Friday, May 7, 2021

Two lasses sets off hydroponic project for food security

As Botswana joins the world in using sustainable agriculture for food security, two young Batswana ladies have set in motion a hydroponic agriculture project.

Through their company, Afro Vocanic, Kefilwe Baeti and Lesego Osupeng said in an interview that they had made tests and presented samples and sprouts to retailers, individuals and have since approached the Botswana Bureau of Standards (BOBS) for standardisation.

Hydroponics is a subset of hydro culture, the method of growing plants without soil, using mineral nutrient solutions in a water solvent. Terrestrial plants may be grown with only their roots exposed to the mineral solution, or the roots may be supported by an inert medium, such as perlite or gravel.

“Our plants are herbs vegetables and fodder. We have approached individuals, farmers and retailers such as Spar. Spar has told us that they are supplied by a South African company and that should we bring samples of the types of herbs we plant they will buy from us; provided we meet their demand,” explained Baeti.

Her partner said they had a mammoth task of getting a field. Their first attempt to get one was frustrated by lack of water, but her grandmother has agreed to grant the duo a suitable field that she is no longer using in the Ngwaketse area. 

“Now that our tests have given us a go-ahead, and our market research is motivating and granny has given land to rely on, we plan to set up two structures. One will be for herbs and vegetables and the other for fodder. Our aim is to improve dairy production in our country so that we stop importing milk. It is just a matter of sourcing funding here and there and soon we will be Agribusiness women. We have done the common farming in gardens like any other passionate Motswana before,” said Osupeng. 

 While the common practice of this kind of farming utilises hydroponic fertilisers, the duo opts to use organic fertilisers. Baeti reasons that since their products are for human consumption, the use of hydroponic fertilisers might be unsafe in Botswana’s water-scarce situation. Organic fertilisers are also produced locally and they have already approached Organic Fertilizers Manufacturer Botswana (OFMB) who has informed them of the suitable ones to use for their projects.

 Information from Wikepedia indicates that hydroponic fertilisers are usually in a more refined form with fewer impurities making them both more stable and soluble for better absorption.

“Organic fertilisers, in most cases, are very different than either hydroponic or soil fertilizers both in composition and how they deliver the nutrient to the plants. Organic fertilisers rely on the synergistic action of bacteria and microbes to break down nutritional substances for easier uptake by the plants. Hydroponic and soil fertilisers provide nutrients in a ready-to-use form. While once, they were mutually exclusive, in recent years a number of outstanding organic fertilisers have hit the market in formulations refined enough for use in hydroponics,” it explains.

The duo hopes to employ 10 people when the project starts and increase the number as it grows.

The Executive of Botswana Climate Change Network, Tracy Sonny, recently presented at a workshop that women should be acknowledged as drivers of change and that gender should be mainstreamed in policy and strategies and development plans.

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