Some months after government announced its intention to take a positive move in resuscitating agriculture by subsidising Napier grass with a view to provide feeds for dairy farmers, some progress is experienced, albeit at snail pace. Farmers seem determined to change their farming tactics.
Batshani Chakalisa of CHAMOSA farm near Mahalapye said in an interview that the Department of Fodder Production in the Ministry of Agricultural is now supporting them.
Initially, he said they gave the lack of transport as main the reason for not joining them in mobilising farmers to utilise the wet season to learn how to grow Napier in preparation for the dry winter season.
Chakalisa is one of the farmers who registered with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security to be suppliers of Napier grass seedlings to smaller farmers.
“I think there is still need to mobilise farmers to start learning how to grow this grass when there is still water for watering the seedlings. The best thing would be to collaborate as suppliers and then participate in public events like agricultural shows or ‘business pitso’ to showcase the importance of this product,” said Chakalisa.
He said few farmers had come to him asking for a few seedlings to grow and though it might be small progress it shows interest.
Another farmer, Simon Mahosi of the Ecological Fodder Solutions, whose company has some expertise back-up from European companies, said he has had several farmers, among them Asian commercial farmers who came to buy seedlings from his farm.
“Several farmers have bought seedlings from me, some are big farms. By the end of this year we hope to have covered hundreds of hectors of land,” said Mahosi. He at the beginning of the year assured that besides supplying the Napier grass seedlings, his company would provide consultancy service to farmers, given that Napier grass is not grown like maize or any indigenous crops.
Napier is a hybrid plant. It has 45-day re-growth period of five years; which need not be replanted. The current hybrid is CO4. In the next three to four years CO5 will be available. The grass’ developers are Tamil Nadu National University of India. They consistently bring new hybrid and the new hybrid is always better than the previous one.
Researchers show that Agriculture covered more than 50 percent of GDP before independence.
This, however, declined over the years until the current situation where it contributes less than 10 percent. Against this backdrop unemployment continues to grow and Botswana as a country imports food stuff.