As government seeks to revolutionise the agriculture sector and the realisation that dry land subsistence farming has no place in the semi-arid local environment, two young men have found a business model to drive the transformation. When he was handed the reins to run Phuduhudu Drilling back in 2000, Sefullah Kablay- then only 27 years, found himself in tenterhooks. The company was teetering on the brink of collapse due to lack of operational capital, insufficient plant and unserviceable machinery.
Ten years later the company has turned the corner and set itself ahead of competition as the leading borehole drilling company in the southern part of Botswana, thanks to the financial boost they received from Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) just when they were about to close shop, says Managing Director Sefullah Kablay. Perhaps the best decision he ever made was to rope in his brother Noshad Stroh poaching him from the cutthroat construction industry where the latter was cutting his teeth in business.
The company employs 12 other people. “With the CEDA funding we managed to buy another rig to augment the old one and other equipment needed to continue operations. Now we are meeting our client’s demands without a hassle,” says Stroh in reference to the two rigs and a fleet of support vehicles and plant. The resuscitation of Phuduhudu by CEDA has provided farmers, particularly in the southern part of the country, with an alternative for drilling boreholes to advance their farming interest as rains have become erratic and inadequate.
Kweneng West, which receives only 250mm-400mm annual rainfall in good seasons, has become a strategic market for Phuduhudu as farmers move away from depending on natural sources of surface runoff to drilling boreholes for their livestock and crop production. The high evaporation rate in the arid environs ensures that moisture is lost shortly after the rains. Government has introduced funding subsidies in the agriculture sector through programs like Integrated Support Programme for Arable Agriculture Development (ISPAAD), Livestock Management and Infrastructure Development (LIMID), CEDA’s Young Farmers Fund to encourage and support subsistence farmers to commercialise production.
“Besides being funded by CEDA we have also received a lot of business from projects funded by the same agency and other government programs to drill boreholes. This makes business easier as individuals are often reluctant to pay once the job is complete,” says Kablay.
What about emerging competition? The self-trained drillers brush off any possible threat confidently asserting that with the experience and satisfactory service they have provided to their clients over the years they have entrenched themselves as the best in the market.
Since entry into the market they have drilled many boreholes in different parts of the country. Another borehole drilling company, Impala Drilling, has opened shop in their neighborhood targeting the same clientele.
What are the risks involved?
The major challenge is breakdown of machinery whose parts can only be sourced from South Africa at prohibitive prices and are often not readily available. Delays mean loss of business. The ever escalating price of diesel also eats into company profits reducing turnover. Tidimalo Ratshosa, a subsistence farmer in Phefodiafoka near Salajwe waxes lyrical about the service he got from Phuduhudu and how government has saved his investment in agriculture through LIMID.
In their corporate social investment strategy the company plans to sponsor the ladies football (modalities being worked out), build shelter for a needy family in their community and adopt a school to assist in education of the youth. While their age mates work in towns and cities, the brothers spend a better part of their lives ‘on site’ in the bush managing the drilling process leaving their young families alone. Both admit that they sometimes wish they were always home with their wives and kids but understand that they have to put food on the table. Each has two young children.