Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Botswana’s food security still talk-of-the town

Value Chain Farming Africa-Botswana (VCF), an Agribusiness Consortium of BEXTA Consulting has an ambitious roadmap for transforming the agricultural sector and addressing food security in Botswana.

The company’s Managing Director, Tshepiso Ntshobotho told participants in an ‘Agribusiness Summer School’ conference her company hosted Thursday at Ave Maria pastoral center that their goals for Botswana in particular are nothing participants cannot fathom.

She said, “Our goals for Botswana are simple; 80 000 commercial Good Agriculture Practices certified farms over the next ten years; 40 000 hectares of irrigated land; 486 345 direct jobs and 80 109 processing centers.”

On how she and her company are going to do that she said she currently represents over two hundred active members of the Value Chain Farming Africa ÔÇôBotswana network. They are processing their funding through a local bank. Over and above, they have five key pillars that will naturally sustain her team of farmers who have decided to commercialize and expand their market beyond Botswana.

The first pillar is access to finance which, though her company does not do, she has over the years researched and gathered by her team in the VCF. They have identified most challenges though new ones might emerge.

“These include those that are beyond manmade, in which case our insurers and main sponsor of this event, Botswana Insurance Company has structured products that will cover farmers by the time they cannot cover themselves. In light of reduced risks and broader and more secure markets, I have been working on the financing framework with some of the financiers who justifiably were beginning to shy away from agriculture due to repeated loan failures,” said Ntshobotho.

The second pillar is access to market while the third is access to information. Here VCF has secured all its farmers development budget and they undergo training. They are connected to at least seven extension officers who guide farmers throughout production to ensure they meet standard and quality set by the markets VCF is pursuing.

The forth pillar is access to water. VCF view is that since Botswana is a semi-arid land, farmers here cannot keep denying that and keep pumping resources into rain fed agriculture. More so in light of climate change! Even countries that used to thrive on rainfall, she said are finding it difficult to continue as it neither does not come; or it is simply inconsistent pattern which includes dry spells and flooding. VCF has to turn its focus on underground water, and efficient water irrigation technologies.

“Botswana has the biggest pool of underground water in the whole of SADC. Whilst everyone is looking up, let us know where our blessings lie and focus on drilling. I have my own drilling partners here in Botswana, South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe. They are all ready to work on scale the funds will allow and all offering rates that are unbelievable compared to what we have on the market right now. However, I also wish to own my set of machinery as I can further reduce the price of drilling next to the cost of setting it,” she said.

The fifth pillar is access to efficient technology. Here they talk of droves, processing, close wether monitoring and management systems.

“Our irrigation system will tell me on my phone when you as a farmer switched it on and how much you have irrigated. I can also turn it on and weather conditions can also initiate a response. I can monitor diseases and pests. There is so much we offer that farming will totally become a push button business in the near future. Imagine being able to predict yields and taking deliberate steps to improve it instantly,” she said.

She appealed to all to vindicate her efforts and justify the need to work together and stop pulling each other down. “Be it you who are in policy position, holding keys to finance, holding a voice which farmers can respect. Make sure you use it wisely for the sake of these people and the one at home who couldn’t make it. Because like it or not, up until today, what is on the ground cannot vindicate anyone of us,” she said. The three day event, which included presentations by various stakeholders, practical lessons at Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (BUAN) and visiting farms to get first hand information was co-funded by BIC and Aon insurance companies.

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