Lack of collaboration between different government departments and economic development agencies is seriously impeding the development of the domestic agricultural market, which is currently heavily dependent on imports, it has emerged.
It emerged during a stakeholders meeting hosted by the National Development Bank in Francistown where the bank’s Research and Development Manager, Zenzile Moesi, said the country’s food import bill currently stood at P26 billion against the domestic production of P6 billion.
“The food bill clearly demonstrates that there is an opportunity for the development of the local market to substitute the substantial import bill. She said with proper assistance in the form of financing of agricultural businesses and efforts being undertaken under the Economic Diversification Drive, the gap could be easily closed,” said Moesi.
The bank’s officials, led by Chief Executive Officer Lorato Morapedi, admitted during interaction with stakeholders that lack of collaboration between the different units of government that are charged with the development of the agricultural market are impeding the development of the domestic sector.
Chief among the complaints is lack of collaboration between the Ministry of Agriculture, NDB and the Botswana Power Corporation to ensure that the country food security position is improved.
Although all is not bleak and doom, Morapedi said as the bank, they have held several meetings with other government agencies to express their views and try to chart the way forward.
“There are disjointed efforts between different government agencies. We have tried to communicate although that has not borne fruits. We hope one day these agencies will be synchronized for national benefit,” said Morapedi.
She made the concession after an orange and naartjies farmer from Changate had bemoaned high water and electricity connections saying he is using diesel engines for farming activities, adding that given such circumstances, the returns were lower than investment.
He urged government to channel water from the dams to the fields like it is done in South Africa saying that once there was an outbreak of fruit fly in South Africa, Botswana was automatically doomed as supplies were affected.
The same sentiments were echoed by Tutume Agricultural Officer, Patrick Boitshwarelo, who said agricultural inputs were expensive and implored government to subsidize the costs, especially on electricity connection.
Peter Woto agreed with Morapedi and Boitshwarelo on the problem of lack of collaboration, adding that the youth should be attached to existing successful agricultural projects in order to gain requisite experience, adding that government was wasting a lot of money on unsuccessful agricultural projects and programmes.
Lepate Molalapata urged NDB to benchmark with South African agricultural banks in order to enhance its efficiency and address the needs of the farmers effectively.
Solomon Senyane decried that the banks products appeared easy to access on paper but when it came to implementation, a completely different picture emerged, adding that the age limit was also a constraint to some of them although they were serious farmers.
He urged the bank to go out to the public and educate them about its products and how they could be accessed; he accused the bank of peddling corruption by its failure to assist the youth who could take agricultural sector forward.
Justice Mogorosi lamented that the NDB interest rates and security requirement were too high and therefore inhibitive to the ordinary who intended to access the bank’s loans. The bank requires a 15 percent contribution or equity from the farmer in addition security adding that recipients of the loans ended up paying four to five times the amount that they had borrowed.