As the 2013/2014 planting and ploughing season winds down an improved harvest is expected this year. This, according to the Ministry of Agriculture could be as a result of the good rains the country received during the year. However, the ministry also believes that the revised guidelines of the Integrated Support Programme for Arable Agriculture Development (ISPAAD) may be paying off.
The Ministry of Agriculture In 2013 revised the ISPAAD guidelines to positively favour all different categories of farmers in a bid to improve the county’s food security. The revision saw an increase on the payments of ploughing and planting from P400 to P800 for row planters and P400 for those who use broadcasting method. Through ISPAAD, farmers get free seeds from the government while they are also sold fertilisers at subsidised prices to improve their production.
Responding to a questionnaire from this publication on whether ISPAAD is making strides, the ministry’s spokesperson, Boikhutso Rabasha, indicated that since the revision of ISPAAD guidelines there has been an increased crop harvest country wide. Rabasha pointed that the revision has seen the number of farmers who ploughed and planted reaching 121 511, which is the highest recorded ever. This in turn resulted in the increase in the number of hectares planted hence the improved output. “We recorded the highest number of farmers who ploughed and planted as well as an increase in the number of hectares planted which reached 417 000 ha ever since the inception of ISPAAD,” said Rabasha. The size of land ploughed and planted during the 2013/2014 season surpassed the ministry’s estimated 337 000 hectares.
According to the ministry, to date 178,763 mega tonnes of harvest have been recorded. The numbers are expected to increase as the production data collection for this year is still underway, with more farmers still to report their crop harvests. This ploughing season, however has been clouded with challenges that at some point threatened the production. There were shortages of seeds and farmers had to travel long distances to Gaborone to collect them.
Even though the 2013/2014 season is still winding down the ministry has already started preparations for the coming ploughing season to make sure all goes smoothly. Rabasha told this publication that tenders for the supply of inputs such as seeds and fertilisers have already been awarded. “Dispatches are already on-going to the districts for distribution to farmers,” she said. She went on to ask farmers to liaise with their area frontline extension workers for authorisation to buy inputs and any advice they may need on the preparations of the coming ploughing season.
The other issue that was of concern from the farmers and tractor contractors was the late payments for the work they did. At some point, the payments were suspended as the funds ran out and government was still trying to source some more. However, in some instances the ministry of agriculture indicated that the delays were a result of missing documents needed for the payments. Rabasha therefore encouraged beneficiaries and suppliers to work hand in hand with the ministry to ensure that all documents needed are well prepared and signed accordingly. She said preparations for payments are underway as they are already creating accounts of would be contractors and individual beneficiaries into the Government Accounting and Budgeting System (GABS) for easy payments. The ministry is working around the clock to make sure payments are done in time as we are as also exploring the possibilities of using post offices for the payments,” revealed Rabasha.
Even though Rabasha believe that the number of farmers who ploughed and planted in the past season will keep increasing, she said that would solely depend on the response of individual farmers. She added that the onset and distribution of the rains will also have an effect on the number of people who will take part in the 2014/2015 ploughing season.
Contacted for comment farmers showed satisfaction on the improved ISPAAD guidelines saying they are beginning to pay off. Mmamotse Mogapi a farmer in Mmankgodi said there used to be shortage of tractors as owners felt the money paid was low. Now that the amount of money has been increased Mogapi pointed that more tractor owners are coming forward to plough for the people in the area.
“Shortage of tractors used to be a major problem but now it is a bit better than in the past,” she said Mogapi. She believes that with this more farmers will continue to plough and plant their fields as the resources will be readily available for them.
Another farmer Keabetswe Modibedi who said he ploughed late last season due to shortage of seeds and fertilisers is hopeful that this season the ministry of agriculture will be able to organise everything well for them to plough in time. Modibedi said ploughing in time is good because one is able to produce good quality products that are able to give him returns. Just like Mogapi, Modibedi feels ISPAAD has helped to get more farmers to plough since they are provided free seeds and subsidised fertilisers and their fields are ploughed for free as government pays for it.