Tuesday, January 18, 2022

“Poverty eradication and wealth creation remain the top agenda”

We are here this morning, in this beautiful settlement of Qabo, to officially open our 8th Life Skills Training Workshop for the beneficiaries of the Poverty Eradication Programme, which is being held under the theme: “Poverty Eradication: Towards Dignity for All.”

As with the previous seven training workshops of this nature we have come here on a mission to transform the lives of the some 1000 participants as they progress in their journey to achieve sustainable livelihoods for themselves and their families. Ladies and Gentlemen, as you will all undoubtedly recall the path we are currently on was set by His Excellency the President, Lt. Gen. Seretse Khama Ian Khama, in his Inaugural Address of 2009, in which he identified poverty eradication as one of Government’s Flagship Programmes.

In taking the deliberate decision to eradicate abject poverty Government recognised that it was neither socially fair nor economically sustainable for some to not benefit from the fruits of national prosperity. Our determination to achieve the high income status for our country is thus predicated on our ability to address, head on, the issue of poverty in all of its manifestations. In carrying out this bold commitment we remain conscious of the continuing challenge of poverty in view of data shared by Statistics Botswana, which reported that 19.6% of Batswana were living below the poverty datum line, while 6% were living on less than 9 pula a day.

Also of concern is the fact that there are some areas, such as Qabo, that are especially hard hit by poverty.

Against this backdrop, it remains the aim of the poverty eradication programme to ensure that all able bodied Batswana step out of poverty and that every Motswana be in a position to travel along the road to wealth creation.

I, therefore, call upon this workshop’s beneficiaries to follow in the footsteps of the thousands of who have preceded them at previous workshops by ensuring that they take the fullest advantage of these three days as an opportunity to acquire a solid foundation of knowledge on which to build their enterprises. So far, about 8,721 beneficiaries have been assisted, which translates into over 34,884 family members benefiting from the programme. I am also pleased to report that over 1,169 of these beneficiaries have now been identified as success stories. Many of you might have already heardsome of the testimonies from the beneficiaries of such projects in previous workshops and other fora. You will also appreciate the testimonies of so= me of the success stories shortly after my address.

Amongst the skills which are to be imparted here are: * Effective production processes; * Effective marketing strategies; * Basic financial literacy; and * Effective networking and clustering. As in the previous workshops, this training will be pragmatic in its approach, incorporating live demonstrations to ensure that a positive transformation of mindsets and readiness to excel is achieved. A wish to take this opportunity to further encourage the beneficiaries of this workshop to take time to learn about the various alternative packages now available to them before choosing the one best suited to their own circumstance. You should avoid making a decision on a given package simply based on the experience of others, without reflecting on your own abilities and working environment.

For the beneficiaries, along with those tasked with supporting them, workshops such as this may be understood as milestones in an extended, and by no means easy, journey. There will be a need for the further training and mentoring of individuals to turn the ideal of sustained dignified livelihoods for all into a genuine reality. Ladies and Gentlemen, while this will be the last in the series of regional training workshops that we have been undertaking, it certainly does not mark the end of our training and mentoring efforts for the current, much less future beneficiaries of this programme.

Our efforts in achieving the erradication of abject poverty call for nothing less than grass-root social transformation not only for those enrolled in the programme, but also for their communities. Social transformation on any scale should be understood and implemented as a process, not an event. Moving forward there will thus be other workshops, but their content and scope shall be different. We have reached a point where we must move beyond what has been the initial or start up stage in our collective efforts into a broader commitment to mainstream our continued efforts to eradicate poverty across Government.

There is also a recognised need for carrying out further outreach and mainstreaming efforts with the private sector and community based organisations. We are thus currently planning to convene two regional gatherings that will be include the non-government stakeholders in exploring potential partnerships to sustain the many small and micro businesses which are now being incubated for the youth, remote area communities and people with special needs and living with disabilities, as well as those who have been identified as deserving a helping hand out of poverty. Government in collaboration with Anglo American has already developed an Enterprise Development Framework and Implementation Plan to increase productivity and overall performance of the SMEs. Through this partnership, capacity building for extension staff will be undertaken to improve their efficiency and effectiveness in mentoring, monitoring and evaluation. This will benefit those beneficiaries whose projects are excelling to grow their enterprises.

We intend to hold additional training for local authorities to ensure that we have sufficient, on the ground monitoring and evaluation capacity. At the same time it will be incumbent upon us to ensure that procurement in the districts is sensitive to the continued need to support local economic empowerment. We also remain committed to the creation of markets for the produce from the beneficiaries. So far we have 53 designated market places across the country for regular monthly Market Days. I take this opportunity to encourage everyone to support these markets. Get to know where and when the market day is in your locality and become a regular customer. Let us take pride in supporting our people. Ladies and Gentlemen, I am pleased to further report that funds amounting to P6 million have been disbursed to the National Food Technology Research Centre to set up a food processing plant in Selebi-Phikwe, which should be commissioned by the end of this year.

The plant will process excess vegetables into longer shelf life products such as pickled beetroot, tomato puree, mixed vegetable sauce, vegetable atchar, pickled onion and dried vegetable. The plant will, undoubtedly, aid in improving market access for our backyard gardens. Currently 15,494 beneficiaries that have been mobilized and are on the verge of running their projects. The following interventions have been undertaken to fast track rollout and increase the capacity of delivery of the programme * Extension staff has been skilled in project management and problem solving skills. * Over 30 trucks have been bought or leased from Central Transport Organisation to fast truck delivery of materials; * Ten (10) bakkies have been bought to improve linkages between beneficiaries and the officers; * The purchase price of small stock has been raised by Cabinet from P500 to P700.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is our broader conviction that we cannot rest until every able bodied Motswana has stepped out of poverty. In essence, abject poverty is unacceptable. It is our firm belief that those living in such conditions are deprived of their dignity. As we have always maintained, the fundamental goal of poverty eradication is dignity for all. By any standards, an individual has dignity if the following core attributes are all true: basic capability to feed themselves; basic capability to clothe themselves; being decently housed and being able to assume own place and position in society. To make further progress it is become our intention to review the eligibility criteria of the Poverty Eradication Programme with the view of moving beyond abject poverty to assist others in achieving a dignified life for themselves and their families.

Ladies and Gentlemen, let me conclude by noting that poverty eradication is a challenge for all of us. It also presents an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of many of us and many of our own. In the greater scheme of things, the opportunity to change lives should far outweigh the challenges that we face in our continued fight against poverty. In our commitment towards ensuring dignity for all, we have been making progress. If we continue to work together, we shall win the war against poverty by achieving sustained economic growth that leaves no citizen behind. I thank you. PULA!!

*This is part of a speech by Acting Minister for Presidential Affairs Shaw Kgathi at a Poverty Eradication workshop at Qabo

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