The Botswana government is unnerved with the envisaged food security crisis ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup and insists that the soccer tournament is temporary and, as such, would not pose any threat, especially as it coincides with the harvesting period.
South Africa in June hosts the 2010 FIFA World Cup that is expected to attract close to half a million fans making food security an issue.
However, the Ministry of Agriculture has allayed fears of possible food crisis in Botswana, arguing that the four-week-long event coincides with the harvest period and as such could not disrupt or cause food shortages.
Chief agronomist Gloria Mashuagwa told The Telegraph that: “The World Cup is a temporary set up which will run for four weeks in June and so coincides with the harvest so no major shocks will be experienced.”
Botswana imports almost all food commodities (over 90 percent) from its giant neigbour although recently government policy is shifting towards the promotion of local producers.
These include cereal, milk, dairy products, fruits and vegetables, fish and some meat and meat products that they supply to Botswana.
While conceding it is not possible to give a life-long solution to life problems, Mashuagwa says government has left no stones unturned to attend to the problem, citing some 2008 government initiatives, such as the composition Strategic Grain Reserve, which aims to meet a 30 000 metric tones of sorghum, maize and 10 000 metric tones of beans.
Apart from Botswana Agricultural Marketing Board (BAMB) Stabilisation Fund, which would be augmented for local produce to be purchased at improved prices, the government has also advanced P9 million to be deducted from the strategic grain reserve management fees, which would urgently refurbish storage facilities at Pitsane.
It also moved that the stabilisation fund of BAMB be augmented by P8 million for local produce to be purchased at improved prices and that BAMB be advanced P9 million to be deducted from the Strategic Grain Reserve Management fees to urgently refurbish storage facilities in Phitshane.
Other initiatives are reserving and developing land around major sewerage ponds for the production of high value crops. Already five sewage schemes have been identified to this purpose in Francistown, Palapye, Ghanzi, Selebi Phikwe and Tonota.
Others are working on the Zambezi Integrated Agro-Commercial Development Project to promote irrigation and implementing ISPAAD and revamping livestock industry.
The agronomist added that it was not easy to determine the success of government initiatives on rain fed crop production in one or two seasons as they are influenced by climate conditions.
“The rainfall distribution influences the area planted as well as the time of planting and it also has a bearing on total crop production. So it is too early to tell if ISPAAD is succeeding or not,” the agronomist added.
“The rainfall distribution influences the area planted as well as the time for planting; it has a bearing on the total crop production. So it is very early to tell if ISPAAD is succeeding or not as it is concluded that other programmes such as ARAP failed.”
ARAP was implemented in five cropping seasons from 1985/86 to 1988/89 and during this time both the areas planted and total production increased from where they were influenced by the rainfall. The highest area planted was 409 000 hectors in 1988/89 and the highest total production was 215 400 metric tones in 1987/88.
“The response by farmers to ISPAAD during its first season has been very good with around 298, 300 hectors planted during 2008/09 cropping season as compared to an average of 100, 000 ha when there are no assistance programmes.”
She added that production also increased threefold from around 30, 000 metric tones to 90, 000 metric tones in recent years to 90, 000 metric tones during 2008/09 crop season, which was the first year of ISPAAD.