Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Gov’t discontinues scheme to assist Ngami farmers with loans

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), Dr Micus Chimbombi, says that the government will not continue its scheme of assisting cattle farmers in Ngamiland with loans but will rather increase efforts to make sure that the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) abattoir is up and operating in the nearest possible future.

“There are no plans to assist farmers with loans like we have done before. What we want to do is to get the abattoir up and running in the nearest future so that all farmers will freely sell their cattle,” he said.

Chimbombi said this when asked if there are any plans to help farmers who had not benefited under the scheme in the past or who would want to be assisted once more.

Some farmers in Ngamiland have complained that they have not benefited under the scheme which was set up to assist them pay their loans as their cattle’s sales to the Francistown BMC have been suspended because of the outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease in the district.

Some farmers have even expressed this concern in kgotla meetings that were addressed by, amongst others, President Ian Khama and other high level government officials.

After the meetings, the scheme that has been running for three months was suspended with government saying it would like to access its sustainability, authorized the payment of P10, 4 million to farmers who have already registered their cattle with the government but had not been paid.

Payment was done at Letsholathebe Primary School. It was at that time that farmers who had not benefited at all started complaining that the government had not helped them like it had done with other farmers and that they wondered why they were being discriminated against.

One of such farmers, Tshireletso Moriti, said that he had not been able to register his cattle for the scheme initially because he was hospitalised then and that he had expected to get assistance after he was discharged from hospital but in all vain.

“I had thought we will also get a chance and that as I heard the President was told about the problem that he would assist those of us who were unable to register but nothing like that happened,” he explained.

The farmer also alleges that he knows of a lot of other farmers in the district who are in the same situation as he is.

Farmers have been accused of having abused the scheme by having children from a farmer’s family registering as a farmer on his own and entitled to register up to 30 cattle on his own.

Records show that 560 farmers in Ngamiland had registered 70,203 cattle with the government. The government is set to be reimbursed for the P1, 500 paid for each cow registered once the BMC starts operating.

It is yet not known when that will happen. Even Chimbombi was not able to set a date for that.

The BMC head office has declined to comment on this issue and did not respond to a questionnaire Sunday Standard sent to them a month ago. We wanted to know when the Maun abattoir will reopen.

Government has spent around P115 million on the project so far.

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The Telegraph September 23

Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 23, 2020.