A renowned commercial farmer based in South Africa Peter Quelly has said that a robust agriculture sector in Botswana could be the major job creator in Botswana.
Officiating at the ongoing National Agriculture Show held in Gaborone, Quelly who is the founder of Founder of South Africa’s QK Meats said “I was told that out of the 10 000 students that are spit out by the education system in Botswana annually, only less than a thousand of them find permanent jobs.”
He added that “It is about time farmers also assumed their responsibility towards creating jobs.”
He said there is need to ensure that there is adequate training and skillsets to be able to develop and grow Botswana’s agriculture sector. “As someone who grew up in Ireland I have first hand experience of how a country can succeed in ridding young people of joblessness through agriculture. Ireland provided the right training and skills development for its people in agriculture, which greatly boosted its economy. Today only 5 percent of Ireland’s youth are unemployed, ” he continued.
Apart from creating jobs, the agriculture sector, he said, is an incredible natural resource and that it is not just about the farmer producing food, it is about value add to the entire chain of the country’s economic needs.
“Farming creates a great deal of economic growth and investment opportunity when done correctly. Farmers must produce food that the market wants. There is always need to conduct research that will clearly guide farmers as to what consumer needs are,” he said.
Quelly said this would enable farmers to charge premium prices for the produce, and that consumers will be comfortable to pay for quality produce.
“And it is not always about exporting. Local farmers should first look for markets locally. For a population of 2.2 million people you import huge quantities of food. You don’t even produce enough milk, 95 percent of milk consumed by Batswana is imported. It is hard to understand why you don’t drink milk from your own cows,” he said.
Quelly said he understands challenges that local farmers face but also believes that collectively they can overcome them.
“The starting point is gaining the appropriate scientific technical information that is fully inclusive. You need the right genetics in the dairy and beef sector and enough knowledge on how the genetics progress,” he said.
The renowned farmer added that “It is as simple as making sure you plant the right grass as feed for the animals for instance. And the same kind of knowledge should be applied for the cropping sector.”
For his part, Minister of Agricultural Development and Food Security Patrick Ralotsia said 2018 has been a difficult year for the farming community, particularly arable farmers who depend on rain. “The rains came late and with minimal amounts resulting in crops dying prematurely or being stunted. Despite this setback, it was possible to successfully hold 17 district agriculture shows across the country this year, he said. Ralotsia advised farmers at the show to network and find ways to collectively turn the urgent challenge and scourge of food insecurity and unemployment into opportunities.