The Director for Animal Production in the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr Philemon Motsu has said that there is need to diversify Agriculture with ostrich farming since Botswana has the largest wild ostrich population in the world.
Giving a keynote address during an orientation preceding the Botswana Ostrich Farmers’ Association (BOFA) General Meeting, he said currently there are no active ostrich farmers in the country except for one who runs Talana farm. But the government is supporting the industry as evidenced by the construction of an abattoir as well as the Dibete Ostrich Multiplication Unit (DOMU) which supplies eggs and one day old chicks.
“The government has also completed lease agreements with the Ngwato Land board which will be subdivided into satellite which would be rented out. They will operate as feedlots where farmers will buy one day old chicks feed them until they are 11 months old and ready for market,” he said.
He said the government through the Ministry of Agriculture is working with BOFA to draft a strategy which is expected to identify challenges the industry is faced with. He said there are known challenges like infrastructure and water shortage as well as feeds for the birds. He expressed gratitude over the fact that the youth attended the orientation in large numbers. This indicates that opportunities that keep availing themselves such as provision of feeds, transportation or involvement in any of the industry’s value chain.
Dr Motsu said the government intends implementing agricultural infrastructure from April, 2015, and a lot should be expected during the National Development Plan (NDP) 11. He urged members of the defunct Association, participants-mostly aspirants to form a very strong Association.
“BOFA should be as strong as the Poultry Farmers association which is active and eloquent enough as shown by their recent advocacy for young poultry farm producers. BOFA should advocate for running the abattoir if it deems it necessary to run it,” he said, adding that the association should not fall into the default approach used by cattle farmers. Their access to European Union market, he said is not a product of its efficiency.
For his part the current Secretary of BOFA, Godfrey Mokgwathi informed participants that there was need for a strong Association led by active, committed, committee. He pointed a number of challenges facing BOFA among them the running of the multi-species abattoir.
“The association is a shareholder of the abattoir. By that virtue there should be annual financial contribution towards its operation by the association. Do we as association contribute?” he asked. Silence that followed indicated that there was no contribution. He said the running of the abattoir requires P20, 000 which he wondered why the participants who had filled the room could not afford.
He pointed out the fact that the abattoir has qualified for the standards as set up by the major market-EU and there was need for alternative market. He informed participants that the industry has potential to be money spinner. That the farming aspirants should aim at working hard in following ethics of doing the business. And that the current status of the multi-species abattoir, where other animals like donkeys are also slaughtered could in the long run disadvantage farmers when ailments break out among such species; leading to queries by European Union and possible suspension of their market.