Sunday, June 23, 2024

Botswana remains on path to food self sufficiency

Botswana is yet to reach a state of self sufficiency in terms of vegetable production, said a chief horticultural officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, Barutwa Thebenala.

In regards to the current state of food production in the country, Thebenala told The Telegraph that, in 2011/12 the country has only managed to produce 55 percent of the national requirement for food production. However, the overall growth of the horticultural production from 2003/04 has since increased from 20 percent to the current 55 percent.

He said that the national requirement for the fruits and vegetables category is about 75 000 tonnes, while the country has only managed to produce 41 000 tonnes locally. He concedes that the difference is met through imports at costs which slightly exceeds P200 million per annum.

Thebenala faults the lack of a horticultural tradition within Botswana as one of the reasons why the country is still not self sufficient in terms of food production. He explains that the lack of a horticultural tradition in Botswana has led to a low adoption of improved technologies by growers/ farmers, which, in turn had led to poor crop management practices.

Crop management practices, such as fertilizer application, optimum plant spacing, water management, pest and disease management are, therefore, compromised by these inadequate technologies. He added that the farm inputs used in crop production are of high costs because they are imported mainly from South Africa.

He pointed out that there are, however, many other reasons why the crop production is still lagging behind, such as shortage of farm machinery and implements, poor agricultural infrastructure as well as lack of crop insurance.

He reported cases of no continuity in production, mainly due to poor crop planning and the presence of weak farmers associations.

Undeveloped marketing systems and the adverse effects of climate change have also proved to have a negative bearing on the already struggling crop industry.

Thebenala said that there are several interventions which have been put in place in order to address the challenges facing this industry.

The first step would be the intensification of crop demonstrations and farm walks to give farmers a chance to interact and observe the results of improved technology.

Government has introduced Integrated Support Programme for Arable Agriculture Development – Horticulture Support Programme, which subsidizes farm inputs namely seeds, seedlings, fertilizers and chemicals as well as selected farm equipment, such as shade net materials, polythene tunnels, drip irrigation equipment, water reservoirs, booster pumps and water conveyance pipes.

In addition to that, equipment, such as motorized sprayers and back pack sprayers, are available for hire to farmers at a cost recovery price. Individual farmers can only access ISPAAD Horticulture assistance through payment of a 40 percent contribution while groups and companies qualify for 60 percent of the total project cost.

Citing the Glen Valley and Dikabeya Irrigation Schemes as examples, Thebeyame informed The Telegraph, that the government has agreed in principle to provide infrastructure, such as water, electricity, and telecommunications, in areas with potential for agricultural growth.

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