The Minister of Agriculture, Patrick Ralotsia, says farmers have practiced blanket application of fertilisers in the past, but his ministry has since informed them that soil testing is a pre-requisite for this requirement in the coming season.
His announcement comes a week after the Department of Meteorological Services announced projections that the country will have normal and above normal rainfalls.
Speaking during the official opening of Organic Fertilisers Manufacturers Botswana (OFMB) on Thursday, Ralotsia said the company had the ability to supply any blended fertiliser required for a particular crop, based on the soil test results.
“We should quickly move away from blanket application of fertilising not preceded by a soil test. Soil fertility decline is generally widespread throughout the SADC region due to a range of factors including depletion of soil nutrients that result from continuous cropping without replenishment, to poor management and poor general agriculture practices,” he said.
He added that raising the levels of organic and non-organic nutrient application and good agricultural practices, including conservation agriculture, will not only improve soil fertility but will also reduce environmental costs and offer interesting options for small-holder farming intensification.
“The company is promoting the use of locally manufactured and blended fertilisers through demonstration plots and trials in farmers’ land, including land already offered by government in Gaborone and Pandamatenga,” he said, urging all private companies to emulate OFMB.
He supported the company for offering agronomic services to farmers through their own personnel together with other existing locally established companies. He said government should focus on formulating policies and regulations to outsource services, giving an example that his ministry had engaged private veterinaries to conduct livestock vaccinations that were done by government personnel before.
OFMB employs 25 people, 88 pecent of which are Batswana. “Furthermore, the company through its distributors during the peak season, is responsible for creating further employment for another 150 to 200 people,” he said.
He assured the company of government’s support through its Economic Diversification Drive.
OFMB is 30 per cent owned by Batswana and 70 percent outside shareholders.