Thursday, June 4, 2020

SADC, Botswana agric sector receives boost from EU

Botswana’s struggling agricultural sector will be getting a boost from the €9 million raised by the Southern African Development Cooperation (SADC) from the European Union as part of efforts to stimulate the agricultural sector in the SADC region. 

In March 2019, SADC received €9 million programme of support towards operationalisation of the Regional Agricultural Policy (RAP), with the funds coming from the EU, while the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is the lead implementing agency for the next two years of the project. 

The funding from the EU comes on the back of SADC’s revised Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) 2015 – 2020, which identified agricultural development as one of the key pre-requisites for reducing poverty and enhancing industrialisation of the region. 

This week, SADC together with representatives from the EU and Botswana’s ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security, gathered in Gaborone to launch the Regional Agricultural Investment Plan (RAIP) 2017 – 2022, which was approved in 2016, and outlines the priority programmes of (RAP). 

The implementation of RAP is through the RAIP – with specific objectives to enhancing the sustainable agricultural production, productivity and competitiveness, improving regional and international trade and access to markets for agricultural products. Further, SADC’s RAP aims to improve private and public sector engagement and investment in agricultural value chains, and finally, to reduce social and economic vulnerability of the region’s population in the context of food and nutrition security challenges, economic instability and climate change. 

The €9 million provided by EU will be spread across three components, with €1.8 million on facilitating implementation of some components of the Regional Food and Nutrition Security Strategy (FNSS) in SADC Member States. This component is implemented directly by the SADC Secretariat. The €6.2 Million will be on enhancing information on agricultural production, sustainability and competitiveness for evidence-based decision making, and €1 million is for improving access to markets through implementation of plant and animal pest and disease control strategies at the regional level.

At this week’s launch of the programme, the permanent secretary of MADFS Jimmy Opelo said the project is in line with Botswana’s ambitions of enhancing information on agricultural production, sustainability and competitiveness for evidence-based decision making. 

Prior to discovery of diamonds in the late 1960s, Botswana was primarily an agrarian economy, with agriculture’s share of gross domestic product at over 40 percent. However, the discovery of diamonds, which is now the bedrock of the economy, resulted in the steep drop of agriculture’s contribution to GDP, falling to the lowest levels in 2015, accounting for 1.8 percent of GDP. Since 1982, the agricultural sector’s share of GDP has been below 10 percent. 

The country has over the years been trying to boost the sector, but the efforts have been largely discredited as being ineffective. Chiefly among the concerns is that the hundredths of millions in subsidies channelled through the Integrated Support Programme for Arable Agriculture (ISPAAD and the Livestock Management and Infrastructure Development (LIMID) have not borne the desired results. Further, the country’s administration has been criticised for allocating a smaller portion of the national budget to agriculture, with experts arguing Botswana government should invest heavily in the sector, especially through infrastructural developments. 

Efforts to enhance the agricultural sector and boost food security in the country have also been thwarted by the unforgiving drought conditions that have led to massive crop and livestock losses in the past two years. 

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