Project Thusanang, Kgalagadi Breweries (Pty) Ltd and Botswana Breweries (Pty) Ltd’s arable farming scheme has gained considerable traction as the project enters its third season of piloting.
The brewers’ commissioned the project in 2009 as a deliberate move to partner with small-holder farmers to source sorghum grain locally in order to ultimately enable small arable farmers to become more efficient through the introduction of commercial farming practices that will ultimately improve yields, produce better quality grain and commercialize small-scale arable farming.
KBL and BBL believe that the success of Project Thusanang will result in improved income levels for farmers and create employment opportunities by generating an employer multiplier effect.
Over the past year, Kgalagadi Breweries (Pty) Ltd and Botswana Breweries (Pty) Ltd spent over P115 million through their local sourcing and procurement initiatives. The success of Project Thusanang pilot could see this figure improving significantly as the benefits of increased import substitution are transmitted into the wider trade economy.
The first phase of the pilot started in the 2009/2010 season through an agreement with four farmers in Mmalore, each having tilled five hectares.
Yields from this initial phase of the pilot were highly positive as the farmers involved in Thusanang realized a collective yield of 1.23 metric tons per hectare (MT/ha) whereas by comparison, the average yield for sorghum in Botswana stood at 0.45 (Mt/ha).
At the second pilot phase during the 2010/2011 season, Project Thusanang was extended to include five farmers from Tswagare in Barolong Farms, increasing the scope of the project to two clusters and a total of ten farmers. Results from this phase provided an improvement in the yield from 1.23MT/ha to 1.48MT/ha and mostly due to improved farm management practices by the farmers who were closely supported by an agro-consultant.
It is notable that the farmers also gained good access to government agricultural services such as assistance with supply of tractors for ploughing, some pesticides and monitoring by agricultural officers.
For this season, the scope of Project Thusanang has been expanded to include a new farming cluster in Leshibitse in the Kgatleng District and to continue piloting in both Mmalore and Tswagare.
One of the consistent best performers from the project, Gaontebale Nthebolang, has been elevated to manage the Mmalore cluster, which will ultimately see the project evolving into its originally envisaged hub-and-spoke model.
The ‘hub-and-spoke-model facilitates the integration of commercial farmers, agronomists and extension officers to provide agricultural development services to small-scale farmers in a cluster, helping to rapidly transmit and entrench of commercial farming and provide additional support functions such as small-holder farmer mobilisation, operational support, a ready market for fresh grain and ultimately, access to financing options.
KBL and BBL Managing Director Hloni Matsela said, “With Project Thusanang, we hope to ultimately create a robust model for partnership with local farmers that will add value and ultimately grow the local sorghum industry and farming in Botswana. “
Once fully rolled-out, Project Thusanang aims to deliver on solid commercial objectives such as supporting smallholder farmers, improving the quality of the grain in Botswana and identifying alternative crops as raw material for new, innovative products.