The Young Farmers Association, an NGO advocating for better environment for youth agricultural entrepreneurs in Botswana has emphasised the need for policy interaction as it aims to take farming in the country to the next level.
The association was invited to the conference on economic diversification organised by the Botswana Institute of Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA), the country’s economic think tank in collaboration with University of Botswana’s Department of Economics and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung.
Spokesperson for the organisation, Leatile Mokgware told the conference it was difficult to run an NGO and they were always exploring several strategies to fund the movement so that it becomes the voice of young farmers.
He said the Young Farmers Association is brimming with a number of ideas including finding alternative markets for its members.
Already, the association has set its eyes on the lucrative market in Dubai; Mokgware acknowledged the policy interactions will allow them to know these markets better.
“It is very important (to have alternative markets) so that we are not seen to be competing with older farmers for Botswana small market,” he said.
Mokgware said that outside markets like Dubai would offer a better pricing to their members, adding that the country is willing to work with the organisation.
The Botswana Young Farmers Association was formed in 2008 and has 500 paid up members and a following of over 1000 full time and part time farmers. Its membership comprises of youth who have a passion for farming from areas as far flung as Maun, Pandamatenga and Borolong.
Mokgware acknowledged that they have worked with the Ministry of Agriculture, The Business Place, Sir Ketumile Masire Foundation (where the association advises the foundation on agricultural issues).
He also paid tribute to Haskins, which pays for a slot for their Tuesday programme on RB2, a Botswana government owned commercial radio station.
In an interview, Mokgware who runs his own farm, Morokolwane Farms Pty in Borolong, said they still face challenges including redtape in accessing finance, which hinders capitalisation.
He cited other challenges facing the members as market access; land, where the turnaround time from service providers is tedious.
Mokgware advised that there is need for Severe Draught Programme to help farmers who lose during the drought season like in the recent past where farmers lost millions of Pula.
“Our products are also not given support by local shops. They compare our prices with those from South Africa,” he added.
The other problem is having difficulty in transporting goods to the market where bar codes are also expensive.
The farmers cannot sell their goods to the shops without bar codes that cost P12, 000. He also said the members face the challenges of not having electricity connected to their operation, although he said at his farm he looking at the solar power as a solution to the problem.
“At my farm, we embrace the use of solar”.
His Morokolwane Farms that was started in 2010 is in a wide range of farming including layers and cereal production.
The conference was held under the theme ‘Are Diamonds there forever? – Prospects of a Sustainable Development Model for Botswana’.
Agriculture is seen by some as a way of diversifying the economy and helping in dwindling exports.