The Tonota Sub-District in the Central District Council is bracing for a rejuvenated dairy production.
This follows promises by the President Mokgweetsi Masisi while presenting the State of the Nation Address (SONA) that: “The government will renovate and upgrade existing milk pasteurizing centers in Tonota, Phitshane Molopo, Serowe and Sunnyside and outsource their management to farmers by March 2021.”
The Member of Parliament for Tonota Pono Moatlhodi said in an interview that a dairy plant that was used by the Tonota College of Education (TCE) for training purposes is being outsourced. Interested investors have been invited to express interest and that in principle a Motswana farmer from Palapye has shown interest and is to bring dairy cattle to start production. TCE, he said, also has a milk pasteurizing center.
“As the leadership of the village we are hands-on mobilizing our constituents to partake in this project because there is serious shortage of milk. There used to be farmers like Mr Moloise who had dairy farm. The late Kgosi Masedi also ran dairy though it seems no none took over from him. I am especially mobilizing because Tonota has high unemployment rate and is under developed. Dairy has the potential to employ around 20 people,” said Moatlhodi.
He said management outsourcing is triggered by the need for expertise if projects are to be fruitful. He was optimistic that the project would take off this year.
He further highlighted that the leadership is also mobilizing fodder producers in the area because there obviously will be need for fodder in order that the dairy project is a success.
Councilor Gaefele Sedombo of Tonota South East said he came to know about the outsourcing of TCE dairy plant towards the end of 2020 and he was impressed by such development.
However, he has not started mobilizing his constituents because the message reached him while the councilors were attending a full council meeting in Serowe. Because of festive season that followed his tour of the plant he is yet to start mobilizing, especially the youth for the production of fodder.
The Vice Chairperson of Tonota, Tutume Masunga (TOTUMA) commercial farmers association, Stephen Pillar said he considers his association to be a base for fodder supply as their members gained experience at the time when they supplied their Lablab to the Lobatse based Sunny side Dairy.
Immediately after hearing the announcement by the President they approached stakeholders. Though they were initially sent from pillar to post by government agricultural officers they managed to gather some information. They have more than 20 members though only 11 members remain active.
Some keep coming and going because all along there had been no government official who provided guidance on what the government needs regarding fodder production. The farmers’ ploughing land covers 400 to 500 hectors; situated at various points.
“We are established though there are challenges involved. We have agreement with suppliers like Cross Corn who sell seeds and seedlings. They have trained us on handling of pesticides and other necessities. That is why Sunny side had no qualms with our produce. We are longing to meet that farmer so that we know what he needs for fodder. We cannot just start not knowing his preferences,” explained Pillar.
He indicated that fodder production has challenges such as transportation and storage. Dairy, he emphasized, requires a lot of fodder which needs machinery. With some of the association’s members new in commercial farming, there was need for capacity building; especially in the handling of fodder from ploughing stage up to harvesting.
He revealed that they managed to satisfy market because they worked together applying crop rotation. He highlighted that with a big plant in their vicinity they needed to uplift their farming method- moving from rain fed to irrigation. A solution for this he said would be to start water treatment plant so as to utilize sewage ponds situated somewhere in the outskirts of the village to provide irrigation. Alternatively they could utilize already fenced Mazibalori cluster fields in the South east of the village to produce the needed quantities of fodder. These needed to be de-bushed and supplied with water. His research, he said has informed him that the organized TOTUMA members could get loan from National Development Bank (NDB) and service the land.
President Masisi mentioned in the SONA that the biggest challenges besieging the dairy industry is the shortage of production of dairy animal feeds locally. Through the Economic Recovery Transformation Plan, he said government will therefore develop fodder banks in strategic locations for the cattle industry.
“Government through the Industry Facility Support Fund will assist smallholder dairy farmers to increase their production capacities by providing them with an accelerated business subsidy and an interest free loan which will be administered NDB,” he said.