Monday, September 21, 2020

Welcome to the party Honourable Minister De Graaf

There is bludgeoning excitement in the agricultural community that some kind of a renaissance could be on the making.

A number of factors combine to bring about this sense of exalted hope.
The prices given by the Botswana Meat Commission are at a record high.
The country has also been experiencing unusually high rains.

At least for as far as the eye can see, it looks like the future is bright.
But there is also another important aspect which reinforces this sense of hope among the farmers.

President Ian Khama seems determined to give agriculture another chance.
His faith in the ability of the sector to rise from the doldrums has been shown in his appointment of an accomplished farmer to the agricultural portfolio.
Nobody in their right mind would doubt Minister Christian De Graaf’s passion for agriculture.

But then passion alone, though desirable, is not enough.

Given the low depths to which Botswana’s agricultural sector has ebbed, it will certainly take much more than just passion.
There will also be need for a paradigm shift.
To use Vice President Mompati Merafhe’s phrase, it cannot be business as usual.

Our belief is that it is time agriculture is taken as a business.
It should not be a retirement venture for people who are already past their sunset.

The current mentality has contributed towards the death of agriculture as a meaningful contributor to Botswana’s economy.

Statistics show that at independence agriculture contributed close to 50 percent of Botswana’s GDP.
That figure has over the years slowly declined to below 5%.

The decline is in spite of huge amounts of money poured into the sector by government.

Of course, the droughts have played their part.
But, to a large degree, the degeneration has been human induced.

There has been a reckless abuse of government schemes meant to give farmers a hand.
There has also been a casual attitude towards agriculture as meaningful employment creator.

But with the new momentum being created by President Ian Khama the stage is set.
The most obvious challenge is to renew the country’s efforts and capacity to contain Foot and Mouth Disease.

Foot and Mouth is by far the biggest threat since it overnight has the potential to erase Botswana’s participation in the European market, which is by far the most lucrative destination of our beef.
The other challenge is to cut production costs by assisting farmers by way of improving the infrastructure ÔÇô roads, telecommunications and power alike.

This would have the benefit of not only making farming and agriculture cheaper, but also more attractive.
When all is said and done agriculture is one area where Botswana’s potential to grow further and reach new heights remains unutilized.

We share government’s desire to resuscitate the sector from the slumber through which this all important sector is going.

Although a lot needs to be done, it would seem like, as a country, we have all the required ingredients in place.
There is political will, which has not been there in the past, to give agriculture another chance.

There is also a new generation, which seems willing to look at agriculture with a fresh mind; not as a retirement calling but rather a commercial activity from which able bodied people can make a living.

What is left now is for Minister De Graaf to put in place a workable strategy that would ignite the whole thing.

It is our firm belief that given his track record and personal success as a farmer, De Graaf will be up to the task to take the nation by hand.
To add the cherry on top, DE Graaf enjoys rare support from his master at the State House to do as he pleases as long as he delivers the results.
Once, again, welcome to the party Mr. Minister. The ball is in your court.

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