A decision was taken that the P20 million complex, which used to be the ostrich abattoir, be turned into a multi species abattoir.
The Director of Animal Production, Lesitamang Paya, confirmed to Sunday Standard that the conclusion was taken after extensive consultations with ostrich farmers and other stake holders early this year.
The consultations started with the government, through the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Dr Micus Chimbombi, telling ostrich farmers that government was concerned about the P20 million facility.
There were concerns that the facility was being neglected by farmers and that the government was not willing to continue supporting them by, among other things, repairing the facility and so felt that it was time they came up with a clear programme of how to move forward as an industry.
Asked if the turning of the abattoir into a multi species abattoir was not a clear sign that the industry had failed, Paya said that it could be said that the industry had had some problems but not that it had totally failed.
“It is wrong to say that the industry has failed; it has experienced some difficulties, such as lack of enough birds to slaughter,” he said.
Asked what efforts were being made by his Ministry to revive it, Paya said that his Ministry had set up Dibete Ostrich Multiplication Unit for the purpose of reviving the industry by, amongst others, training farmers in the skills of rearing ostriches, providing practical skills of rearing them, providing them with breeding stock, chicks and hatching facilities.
All these, he said, would be done with the partnership of commercial farmers who are being urged to help up-coming ostrich farmers with skills of rearing the birds.
Paya said that, currently, there are 4000 birds in commercial farms and at Dibete Ostrich Multiplication Unit (DOMU), a thing which he said was a positive sign of the revival of the industry in the country.
He added that the birds in DOMU would be sold to farmers to kick start their businesses.
On the abattoir, he said that they were renovating and upgrading it to maintain its export status and that they will effectively monitor its operations and management.
He said that they planned to have constant contact with the private sector by holding meetings and visiting their farms in order to encourage them to carry on in the otherwise lucrative business.
On whether financial institutions will agree to give financial support to the farmers venturing into this business, Paya said they hoped that once the abattoir is up and operating constantly, financial institutions will be attracted.
Farmers who have ventured into this industry are reported to owe financial institutions a lot of money, a thing which raises questions on whether the institutions will be willing to lend such farmers money again.
The government has apparently set up the abattoir as a way of encouraging farmers to diversify from livestock farming but the industry did not progress as was expected.
This is so despite the fact that Botswana has the largest number of wild ostriches in the world.