Saturday, October 24, 2020

Young farmers programme’s applicants not up to scratch

Young people applying for the Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency Young Farmers Fund do not adequately demonstrate viability of the projects they seek funding for and Kgalagadi North is no exception.

“Some of the applicants approach CEDA before they have taken time to plan how they will address management issues and inherent risks that come with farming such as breeding rates, disease control as well as predation and stock theft control,” Finance Minister, Baledzi Gaolathe, told parliament last week in response to a question from Kgalagadi North MP, Victor Motubake.

There are instances when high numbers of livestock in certain syndicate areas work against viability due to the likelihood of overgrazing and also when members of some syndicates are not willing to accommodate a high number of livestock that the beneficiaries would bring, which limits scope for growth and expansion of the proposed businesses.

The minister said that since the inception of the programme, a total of 14 applications valued at P6.3 million were received from the Kgalagadi North constituency as at the end of January this year.

“Of the 14 applications received, four projects valued at P1.9 million were approved, four were rejected while four valued at P1.5 million are still being processed.
Two projects valued at P851 000 were withdrawn by the applicants,” Gaolathe said.

He added that in order to increase fund utilisation across the country, CEDA continues to sensitise potential young farmers on the requirements of the fund and possible sub-sectors to target.
“This is done through workshops, collaboration with other relevant stakeholders and print media initiatives. Furthermore, applicants who are not successful are advised on how to restructure their projects for possible resubmission and funding,” Gaolathe said.

CEDA Young Farmers Fund was established in 2007 but not everybody is enthusiastic about it. In its policy on agriculture and rural development, the Botswana Congress Party says that this programme is “faulty” on score of the fact that “it is not possible to have successful young farmers when there are no successful older farmers to mentor them.”

To reverse all that is supposedly misguided about the government’s approach to agriculture, the BCP has proposed a set of strategic and policy interventions to support agricultural transformation and rural development.
The party says that when in power it will develop a comprehensive agricultural education programme whose beneficiaries will be both adults and children in rural and urban areas alike. Schoolchildren will study agriculture up to Form 5. After providing such education, the party will provide technology and financial assistance to promote “one-hectare programme” as a minimum requirement for all rural farming households and a backyard horticultural production programme for all rural and urban households.

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