Before independence the country was relatively doing well in food production. Agriculture was the mainstay of the economy however the advent of minerals reversed all the efforts gained before independence as people migrated to urban centres and mining towns for better living conditions.
The agricultural sector that contributed over 30percent to the GDP has since independence dropped to a mere 2percent. Efforts made by the government through various agricultural schemes have not made yielded accordingly.
The government introduced schemes such as SLOCA, ALDEP, FAP, Fencing Policy, AI centres and lately we have ISDPAAD, LIMID and Young Farmers that is funded by CEDA. However these initiatives have not addressed the plight of food security in Botswana.
The year 2016 was revered to be the year when every citizen will have access to three meals a day, when the country would have created employment through various initiatives that cover food security, where job creation will be top of the agenda and poverty reduction will be minimized especially amongst youth of the country.
Recently the Minister of Agricultural Development and Food Security, Patrick Pule Ralotsia told an International World Food Day gathering in Mochudi that food security is a high priority in Botswana’s economic development programmes. He said the government has made deliberate efforts to support agriculture through ISPAAD and LIMID programmes that cover both small scale and large scale commercial producers.
Ralotsia said his ministry encourages youth participation in agricultural production as a way of accelerating adoption of agricultural technologies. “Currently 0ver 6000 youth are into crop production while over 1500 are doing livestock production,” explained Ralotsia.
“With the agricultural sector experiencing challenges due to inadequate rainfall, drought, significant decline in the hectorage under cultivation and livestock productivity, calls to practice conservation agriculture are gaining momentum in order to get maximum produce,” shared Ralotsia. He went further and said the agricultural sector contribution to the GDP during NDP10 has declined as in 2009, the contribution was 2.8percent and since 2010 it has never exceeded 2.5percent with contribution of 2.1percent as at the end of September 2016.
According to Ralotsia, Botswana is deficit in most commodities with an import bill of P147.9million for commodities that includes milk, honey, goat and sheep meat, horticultural produce, pork, cereals and chicken. The country’s demand for milk is 60million litres but the country produced only 4.9million litres in 2015/2016.
Beef production off-take stood at 91 513 cattle of the expected 125 000 by end of September 2016, which represents 73percent of the projected production. The off-take from 2015/16 during the same period was 124 945 cattle indicating a decline of 26.8percent.
The nation demands 90 000tons on horticulture but statistics indicate that Botswana only produced 47 539tons during 2014/2015 and the mid-term production results for 2016-2017 shows that we have already produced 22 896.73tons which represents 25percent of the national horticultural demand.
During the 2014/2015 ploughing season 90 317 tons of cereal was produced against the national demand of 300 000tons. A total of 45 826.23tons of cereal has been harvested with commercial farmers, accounting for 85percent of the total production.
Pork production shows a decrease as 119tons was produced July to August 2016 compared to 70tons produced during July- August 2015. Imports of pork increased from 338tons (P7.7million) in July-August 2015 to 339tons (P10.4million) in July-August 2016.
Production of goat meat for the same period July-August 2016 stands at 73.37tons compared with 21tons in July-august 2015 and the country does not import goat meat. Sheep production for the same periods stands at 21.62tons which is a decrease from the 186tons reported in July-August 2015. Imports of mutton increased from 47.36tons (P2million) in July- August 2015 to 72tons (P2.5million) at the same time in 2016.
Poultry has decreased from 25 212tons in 2015 to 8300tons thus signifying a decrease from 479.5 metric tons (P7.1million in 2015 to 389tons (P7.9million) in 2016.
The minister however is happy with the current cowpeas stock held at BAMB of 9735tons which is enough to meet the annual requirements for the School Feeding Programme. He also said the Strategic Grain Reserve for sorghum (30 000tons) and cowpeas (2000tons) will take the country to the next ploughing season and lamented the maize deficit that we continue to import to meet the country’s demand. FMB