The count-up continues. It’s been 8 years now since the National Development Bank (NDB) through the Foot and Mouth (FMD) Relief Fund issued loans to farmers in the Ngamiland district. The loan issuance followed an outbreak of the deadly livestock disease in the area in 2008 but its proving very difficult, each passing year, for farmers to repay the outstanding balances.
In 2013 NDB estimated that the total amount borrowed by 5721 farmers was P105 million and that out of this amount only P21 million had been paid. Fast forward to 2021, the money owed to the bank has been pegged at P51 million and now farmers are intensifying their calls to have the debt cancelled. An association of farmers in Ngamiland has already jotted down notes to share with Agriculture Minister Karabo Gare due in Ngamiland soon.
The association chairman – Frank Mafela says in their proposed meeting with Gare farmers will not waste time, “They will present their case requesting government to scrap off the debt”.
Mafela says the latest pending proposal to NDB through government follows the successful payment of atleast 54 million Pula by farmers but admits that it has since proven to be difficult to pay the outstanding balance owing to persisting challenges in the region.
He notes that Ngamiland region has suffered the most compared to other regions over the years with foot and mouth disease, and also lamenting that should government accede to their plea, this will go a long way in cushioning the livelihoods of farmers.
“Although I do not want to speak much about the issue because we have already requested to meet the Minister, we have raised this concern on the basis that cattle rearing now in Ngamiland is just a waste, we get too little from our investment” says Mafela.
This is not the first attempt by the Ngamiland farmers to convince government to cancel the debt. The key argument in the past has been that devastating drought in the country left thousands of their cattle dead.
Mafela says Ngamiland farmers challenges have previously been compounded by collapsing markets which were secured for Ngamiland beef.
“We have nothing left with us, nothing seems to be going our way, we have even tried to diversify cattle farming with ploughing but the latter has failed us due to wild animal rage on our fields”
“It is quite frustrating and as I speak to you, some farmers are opting for private abattoirs because our local abattoir pays very late” adds Mafela.
He also says the proposed meeting will afford them an opportunity to discuss a myriad of things including the proposed new beef markets.
Member of Parliament for Ngami, Caterpillar Hikuama says he has proposed a motion in Parliament which seeks to help the affected farmers.
“There is a motion in relation to this which has not been tabled yet, it was supposed to have been dealt with during the just ended Parliament but could not happen. However I still want to believe that it will go through in the winter session” says Hikuama.
On the other hand, Gare could not be drawn into discussing the matter in detail pending the discussion of Hikuama’s upcoming motion.
“I cannot say anything at the moment, let us allow Hikuama to table his motion first and that is when we can engage,” Gare said to The Telegraph.
Meanwhile Gare is expected to visit Ngamiland very soon where he is likely to face the concerned farmers.