Gaborone — President Lt Gen. Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama has called on Batswana to increase food production so as to reduce the import bill.
Officially opening the 2017 National Agricultural Show in Gaborone yesterday, President Khama said local food production would create sustainable long term productive employment in the sector and diversify through value addition as well as building a culture of giving priority to consuming local foods.
President Khama stated that agriculture was one of the sectors identified as a driver of economic diversification, hence changing the name to the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security, to put emphasis on development and food security.
He pointed out that currently 70 per cent of the population earned their livelihood from agriculture as farmers, labourers or both, and their mainstay of business was crop production as well as livestock rearing.
President Khama said in that regard, the government introduced ISPAAD and LIMID programmes.
He said since the inception of LIMID in 2007, 34 155 projects had been implemented, adding that from that, 20 967 projects were specific to small stock, 5 187 projects to Tswana chickens, 233 projects to guinea fowls, 1 058 projects to animal husbandry and fodder support and 670 projects were towards water development.
He said under the programme, 370 682 sheep and goats, 117 407 Tswana chickens and 5 825 guinea fowls had been disbursed to beneficiaries.
Furthermore, he said 330 people benefitted under special ISPAAD, adding that seven community boreholes in the Kgalagadi District had been equipped and water reticulated.
On the theme of the show, which was Practising Smart Agriculture to Combat the Effect of Climate Change, President Khama said it called for the farming community to be relevant and practice climate smart agriculture, as well as use technology to address prevailing climate change challenges.
"In this regard, in order to increase food production, farmers must harness modern technology to contribute to agriculture development and economic growth," he stated.
President Khama also mentioned that the theme was aligned to Vision 2036 aspiration on sustainable and economic development, which commits to a sustainable, technology-driven and commercially viable agricultural sector.
"The vision also calls for development of a disease-free agricultural sector that optimises the use of land, utilisation of technologies and modern farming methods to improve productivity," said President Khama.
Further, he stated that it encouraged development of private sector-led value chains including production, processing, marketing and distribution.
Under livestock, President Khama said Botswana continued to slaughter for the European Union Market with supply from private feedlots and direct supply from registered holdings contributing to 70 per cent, while contracted feedlots contribute 30 per cent.
He however mentioned that there were challenges that included the quality of animals sourced directly from farmers as most of them had less than the required 200kg cold dress mass (CDM), non-tagging of animals and measles.
Nonetheless, President Khama stated that technologies such as embryo transfer, which would be launched during the show, was a step in the right direction to address issues of quality of Botswana breed and meet the required CDM for cattle sold to the Botswana Meat Commission to slaughter for export.
"To this end, the ministry embarked on campaigns to encourage farmers to tag animals for traceability, as this is an EU compliance requirement, as well as develop a measles control strategy, which is planned to be launched on September 21," he said.
He therefore urged the farming community to work cooperatively with the ministry to ensure success of the measles campaign.
Meanwhile, President Khama said in respect of dairy, Botswana had an annual demand of 65 million litres.
He stated that during the 2015/16 financial year, 4 896 774 litres of milk were produced locally from 1 131 milking cows, noting that there was an improvement in the 2016/17 financial years as 6 216 813 litres were produced.
He said for all these years, the deficit was met from imports and he therefore urged dairy farmers to step up production.
Regarding cereal production, President Khama said in the 2015/16 cropping season, a total of 292 033 hectares were ploughed by 75 001 farmers while in the 2016/17 season, 384 065 hectares were planted by 100 200 farmers.
He pointed out that the increase in hectorage planted was attributable to good rains, however adding that the last cropping season experienced challenge of cyclone
Dineo and outbreaks of diseases, which negatively affected farmers and resulted in the loss of harvest, livestock and other agricultural inputs.
President Khama nevertheless hailed farmers, saying despite the challenges, farmers had shown dedication towards the production of quality products, hence the exhibitions at the show.
He encouraged all farmers to continue doing a good job of contributing to food security, economic growth and employment creation.
President Khama said for enhanced production, government had, through the Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP), constructed roads leading to production areas, constructed service centres, developed clusters and electrified some farms.
President Khama also touched on a worrying emerging business for export of donkey hides to lucrative markets in Asia, where hides were used for medical purposes.
"Donkeys are brutally killed, skinned and meat left while skin is collected," he stated, saying that if Batswana were not careful, it would lead to a decline in the donkey population.
He therefore urged donkey owners to look after them and to report any suspected killings to the police and government officials.
The president said that was in cognisance of the fact that donkeys provided income to rural households and made an important contribution to families' access to food and services.
President Khama also urged donkey owners to attend the five workshops to be held countrywide effective next month.
Meanwhile, President Khama was presented with gifts of a Brahman cow and a goat from two different farmers.
President Khama thanked the farmers for the generous donations, adding that they would contribute tremendously to his start off as a farmer.
In attendance were the Vice President, Mr Mokgweetsi Masisi, heads of diplomatic missions, ministers and Members of Parliaments.
Source : BOPA