Molepolole — More effort is required to grow and expand the horticultural sub-sector in order to realise its full potential in both local and international markets, says permanent secretary in the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security, Mr Rule Opelo.
Officiating at the National Horticulture field day organised by Botswana Horticulture Council (BoHoCo) hosted by Molepolole Horticulture Enterprise Farm at Suping in Molepolole on November 8, Mr Opelo reiterated that Statistics Botswana report of December 2018 states that about P344 million is spent on horticulture imports.
Further, he said the import bill was a wakeup call for more investment in horticultural value chain and employment creation.
The permanent secretary explained that in the year 2018/19, a total of 4 173 jobs were generated from horticulture sector.
Out of that number, Kweneng District alone employed 400 people.
Still under the same period, production under horticulture registered 64 000 tonnes of fruits and vegetables from a combined 26 282.95ha. He stated that horticultural farmers were characterised by a mean production of 1-2hacters/farmer and about four per cent of farmers cultivate over 10 hectares. Also, he indicated that out of a total production, only five per cent of fruits were produced locally while 95 per cent of fruits were imported from neighbouring countries.
He said this was a great challenge.
He therefore encouraged farmers to increase output per unit area by following good agricultural practises and new technologies such as green house cultivation, hydroponics and other protected cultivation methods.
He stated that in other countries where farmers cultivated small areas and managed them well, they produced more.
Mr Opelo however acknowledged challenges faced by farmers associations and cooperatives, but he noted that these models had proved fruitful in such countries as Brazil and Kenya.
Therefore, he challenged farmers to self-introspect and identify the gaps and fix them.
He noted that for the sub-sector to thrive, farmers needed to work together and further emphasised that horticulture needed to grow and take advantage of the fourth industrial revolution.
Taking advantage of Information Communication Technology (ICT) in horticulture, he noted, would facilitate production and marketing.
The CEO at the National Development Bank, Ms Lorato Morapedi assured the Botswana Horticulature Council of the bank's continued support.
She said that 10 years back, the country imported about 83 per cent of cereal, producing only 17 per cent.
Through their financial support, farmers in Pandamatenga slightly reduced that number to 79 per cent.
Through their partnerships with Pandamatenga farmers, the latter have vowed to further reduce that number to 74 per cent.
Ms Morapedi challenged other stakeholders to explore contract farming as it could help broaden revenue base and increase production.
She further stated that at present, agricultural sector contributed 2.5 per cent to GDP, which she said was not acceptable given the history of the sector.
Going into the future, she explained her bank was considering adopting prefab models for financing agricultural projects. These models, she said, would build skills and would be perfected with time.
Chairperson of BoHoCo Mr Boikaego Phole explained that this year's field day, under the theme; Horticulture, Green Diamond Discovered, was hosted by the council in collaboration with Kweneng Horticultural Association.
The field day was organised for networking and education purposes for horticultural farmers.
He said compared to all other agricultural sub-sectors, horticulture was unbeatable in nutritional content, palatability, employment creation and efficiency.
Moreover, he explained that it was still under horticulture that ornamental plants and flowers are produced.
He said it was for this reason that horticulture was equated to a diamond.
For his part, the CEO of AON Insurance Mr Barnabas Mavuma announced that his company had tailor-made insurance solutions specific to farmers against all natural disasters, something local farmers had long advocated for.
The host farmers Mr Chaka and Ms Koketso Kooagile explained that they started their farming enterprise in 2011 with funding from CEDA Young Farmers.
He said when they started their business was doing well, but encountered challenges of pests and diseases along the way.
He however said that never deterred them from continuing to pursue their passion of feeding the nation.
<i>Source : BOPA</i>