The Acting Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Dr Gloria Somolekae, on Thursday presented the agricultural loan bill to parliament, which is designed to help the sector become viable and sustainable.
The IFAD loan Authorisation bill aims to improve the agricultural sector performance, leading to reduced poverty and improved livelihoods of rural communities.
Besides attaining the national objective of food security and rural development, the project would ensure government commitment to Integrated Support Programme for Arable Agricultural Development ÔÇô another government initiative that has the desired outcomes to sustainable agricultural productivity and incomes.
“The project will target approximately 20,000 farming households,” said the minister.
“Four principal groups will be targeted, namely smallholder households hiring tractors for land preparation and planting, owners of animal draught power who continue to cultivate part of their land using such draught power, women as small holder farmers and youth who are currently engaged or are new entrants into agricultural production,” she added.
While Daniel Kwelagobe, the Member of Parliament for Molepolole South, embraces the project as a noble idea, he is skeptical the project would follow in the footsteps of other government initiatives that disadvantage small farmers by disallowing them to live alongside their livestock.
Citing the cluster farming initiative recently initiated by government, Kwelagobe argued the project was doomed to fail as the farmers were separated from their cattle not even allowed to let their cattle drink from the borehole drilled in the area.
He is adamant the envisaged project would fail should the same procedure be employed.
“How can you till the land and have your cattle stay some long kilometers away from you,” Kwelagobe queried, pleading with the government to come with individual fencing instead of cluster fencing as the system tends to be problematic in the majority of places across the country.
“This would explicitly reveal to the nation the government commitment to enhancing the agricultural sector and thus ensuring food security,” he said.
For his part, Boteti North MP, Slumber Tsogwane, lamented the marginalized groups, especially Basarwa, were sidelined when it comes to arable farming, urging the government to drill portable for them so that they become part of the project.
“This project would surely close the gap between rural poor and the urbanites. Income disparities between the two have been stunning,” he revealed.
Estimated at approximately P165.13 million, the Agricultural Services Support Project is proposed to source a loan amounting to P26.66 million as well as a grant of P10, 63 million from IFAD to part finance the project. The remaining P127.22 would be borne by the government of Botswana under the ongoing ISPAAD programme.
Amongst others, the IFAD loan would finance a pilot scheme to develop and demonstrate a viable model for small-scale irrigation based on treated waste water.
Besides the purchase of vehicles, equipment and materials for more effective service delivery to farmers through the Agricultural Service Centre and extension system, the agricultural loan would strengthen the institution at extension level for effective implementation of ISPAAD and enhancing the capacity of the ministry of Agriculture to undertake monitoring and evaluation and information management.
Repayment period is within 18 years while the grace period is 3 years and the interest rate is 1.10%. The interest rate will be payable during the grace period.
The bill is expected to pass Monday.