Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Sechaba Youth Enterprises farm undergoing remobilization

The Programs Director for the Botswana National Youth Council (BNYC), Clifford Makhiya, has said the Sechaba Youth Enterprises Farm near Mankgodi is undergoing remobilization.

By this he said he meant that stock, such as pigs, goats, bees and horticulture merchandise, are being purchased to kick-start the farm’s key role of skills training and transfers for youth with interest to venture into Agri-business as employers and employees.

Additionally, infrastructure necessary for the farm’s objectives and programmes is under refurbishment and other facilities are under construction.

Responding to questions posed by The Sunday Standard, Makhiya said the restocking is done by the P4 million the government granted the youth council in 2010.

The questions followed a lambast Mankgodi Councillor, Dux Mafoko, made during a full sub council meeting recently. In response to the Chairman’s opening speech, Mafoko had requested that the council calls the BNYC so that it explains the goings on at the farm.

“The government is spending millions on that farm and nothing seems to be progressing there. Several times, we have tried to call the BNYC leadership so that they update us on the progress on the farm but they have always found reasons not to address us. Furthermore, no one, including the community leadership is permitted to enter it unless when the Minister or senior government official has come,” said Mafoko.

Another Councillor, Tona Selala, then asked Councillor Mafoko whether it was due to the fact that the funds that could be going into the farm account were instead, allegedly deposited in someone’s business account, hence no progress. Councillor Mafoko said such is conceivable.

In an interview afterward, Mafoko told this publication that at initial stage of the farm Bahurutshe of Mankgodi were promised that they would get some percentage of production profits. This never materialised.

A committee was set up in the village in 2010 to help with overseeing the farm. The members of the committee were informed after election to wait until the BNYC called them for meetings so they resume their task. It seems the committee has been rendered useless as call promises were never fulfilled.

“In 2010 the farm was granted a total of P8 million for renovation so it resuscitated production. This has not been done. A lot of wrongdoing might be happening there,” he said.

Contacted for comment on the issue, Mankgodi’s Village Development Committee (VDC) Chairman, Jerry Tau, said the farm was recently granted half a million Pula for renovation. It was agreed in the past that the community of Mankgodi would get some small amount from the farm’s production but the farm collapsed a while after take-off. They are hopeful for the better as the government has re-boosted it.

He said the farm management does not always give people-leadership inclusive- access into the farm. They always enquire on what account a visitor wants to go into the farm. If they feel is trying to investigate, they won’t permit him in.

As response to these accusations, Makhiya explained that it was in 2010 that the funds from the alcohol levy were utilized. It was from this levy that the government funded all youth centres country-wide with P8 million. The P4 million Sechaba Farm was granted was solely for its abovementioned developments. It is used in farm’s daily operations, such as purchase of livestock feeds and medicines and payment of utilities.

It was not part of the nationwide youth centres’ funding package.

The new decision-maker, having joined the youth council late last year, said the BNYC has not at any stage or time deliberately failed to turn up at any forum, including addressing Sub-District and Full District Councils. Contrarily he said, he has been informed that the Youth Council has addressed councils.

On the committee that was elected at the village, Makhiya said the Committee is not useless. Its role, as one of the sub committees, would be at advisory level to guide operations on key policies related to the Agriculture sector. Other members of this agricultural sector committee will be from other stake holders like Local Enterprise Authority (LEA), Citizen Entrepreneurship Development Agency (CEDA) and others. Its terms of references have been done.

What could perhaps be the cause for questions and accusations could be that the committee has not formally met with BNYC and other stakeholders. This is what they are working on.

“For information, such committee was one of the auditors’ recommendations following the collapse of the farm,” he said.

“Sechaba Youth Enterprises is a National Development Project. The Policy of the Botswana Government is that national projects are not intended nor instituted for the benefit of certain communities. e. g. Diamond mining in Jwaneng is not for the benefit of Jwaneng community. The farm’s purpose is not to generate profit. Its primary role is skills transfer for out-of-school and unemployed youth who want to contribute to the Agriculture sector of the economy. However to recover costs, some products from the farm would be sold,” he explained of farm production profits issue.

The farm, he said, cannot solely depend on the BNYC budget provided through a government grant.
“The government also expects all its Independent Agencies, such as BNYC, to generate some income to augment the grant. Any contribution through farm product sales to Mmankgodi community would be discussed by parties to the farm being BNYC, Mankgodi leadership and the Farm’s board. At this point, such discussions have not taken place,” he said.

Makhiya said the farm continues to contribute to Mankgodi’s economic development through procurement of construction materials and also by employing Mankgodi youth on temporary basis as casual labourers for consecutive periods not less than two weeks.

On whether they deny people entry into the farm he said, “No community leader is denied and was ever denied access to the farm. The opposite is, in fact, encouraged to ensure they are in touch with progress made and challenges faced by this project. The visits by these leaders are fully facilitated by the BNYC management at all times and progress reports provided during every visit.”

He dismisses it as a baseless allegation that funds are deposited on someone’s business account.
“BNYC is a government agency and public funds are never deposited into people’s business accounts. Deposits are only made into the Sechaba Youth Enterprises (the farm’s official name) account.”

Makhiya advised that BNYC would like key stakeholders in youth development to contact its offices to raise concerns they may have about the Council’s programmes and projects. As a public body, BNYC‘s mandate is to ensure the development of the youth population and civic leaders, like Councillors, are key to this mammoth task.

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