that has never been experienced since the discovery of diamonds, with the opposition Botswana Congress Party pointing fingers at the ruling Botswana Democratic Party for the development.
It is believed and expected that the gems bring socio-economic and political stability. Botswana faces poverty of unprecedented propotions.
“The National Grain Strategic Reserves in Pitsane are almost empty. Some small scale sorghum milling companies in the southern part of the country are reported to be closing down because of grain shortages and escalating sorghum prices,” says the opposition Botswana Congress Party.
It added that the ruling party is always quick to blame drought for what is, in fact, a lack of an agricultural policy direction.
“What is clear is that Botswana may be the only country in the world that does not have an agricultural policy. The 1991 National Policy on Agricultural Development has long been abandoned and buried without an alternative or replacement except for a series of casual presidential directives,” the party observes, referring to President Khama’s tendecy to make unilateral public decisions, causing the opposition parties to charge that they are never consulted as in the introduction of the alcohol levy and the constituency football league.
Established to improve food security at both household and national levels, the agricultural policy emphasied augmenting the little domestic production with imported food.
“There was a deliberate shift away from the policy of food self sufficiency that was the driving force behind the global green revolution. In addition the 1991 policy promoted the development of small and large scale irrigated agriculture where feasible,” BCP secretary general, Kesitegile Gobotswang, posited, noting that the BDP governanace strategy is based on trial and error, resulting in disjointed initiatives where the tax payer’s money goes to waste.
Of the 200 000 metric tonnes of annual cereal requirements, Botswana is still struggling to produce 28.6 percent in a “normal” year. During the 2011 cropping season, the Intergarted Support Programme for Arable Agricultural Development Programme ÔÇô a community driven sector – planted 347 638 hectares only to harvest a paltry 78 934 ha or 23 percent out of which a mere 27 400 mt of food crops were produced. On the other hand, the commercial agricultural sub-sector planted 29 072 ha, harvested 21 027 ha or 77 percent out of which 29 878 mt of food crops were produced.
Against this background, Gobotswang sees nothing tangible of the programme designed to attain food security, self suffciency and associated ISPAAD with the previous policies, such as the “failed Accelerated Rain-fed Arable Program used by the ruling BDP as a temporary vote catching initiative”.
“The Botswana Congress Party believes that the motivation to be engaged in arable agriculture should be the prices the farmers get for their produce from BAMB and the market. It should not be driven by free ploughing, planting, weeding, fighting pests, or harvesting provided by government,” Gobotswang further argued.
“We need to introduce credit facilities for subsistence and small farmers. Countries that successfully transformed their agricultural production introduced agricultural banks and credit systems to serve both the middle and large scale commercial farmers. More importantly, the country needs a comprehensive and well thought out agricultural policy that recognizes agriculture as the future engine of economic growth.”