When economically empowered, citizens of a given nation reinvest in their communities — leading to greater self-reliance, prosperity, and food security. Atleast this is what researchers in the agriculture space across the globe agree on.
In Botswana, Statistics Botswana says the total value of food imports in January 2021 alone represented 10.9 percent of the total imports. This has forced the government to intensify efforts to encourage more Batswana to join the Agriculture and Food Security sector.
Many have jumped into the train already and one such individual who has said yes to the call is Comfort Ramatebele (47).
Those who have crossed path with Ramatebele or Big Fish as he is popularly known will tell you that he is a larger than life character, a dreamer, a doer, an outright optimist with a zeal for learning and growing in anything that he touches.
Big Fish is a teacher by profession, a radio and TV personality, a top class Director of Proceedings, a sports and marketing consultant and now an epitomization of Agriculture inspiration and an Agriculture millionaire in the making.
He is into Integrated Farming cum Agro Tourism with 8 animal species in chickens, ducks, turkeys, rabbits, dogs, sheep, goats and horses, hence the name MaryFish Academy of Integrated Farming, which he runs together with his wife.
He says there are multiple challenges in a zero grazing set-up like his where one has to feed all the animals at the same time, so they have rented space in other farms to produce supplementary feeds. Another challenge is outbreak of disease of infestation of parasites. All which he says they are able to deal with by engaging the services of a livestock management consultant.
Big Fish was raised by parents who always had dogs and as soon as he could have his own space he would also breed dogs and so he started very young but it all intensified in 2014 when he bought 10 goats and a buck.
He says there are three factors that made him become a farmer. The first being that he used to be asked by farmers for a fee to deliver feed or animals to their farms. The idea of people looking at him in awe towing a quarter of a million Pula bull made him feel he had achieved something. And whenever he was asked he would say the animals belonged to him.
“I would say yes, it’s my bull or yes these 25 000 Pula each Boergoat bucks are mine and I’m going to the Ghanzi Show,” he shares.
The second factor which upped the stakes was a chance meet with Thapelo and Thebe Setlalekgosi, the Charolais and Simmental stud breeders in Mookane, who told him they were starting the Annual Mookane Farmers day and invited him to be the Director of Proceedings at the same and he has been the resident MC, ever since.
The Ultimate Factor for him was the name Sandvelt, as it became an obsession especially that he heard just how massive their annual event is. He says he has tried so hard to find a slot as MC and failed.
Big Fish has also partnered with CEDA to come up with Sakeng La Temothuo radio program. He says in his research following the President Small Stock initiative, he realized in the Middle East, they like goats and sheep between 8 and 16 months old and that a goat can sell for up to 350 USD.
Having been to Agriculture Shows in South Africa and seeing Bulls being sold for over a million Rands he knew it was his duty to expose such opportunities and most importantly, support the Ministry of Agriculture Development and Food Security and their efforts to ensuring a well fed nation.
He says it is very difficult at the start especially when one has limited or no knowledge. So he asks starters to benchmark, research on various animal species, diseases, locality, vegetation, weather patterns and attend courses as provided by institutions like BUAN.
He also notes that the fact that Botswana has such a high import bill simply means that there is a potential for growth and that people need to do much more to close this gap as this will help in wealth creation for individuals and food security for the nation.
His biggest lesson from the Covid-19 pandemic is that we risk going hungry if we don’t get into Agriculture in big numbers, the closure of borders and shortage of food supplies was an eye-opener and he believes government to the populace should do their very best to close the gap. He has also learned that Agriculture is very profitable.
His simple advice to farmers is to keep educating self all the time and to aspirants, Agriculture is the future in the present, whether in war, in pandemics, in sickness, people will always eat.
Big Fish believes it is only those who believe in the beauty of their dreams that shall inherit the great miracles of the future.
He is now considering to advance to large scale commercial farming, in the Sandvelt, a place close to his heart.