It has emerged that the government’s plan to spend time, money, energy and effort on reviewing the Integrated Support Programme for Arable Agriculture Development (ISPAAD) would be a waste of all those resources because such process has already been undertaken. Hailed as a huge success by the man who introduced it – former president Ian Khama – ISPAAD is actually a huge failure because it didn’t achieve its objectives.
The Minister of Agricultural Development and Food Security, Dr. Edwin Dikoloti, has indicated that ISPAAD is not productive and is being reviewed. However, such review tantamount to reinventing the wheel because a similar process has already been undertaken by two credible institutions, which both gave the programme a thumbs down.
In 2012, UNDP-UNEP Poverty-Environment Initiative (PEI) Botswana commissioned a Poverty and Social Impact Analysis of ISPAAD with the aim of analysing the performance of the programme. The study’s particular focus was on key programme activities and the impact on poor people, vulnerable groups and the environment. The findings indicate that the choice and distribution of seed was not based on agro-ecological zone considerations; that the majority of farmers received maize seed and grew it in areas not suitable for the crop and that this resulted in high incidence of crop failure and a reduction in yield; and that the size of most arable lands was relatively small for mechanical ploughing even though about 60 percent of ISPAAD beneficiaries utilized tractor draught power, mainly to produce crops for subsistence purposes.
On the whole, UNDP found that while the objectives and service packages of ISPAAD programme seemed desirable from a national agricultural development perspective, the execution and outcomes of the programme had failed to achieve the intended objectives making it a sub-economical and inefficient intervention from an investment and agricultural development point of view.
Likewise, the Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA) has concluded that ISPAAD failed to reduce acreage diversity and may have depleted soil nutrients.While ISPAAD should have been an improvement on the failed Accelerated Rainfed Arable Programme (ARAP), BIDPA found that that the programmes are essentially the same and yielded about the same results.
“First, reduced cultivation of legumes induced by ARAP and ISPAAD suggests that these programmes may have yielded the depletion of soil nutrients since legumes may be used to restore nitrogen in soils. Second, the ISPAAD-induced reduction in maize acreage share implies that the programme may have led to reduced exposure of subsistence producers to climate risk, since maize performs poorly during harsher climatic conditions. Finally, while ISPAAD may have induced output growth through expanding cultivated acreage, it may have worked against the achievement of the government objective of promoting acreage and broader agricultural diversification,” the BIDPA research says.