The Assistant Minister in the Ministry of Agriculture, Shaw Kgathi, has expressed optimism that agriculture will emerge from the doldrums that are presently engulfing it to become a major player in the national economy, primarily driven by increased horticulture production and a youth participation in agriculture.
Addressing farmers at Matopi Village last week, Kgathi said government’s commitment to ensuring that agriculture plays a much more significant role in the national economy than it is today. He revealed that government remains worried about low productivity in the agricultural sector, highlighting that, to date, agriculture contributes a paltry 1.7% to the national gross domestic product.
“This is despite the fact that agriculture is critical to the lives of many Batswana, not only because it is important for a nation to achieve sustainable food security, but also because a bulk of Batswana depend on agriculture for their sustenance,” he said.
To that end, said the minister, government’s major policy thrust is geared at commercializing and diversifying agricultural production through promotion and adoption of appropriate foreign direct investment and supporting agricultural production through initiatives such as ISPAAD, CEDA Young Farmers Fund and LIMID.
But it seems that government initiatives are finally bearing fruit, as it has emerged that youth participation in agriculture, fuelled by the CEDA Young Farmers Fund, is increasing exponentially while crop production, especially through horticulture, has also shown significant growth.
“The CEDA Young Farmers Fund has boosted youth participation in agriculture. CEDA has to date approved 216 farming projects for funding through the Young Farmers Fund.
This was done with the assistance of the ministry of agriculture, which participated in project appraisal, identification of appropriate attachment opportunities for applicants, and technical advice. With continued support from my ministry, youth participation in agriculture will continue to grow,” he said.
Significant strides were also made in horticulture production, with 45% of national demand being met from domestic production, an increase from an initial 25% at the beginning of the plan period. During NDP 9 honey production also increased from an initial 1.2 metric tons per annum to 10 metric tons per annum, thereby satisfying part of domestic demand.
As part of its commitment to improving agricultural production, government will, during NDP 10, spend over P75 million on horticulture and water development programs. This program is aimed at establishing irrigation schemes with reliable water sources using rain harvested and effluent water for horticulture and fodder production.
“The projects components include design of the Zambezi integrated agro-industry commercial project, establishment of an irrigation scheme at Lotsane dam and use of recycled water resources from Francistown, Tonota, Palapye and Ghanzi sewer ponds to develop irrigated agriculture projects,” he said.