Friday, January 22, 2021

Botswana benchmarks with Kenya to boost dairy production

The government of Botswana has admitted that it faces challenges in dairy farming. The challenges have resulted in a dire shortage of milk in Botswana, a country that has over three million herds of cattle but still imports large quantities of milk annually. The difficulties range from feeding to support for commercial and subsistence farmers across the country.

Agricultural Hub Coordinator, Edmond Moabi told a Kenya business delegation in Gaborone on Monday that the problem is worsened by the fact that there is no coordinated system to sell
feeds to farmers.

“We have problems and challenges in the dairy sub-sector. First of all most of our feed is imported. Even though, we have arable farmers, we do not have coordinated system to sell feeds to dairy farmers,” he said.

Moabi said they have encouraged arable farmers to start selling feeds to dairy farmers. The other challenge facing the sector is that dairy cows are imported and very expensive. To address this problem, government will purchase sexed semen from abroad and sell it to farmers at a subsidized rate.

“Also, we don’t have small scale dairy farmers. That is where we lost it. Botswana subsistence farmers do not own cattle specifically for dairy farming. People do milk cows at their cattle posts, but that is not dairy farming. We are still far from commercializing the production of milk and we believe Kenyans can help us in that regard,” said Moabi.

According a member of the Kenyan delegation, subsistence dairy farming in East Africa’s giant economy puts bread on the table for many farmers in the nation’s rural areas. He expressed surprise that there are farmers in Kenya who make a living by simply milking a cow and selling the milk, yet the dairy industry is struggling in Botswana, where there are millions of cattle.

Two years ago, the Minister of Trade and Industry visited Kenya to see how cooperatives function, and one of the sectors that she found thriving was dairy farming. The minister discovered that dairy farming can be done at a small scale but still remain beneficial to the rural economies. One farmer will have one dairy cow, but there will be a collection point where farmers send their milk to be sold. And so it was that Botswana hoped to benefit from Kenya’s experiences in dairy farming.

Kenyan High Commissioner to Botswana, Ambassador Jean Kimane revealed that there is a pending Memorandum of Understanding in the cooperative sector which will address such challenges.
“It will help Botswana and Kenya to learn from each other,” she said.

Botswana is currently a net importer of dairy products and the Ministry of Agriculture has conducted extensive studies on the subject and prepared a comprehensive dairy handbook that tries to identify some of the fundamental issues in a profitable dairy enterprise. According to Botswana government website, the key findings are that a minimum of 50 dairy cows is the recommended ideal herd size to give farmers a reasonable return to continue production and reduce milk imports. It further said that the output of Botswana’s approximately 5000 dairy cows could be increased substantially, from the current average of around 10 liters of milk per cow per day to between 50 and 60 litres. Proper feeding strategies and a regular supply of fresh water would also assist in boosting output.

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