Botswana: Agric Opportunities Report Out Soon

Gaborone — The Ministry of Agriculture Development and Food Security has undertaken a study on opportunities available in the agriculture value chains.

Speaking in an interview following cabinet and COVID-19 presidential task force meetings with President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi in Metsimotlhabe yesterday, the ministry's assistant minister Ms Beauty Manake said the report would be shared with the general population.

The information could be used to access various government funding programmes such as Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA), she said.

She said the assessment, undertaken after the declaration of state of emergency, indicated that there were opportunities to be explored from food production to processing, fertilizers and seeds.

Ms Manake said the agricultural sector had potential for employment creation, economic growth and import substitution noting that in 2019, the country's food import bill was PP7.6 billion, with more than P6 billion spent on processed foods.

The good thing about the sector was that it created employment opportunities for everyone, especially people living in rural areas, she said.

Ms Manake said government wanted Batswana to be creative and venture into the likes of aquaculture, another sector with potential as 97 per cent of demand comes from international markets.

She said the value chain could be done on any farm, giving an example of their host Ms Boitumelo Batungamile, who produces eggs.

The assistant minister said Ms Batungamile could produce egg powder, which was nutritious and had a longer shelf life, to market to rural communities.

For her part, Ms Batungamile thanked the President for the initiative of holding cabinet meetings on citizen-owned farms saying in addition to finance, it provided farmers with an opportunity to interact with him and share ideas.

She said she started farming 15 years ago using her own funds but managed to acquire a drip irrigation system through ISPAAD.

The 49-year-old farmer said she started with goats and sheep but over the years was forced to phase out the goats as they were dying due to poor waste disposal by people living in the vicinity of her farm.

Her farm has grown and today she has 600 layers producing 500 eggs per day.

The challenge, she said, had been access to the market but said she was able to sell through direct marketing.

Ms Batungamile uses the chicken waste as manure for her vegetable production and plans to package and sell the rest as it was in demand.

Her plans include venturing into hydroponics but she decried the exorbitant costs of connecting to the national electricity grid.

It was a major stumbling block as the system she was interested in used a lot of power to drive water, she said.

Ms Batungamile pointed out that hydroponics was water efficient as water was continually recycled.

She houses two chicken producers on her farm, Dipako Molebatsi, 22 and David German. 24, who she also mentors.

She does not have full-time employees but engages three casual labourers.

Source : BOPA

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