Thursday, March 4, 2021

National report pinpoints challenges to agricultural sector

Poor infrastructure, overdependence on rain-fed agriculture, poor management of agricultural land ÔÇô these are some of the major challenges facing the agriculture sector in Botswana, a revised report titled ‘National Policy on Agricultural Development’ reveals.

According to the report, as in most developing countries, basic infrastructure like roads, market facilities, electricity, water and telecommunications are non-existent or inadequate in most agricultural production areas.

“A study conducted on the status of the Botswana infrastructure in 2008 revealed that most of the infrastructure is far from the Agricultural production areas, making it necessary to extend the infrastructure to these areas. It has also emerged that in areas where infrastructure such as telecommunication and electricity have been provided in Agricultural production areas farmers have to bear high costs of connecting the services,” states the report.

The report also shows that research indicates that yield response to irrigation is two to three times higher compared to yield response to rain-fed agriculture.

However, irrigation in Botswana is still under developed, with the total area irrigated currently around 3000 hectares.

The high cost of drilling, exacerbated by the low water table, has been a stumbling block to the development of irrigation system in the country.

For this reason, the government is seeking to bolster the horticultural sub-sector through exploitation of effluent water and construction of multipurpose dams.

Coordination and harmonization of legislation related to land use also come as major challenge in performance of this sector.

While there are provisions to guard against rangeland, improper use of the designated pieces of land, responsible authorities are at times unable to invoke these legislation, especially when the need arises.

Expansion of urban areas and industrialization are also encroaching into the land earmarked for agricultural use.

“This poses a threat to food security as these developments compete for the same resource with food production. Problems of land use also include under utilization as vast parcels of land remain allocated with little production taking place on them,” reveals the report.

Other major challenges facing the agriculture sector include weak agro industries and poor linkages within the value chain; diseases and pests threats; inadequate extension outreach; poor agribusiness skills and effects of climate on agricultural production.

The report documents the weak agro industries and poor linkages within value chain.

“To date, very little has been achieved in harnessing the potential of agro-industries as engines for economic development. Value addition through activities such as handling, packaging and processing of food and agricultural products has the potential to create employment. Establishment of agro-industries can also facilitate development of inter-linkages between enterprises, both in the formal and the informal sector. Agro-industries also stimulate transfer of technologies and enhanced entrepreneurial skills, improved management of quality and safety of raw materials produced and facilitates the restructuring of the supply chain to improve efficiency and reliability of the supply systems.”

The report notes the weakness of the support systems for the agro-industries to include lack of infrastructure for agro-processing, non comprehensive strategies for developing competitiveness in different sub sectors of agro industries, limited research on agro- processing to identify areas of competitive advantage as well as limited capacity building in terms of human resources at tertiary education level.

Moreover, inadequate extension outreach technology adoption stands out as a key constraint to output growth and productivity of the sector.

Poor agribusiness skills are clear where important marketing such as product quality, sorting, grading have not been a priority for local producers.

The report further points out that the effect of climate on agricultural production is highly unfavourable for agricultural product.

“Mean annual rainfall is 416 mm, ranging from 650mm in the north east to 250 mm in the extreme South West. Rainfall occurs in the form of localized showers and thunder storms, resulting in large temporal and spiral variations,” the report reveals.

“Rain generally falls between October and March, although due to the effects of climate change the pattern has become highly irregular. The effects of climate change also include a fluctuation in seasons and extreme temperatures with high possibilities of frost in some areas.”

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