KALAKAMATI – Junior Minister at the Agriculture Development and Food Security ministry, Kgotla Autlwetse is worried by Botswana’s failure to produce enough milk for her citizens. Speaking during the World Food Day celebration in Kalakamati village in the North East District last week Autlwetse said the country has a small population of about 2155 dairy cows of which 1403 are milking cows.
“Average milk production is about 15 litres per cow per day. Only 10 percent of milk is produced locally indicating that the country has a long way to go in achieving self-sufficiency,” he said.
He said to meet the national demand of 65 million litres of milk in a year, the country needs 10 000 milking cows yielding at least 20 litres per cow per day.
Touching on beef cattle the assistant minister said they are estimated to be 2 265 with an off-take rate of 6.2 percent. He revealed that the mortality rate declined from 1 206 in the past year to 406 this year, representing a decline of 33.9 percent.
“These could be attributable to the improvement of the rangelands and adequate water supply. A similar trend was observed in small stock,”
While he acknowledged that Botswana is faced with a food security challenge, he said government has come up with a number of programmes targeting food security. He said these includes Integrated Support Programme for Arable Agricultural Development (ISPAAD), Livestock Management and Infrastructure Development (LIMID) and poverty eradication programmes to cater for the vulnerable members of the population.
“Agriculture is the mainstay of Botswana’s rural economy as a source of food, employment, draught power and raw materials. Approximately 80 percent of the Agricultural sector’s GDP comes from livestock, with only 20 percent originating from basic grains, horticulture and other crops. The major agricultural activities are livestock and crop production. One major success story is poultry production, which still maintains itself sufficiency status,” he said.
Autlwetse however said there is need for value addition in poultry products. Among other important issues he said it is worth noting that the number of beneficiaries and the area planted increased over time since the inception of ISPAAD 2007/2008. He said they anticipate the highest harvest of about 296 000 tonnes during the 2016/2017 cropping season as a result of good rains.
“I am happy to note that Botswana has experienced bumper harvests of cowpeas in the last two cropping seasons, which were stimulated by government cowpea subsidy. This has resulted in cowpeas being exported to some neighboring countries,” he said.
The Assistant Minister further said presently the Ministry is exploiting irrigated arable agriculture, where there are enough water resources, to circumvent the effects of drought. He said that in 2015/2016, 286 hectares were planted and an average of four tonnes was produced per hectare. He said sorghum yield realized an average of six tonnes per hectare and added that in 2016/2017 the area planted under supplementary irrigation increased to 355 hectares. Autlwetse said in addition, the ministry is exploring use of grey water for irrigation across the country.
“Examples are Glenn Valley in Gaborone North, Radihemelo in Serowe and Mahibitswane in Palapye,” he said.
As for horticulture, he said production for 2016/2017 was 57 000 tonnes, which represents 63 percent of the national requirement of 90 000 tonnes per annum. He said from 2015/2016 to 2016/2017 horticulture production increased by eight percent and explained that it indicates that horticulture is a top performer compared to other agricultural sub sectors except poultry. He said Horticulture projects employ 3 000 people.
“Some major agricultural challenges include unutilized allocated land, climate change, post-harvest losses, diseases, pests and inadequate biosecurity,” he said.
He also said the recent outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in Ngamiland poses a challenge to the beef industry, the livelihoods of the people in the affected area and the economy in its entirety. He however said government is doing everything in its power to control and contain the disease. He said in addition, avian influenza (bird flue) poses a significant threat to human life and the economy.
“In government endeavors to control these diseases I humbly implore the cooperation of all stakeholders,” Autlwetse pleaded.
The World Food Day was held under the theme; “Change the future of migration, invest in food security and rural development”