Maradu — In view of its endless job creation possibilities along the lines of input supply, seedling and flower production, machinery contracting and refrigerated trucks hiring among others, horticulture has every reason to be regarded as the second green diamond for this nation.
Minister of Agricultural Development and Food Security, Mr Patrick Ralotsia said in a statement delivered by deputy permanent secretary, Dr Keoagile Molapong during the national horticulture field day at Maradu farms near Lobatse on September 23.
Mr Ralotsia said government through the eleventh National Development Plan (NDP 11) viewed horticulture as a critical economic driver, adding that as at June 2017, the sub-sector had created 1005 jobs across its value chain.
However, Mr Ralotsia was worried that most of the countless opportunities across the sector were not being utilised by Batswana.
As a result, he said the nation continued to import about P7 billion worth of food among them table fresh and processed vegetables from other nations per annum.
He said the tide could be stemmed through concerted efforts from horticultural farmers associations, private sector and government.
Nonetheless, Mr Ralotsia has commended the sub sector for an improvement of 63 per cent in both production and demand for domestic supply during the 2016/17 ploughing season despite challenges like lack of participation along the horticulture value chain, among others.
He attributed the rising tide to hard work and visionary leadership of Botswana Horticultural Council(BoHoCo).
Mr Ralotsia, also Member of Parliament (MP) for Kanye North constituency, however encouraged BoHoCo not to sit on their laurels but revive the ten district associations to achieve maximum production.
Under the theme, "Horticulture, green diamond discovered, "Mr Ralotsia further shared that government has taken a decision to use grey water for irrigation and production of horticulture crops.
He said the available land for grey water irrigation now stood at 848 hectares.
He stressed that an appropriate irrigation system was a prerequisite.
Mr Ralotsia also revealed that his ministry policy of 1991 was being reviewed.
He explained that the exercise would encompass the drafting and alignment of the Horticulture policy and development of the ministry strategy.
The minister furthermore advised food producers to buy and familiarise themselves with Botswana Bureau of Standards guidelines for production.
He said the standards or guidelines were intended to enhance food safety, quality and facilitate easy marketing.
Mr Ralotsia moreover implored input suppliers to partner with stakeholders through demonstrations, field days with a view to build user capacity.
For her part, EU First Secretary to Botswana Mrs Paz Velasco Velazquez encouraged more involvement of the private sector to unlock the potential inherent in horticulture.
She argued that the sector was of strategic importance to the nation considering issues of food security and economic diversification.
Although the sector currently contributed very little to the GDP, she said it continued to provide employment and livelihood to many.
She said the EU supported the private sector development programme they believed it could propel forward an inclusive and sustainable economic growth in the country.
She said the private sector was key to development, job creation, increased income and effective poverty reduction strategy.
Mrs Velazquez informed farmers that they had a training programme for Small Micro Medium Enterprises (SMMEs) across a number of sectors, including fresh fruits and vegetable producers with a view to strengthen their capacity and competitiveness.
"We are working with the government of Botswana to continue our support for an even more inclusive economy," adding the objective was derived from NDP 11.
BoHoCo chairperson Mr Boikaego Phole said they likened Horticulture with a diamond because it has a huge potential to touch and change the lives of many Batswana for the better.
Among other achievements, he said through the green diamond campaign, they have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with an Agri-Insurance company with a view to provide farmers with an insurance cover.
Mr Phole also shared that his organisation was negotiating deals with input and equipment suppliers with the intention to cushion farmers from paying more and enable them to compete within the SADC region.
He said their main target was import substitution. He thanked EU and AON for the P200 000 and P100 000 worth of sponsorships for the event respectively.
Source : BOPA