The National Development Bank (NDB) #Feed the Nation initiative which was established in 2020 in response to the severe shortage of horticulture produce as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown has so far paid out over P400 million to farmers.
NDB Communications and Partnerships Manager Kenneth Boikhutshwane said the money was disbursed to both small and commercial-scale farmers to drive the country towards self-sufficiency.
“Covid-19 on its own was an awakening call because we have seen an influx of farmers who came through our doors seeking funding,” he said.
The NDB mouthpiece also said their commitment towards assisting farmers to generate more produce is unmatched adding that in late 2021 government dished P1.2 billion as relief for businesses that were affected by Covid-19 and NDB received P600 million from the funds.
“Out of the P600 million that we received, P100 million was spared for Agriculture, and the level of interest is reflected by the fact that within 6 months that P100 million was gone,” stated Boikhutshwane.
He further said recently they had the impact accelerator subsidy industrial (ASI) for horticulture where a farmer would pay 50 percent and the government paying another 50 percent to equip them with drilling boreholes and electrifying their farms.
“ASI was launched last year in March and to this point we have given out over P45 million to farmers and this has to show that the level of interest in Agriculture is quite huge,” said Boikhutshwane.
Boikhutshwane said since being given the mandate of being the sole financer of the Agriculture sector, they have intensified their efforts geared towards educating farmers about financial easy access from the institution.
“We do take part in lots of events, we recently attended the Mosesedi farmers’ day and this weekend there is an event in Phuduhudu and we also have an upcoming event in Kang. This is a continuous process of educating and ensuring that we extend our services to the farmers,” added Boikhutshwane.
NDB Spokesperson further said there are other initiatives expected to be launched soon tailor-made to improve the country’s Agriculture sector.
“The appetite for requesting funding is quite huge and if it was up to us we would have an unlimited budget for these farmers,” he said.
He indicated that it is evident that farmers are longing for financial assistance adding that from the P46 million spared for impact accelerator subsidy, over 500 farmers benefited while for the Industry support facility, over 3 000 farmers were helped.
On the other hand, Botswana Horticulture Council Chairperson Mogomotsi Moatswi said there is still a lot that can be done to bring down the import bill figures.
“We still have a problem with accessing local markets and in some instances when there is access, we then fail to agree on product pricing, so we thought that government was going to assure us of the market,” said Moatswi.
He added that if the government can assure farmers of the local markets, more people will flood the farming industry with the knowledge that they will reap their investment.
The horticulture chairman also said establishing collection centers to allow retailers to have one pick-up point can help with issues of traceability in the event there are concerns about certain produce from a certain region or zone.
The government recently stated that the ban on the importation of vegetables has reduced the country’s import bill from P375.5 million in 2021 to P176.9 million in 2022.