The beef value chain analysis action plan chooses not to mention names only revealing figures that in one respect, illustrate Botswana’s rich-poor divide in mindboggling detail.
“Botswana Meat Commission data suggests that in 2013, 22 percent of its direct supplies came from five farmers who supplied more than 5000 head. A further 16 percent came from nine farmers who supplied between 1000 and 5000 head. At the other extreme, 33 percent of supplies came from almost 9900 farmers supplying less than 20 head of cattle,” says the plan which has been developed for the Private Sector Development Programme (PSDP).
While the report doesn’t mention this detail, a majority (if not all) of the 14 farmers will be white and from the Gantsi district while the 9900 are indigenous Batswana spread throughout the country. The former use modern farming methods while the latter largely use traditional methods. The figures quoted are three years old but nothing dramatic has happened in the interim to alter the livestock ownership within the context of the stated categorisation.
With Botswana’s diamonds being mined out, projections are that two national development plans from now, they will contribute virtually nothing to GDP. In the circumstances, the private sector has been identified as the future engine of growth and the beef sector one of the most parts of that engine. The beef value chain analysis found that despite its importance to the national economy, this sector is not being exploited to its fullest potential. The PSDP, which is being coordinated by Business Botswana, has organised training programmes for both commercial and communal farmers and in a back issue of its Kgodiso newsletter, states farmers underwent training where they were taken through fundamental aspects of farming. The latter related to Botswana’s beef farming sector in relation to the rest of the world, the importance of management and record keeping and the effectively running of farming business in order to yield positive returns.
“With regard to the associations, it has been realised that the general conditions of our associations are weak. This is mainly due to their financial weakness, which arises from a low penetration of membership among the farming population and the financial hardships common among beef farmers at present. The members of associations have been trained on how to effectively run them with the assistance of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Association (ICSA) together with the local expert on Foot and Mouth Disease,” the newsletter says.
As a result of this level of engagement, farmer associations in Ngamiland have resolved to form one regional association that will work effectively to accommodate the interests of all farmers. Last month, PSDP sponsored a benchmarking trip to the United Kingdom for three commercial farmers from Gantsi.