Botswana Agricultural Marketing Board (BAMB) and National Development Bank (NDB) Friday signed a memorandum of agreement of mutual cooperation amid farmers skepticism the initiation was a piece meal approach which would only exacerbate the country’s acute food security.
Registering their concerns at the launch of the agreement which is ostensibly designed to provide potential community farmers with the financial muscle and farming inputs such as seeds and fertilizers, farmers expressed the agreement was premature and without direction as the current government policy frame work boldly clashes with the noble initiative.
“I personally could not see this project take off under the current government policy frame work and solve the acute food security facing our country. Firstly, the initiative is silent over agricultural subsidies an initiative which could entice potential farmers to take agriculture seriously if implemented,” said Dr Collie Monkge.
Worse still, Monkge is skeptical about the human capacity of the two institutions to monitor the progress the farmers would be conducting at their respective farm lands saying at the moment the farmers were running their farming business unchecked, doubting and countering earlier statements by the institutions they would embark on regular periodic visits to ensure farmers take serious farming.
Under the agreement, the farming community would not only access easier and timely working capital and farming inputs such as seeds and fertilizers, committed arable farmers would also be provided with contracts to produce certain crops for identified markets at agreeable prices before planting or harvesting, an arrangement calculated to help farmers to minimize their exposure to price risks due to price fluctuations dictated by market conditions.
The agreement would also access farmers with information about market conditions ahead of planting to guide farmers to plan their production and this information includes crops that the market demands and price forecasts.
Despite the noble benefits the agreement attempts to achieve, the farmers contended the initiative was ill-advised as it would result with the potential farmers incarcerated in prisons for failure to pay loans.
Government, they argued, should have come with tangible developments such as the crop insurance policy.
“Birds and other natural disasters thwart our farming progress. They destroy our produce and when we go to BAMB to sell the little we have, the institution condemns the produce saying it is damaged and unhealthy for consumption while on the other hand the NDB would aggressively demand their repayment. Without the insurance policy in place, this agreement would only facilitate in tempting us to go to jail as we would be unable to repay the loans,” argued the irate farmer.
For his part, Mogalakwe Mogalakwe wondered whether the BAMB and NDB were an out of property marriage or not, dismissing the mutual cooperation as a fuss aimed at impoverishing Batswana.
Although he was not on the list to speak at the occasion, an official from the Ministry of Agriculture, Molatlhegi Modise, prompted by comments painting his ministry bad, allayed the farmers fears, saying the government’s revised frame work on agriculture was already complete awaiting cabinet approval.
The insurance policy, he said, was also on the way with the consultancy still making thorough investigations.
Besides the low and demoralizing prices offered by BAMB, and thus draining their quest to take farming seriously, the farmers also complained about the unbecoming NDB employees who, with impunity, trample on the farmers simply because they are indebted to the bank.
However, the Chief Executive Officer of the bank, Oaitse Ramasedi, promised a cordial relationship in the future, saying appropriate actions would be taken against wayward employees.