The multi million pula bio diesel production project in Serowe and surrounding areas is said to be on the right track after it emerged that it received overwhelming approval from farmers in the central district.
The project is spearheaded by Ipelegeng Development Trust, a beneficiation organization that is the brainchild of Serowe North East Member of Parliament, Ramadeluka Seretse.
Speaking to The Sunday Standard last week, the coordinator of the trust, Ditlhong Ndlovu, said that they were very humbled by the overwhelming response that they got from farmers in Serowe and surrounding villages who are set to benefit immensely from the multi million pula project. The project will assist farmers to shift from subsistence to commercial farming in that their fields will be aggregated and used to plough the sunflower. Ndlovu revealed that, while there is generally an abundance of land in Botswana, it is not used efficiently by farmers and, therefore, does not benefit them much.
Ipelegeng Development Trust therefore is looking to maximize profits and facilitate more efficient use of the farms through the formation of land clusters in areas like Serule, Kgaswe, Topisi, Mabeleapudi, Mmabogopa and Lechana, and using the clusters to plant sunflower from which the bio diesel will later be extracted. The farmers will not be directly involved in the day to day running of the project as Ipelegeng Development Trust will source the funding for the project. The farmers will not be held liable for the funding and they will retain ownership of their land and also receive payment for the use of their fields.
Ipelegeng Development Trust will, however, retain a small portion to enable it to service the loan and cater for management and operation costs.
The project is also expected to create over 10 000 jobs and an additional employment through spin off industries like transportation. The farmers are also expected to gain a lot of expertise in that they will undergo training by Surface Green with a view to ceding the management of the project to the farmers within five to eight years time.
“We have a management contract with a company called Surface Green which will initially be involved in the whole project from tilling the land until the actual extraction as well as educating the farmers on the dynamics of bio diesel production with a view to handing over management to the farmers in the next few years,” said Ndlovu.
The project will initially kick start with 30 000 hectares but will, over time, expand to over 240 000 hectares at maximum production. One hectare will demand about P1230 in input costs and the Ipelegeng Development Trust is in earnest consultations with the National Development Bank and First National Bank to finance the initial 30 000 hectares to the tune of around P29 million.