Farmers urged to embrace technology

SHARE   |   Monday, 26 October 2015   |   By Othusitse Tlhobogang
Dr de Jager Dr de Jager

The president of Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACAU) Dr Theo de Jager has urged local farmers to embrace new farming methods to improve production. Dr Jager said technology provides for methods that could lead to improved production and profitability not only for farmers but the economy.
Dr Jager said this while addressing attendees at the consultative workshop for the Human Resource Development Council’s Agriculture sector committee on Thursday. He said despite agriculture’s contribution to the GDP continuing to decline the sector has potential to turn around the economy of the country.  
“Farmers are not doing more of what they should be doing. We therefore need to change their mind-set and show them that agriculture is business and should not be done part time. To achieve this we have to teach them the use of new technology to help increase production,” he said. According to statistics, agriculture’s contribution to GDP in Botswana has always been declining over the years from well over 46% in 1966 to less than 2% currently. The numbers also shows a decline in the formal jobs created by this sector. It is for this because of this that HRDC came up with the Agriculture Sector Committee targeted at improving the skills in the sector for better production. 
Agriculture Sector Committee has hit the ground running as it has already released its draft human resource development plan to guide them going forward. When presenting the draft plan Professor Happy Siphambe of CEI Consultant concurred with Jager saying even though agriculture’s contribution continues to decline it still can do well. According to Siphambe emerging sub sectors such as horticulture and poultry can be used to up the sector.
He emphasized that their consultation has revealed the need for a quick transformation of the agriculture sector to produce more formal jobs. Siphambe pointed out that the findings indicated a lot of workers are in informal jobs. “For us to turn around this sector we need more skilled labour to do this especially that need to adapt new production technology,” he explained. Siphambe said a skilled labour will be an added advantage as it will help to address the need for agro-processing. He went on to explain that there is need for agro processing industries in the country to add value to the commodities produced locally. He argues that this will not only add value but also create more employment opportunities for Batswana.
The Agriculture Sector Committee chairperson Dr Howard Sigwele said they found out that there is need to provide necessary human capital and financial resources to establish robust research and development institutions that have close links with the farmers’ needs. According to Dr Sigwele this could help address the concerns of skills miss-match where institutions produce graduates without proper skills.
In recommendations the draft plan identified that technical vocational education training institutions should provide skills that were previously offered by Botswana college of Agriculture for certificate courses. Sigwele also said since there are concerns of lack of skills on graduate, BCA programmes should be aligned to the ploughing season so that the graduates have time to get practical skills. 
Another recommendation is for more investments to be channelled towards irrigation system and improving of the nutrient quality of the soils. Explaining this Sigwele said it will enable the commercialisation of arable farming which in the process will create some jobs for Batswana.
The consultative workshop brought together all stakeholders across the country. Its purpose was to discuss how organisations could assist with skills development, capacitating associations in policy dialogue and resource mobilisation. It was also to solicit input from stakeholders for the draft plan.

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