As climate change continues to impact on the agricultural industry, researchers/manufacturers and farmers collaborate in executing trials to tackle the situation.
One such is the merger between an Indian Company CISB Botswana and Mogale farm near Mahalapye. It all started with a benchmarking trip to India by Tomato producers association. Alban Rodricks, Director of CISB Botswana, revealed that disease resistant, resilient and hybrid, horticultural crops is the innovative technology that is being introduced to Botswana.
He explained that; ”As a benchmarking exercise, CISB Botswana approached the Tomato Farmers Association in Botswana and a representative team of five farmers were hosted in India in October- November 2017. They were taken to the western and southern regions of their farms and operations in Maharashtra, India, to bench mark on, best practices and demonstration on how the seeds were planted and eventually cultivated for a rich harvest. Amongst other findings, the representative Batswana farmers were even introduced to nutritional specifications of the yield.”
Mogale farm Director, Dimpho Mogale told a team of Ministry of Agriculture officials and Botswana Investment Trade Center (BITC) who visited the farm to witness the progress made that the seeds have proven to be of high quality.
“It is too early to say yields will be more than those of the previous seeds. What I can say is I notice a difference in attack by pests which is greatly reduced on the produce; though we have not made any changes in our program,” said Mogale. He also revealed seeds were indeed the disease resistant seeds and that he had successfully planted cabbage, tomatoes, sweet Corn, Onion, Peppers-Green, Red, Yellow and Chocolate varieties.
The visiting team’s tour revealed that there were signs of quality in the produce; as the team members kept giving positive comments as they touched and held the produce in their hands.
“This is quite impressive. Comparing these with those we are used to; either in shops or vendors-these are quite amazing. The challenge, if not problem with this is because quality come with costs. It might end up being benefit for the well established farmers only. Unless if the government agrees to purchase them and do some subsidies. Alternatively farmers group up as associations and negotiate discounts if possible,” said Oarabile Phole-Letsatsi; Acting District Crop Production Officer in the Central District, in a brief interview.
In thanking the group for attendance, Director in the Department of Agribusiness, Ministry of Agriculture, Kelebonye Tsheboeng said they were not in a position to say at the moment because everything concerning dealing with the government is a process.
“We appreciate the initiative. It is positive step in the right direction to have better quality of the produce we import though we need to consume daily. It can help us cut the import bill. As way forward maybe we should consider introducing a manufacturing sector in the Agriculture industry. We should produce these high quality seeds which can resist plant diseases in our own soil. I think that will be a positive move,” said Tsheboeng.
Monthe said in an interview after the tour that the seeds he got for the experiment got finished. He said Rodricks told him that he is awaiting advice from the government as to how his company can sell the hybrid seeds to the government so that they are distributed throughout the country. He however pointed out the fact that his fellow members of Tomato Producers Association have expressed interest in planting the new seeds.
“We share the opinion that indeed growing these seeds can boost our business as their produce has longer shelf life than those we always use. You know as farmers we believe in what we see and in these we have found quality,” he said.
His sentiments were expressed by Rodricks who highlighted that the seeds are of a top most quality and the produce and output is unmatched currently in Botswana. The nutritional value of the produce is rich for consumption and for healthy living.
“If the government ensures the distribution of these to all farmers, Batswana will consume healthy foods and the extra produce can be exported to neighboring countries,” said Rodricks. He said future plans include wider availability to all the farmers and also to have workshops with farmers in Botswana on best practices. Fertilizers and water softening methodologies and technologies will be introduced.