For a long time Botswana has been importing food to balance the supply the demand of food locally. The Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) is now determined to fight for food self-sufficiency in Botswana and possibly to export to others countries in the future.
Figures show that crop production has improved phenomenally.
The Minister of Agriculture, Christiaan De Graaff said that since the introduction of the Integrated Support Programme for Arable Agriculture Development, the country has seen an increase of 500% in crop production. “Currently crop production for 2013/2014 stands at more than 220 000 metric tonnes from which more than 125 000 metric tonnes is cereals as compared to a total production of 64,980 metric tonnes in 2013/2014 where 33,775 metric tonnes was cereals,” De Graaff pointed out.
He said food security is important and has always been at the top of the ministry’s agenda. Speaking at a media briefing on an update on programmes availed to improve food security, De Graaff said it is important that “we are able to produce enough food to sustain our population as well as export to other countries if necessary,” he said.
De Graaff said that his ministry will continue to help farmers with programmes for them to produce sufficient food. He said government will do away with programmes that do not benefit farmers and replace them with those that work to improve the country’s food security.
He hailed the introduction of the ISPAAD, adding that it continues to produce good results. “ISPAAD is a success story of not only this country but Africa. Ever since the programme was introduced in 2008 it has had clear results of improved food production in the country,” he explained. The minister went on to say because of the help farmers receive through ISPAAD more farmers continue to engage in ploughing which leads to an increase in crop production.
This increase is credited to the support government continues to give farmers through ISPAAD. According to statistics, the 2013/2014 ploughing season recorded the highest number of farmers who planted, with the number going beyond 127 000. During the same period, a total of 417 000 hectares of land was planted resulting into an increase of area planted to 113% compared to the 2012/2013 season.
Minister De Graaff said because of the good results of ISPAAD the ministry is looking to extend it to other subsectors such as horticulture. He pointed that horticulture is one of the subsectors which has a great potential for growth. However there has been an outcry from horticultural farmers that retailers only get the bulk of the produce from outside the country. However the Minister said the ministry is doing all it can to support them. “One of our strategies to grow this sector is the restriction of horticulture imports by facilitating farmers to access markets,” said the Minister. He acknowledged that high value crops such as potatoes where in the past imported in huge quantities but not restrictions are placed on them which is an indication that local farmers are able to produce significant quantities.
De Graaff however urged farmers to produce goods of good quality so that they stay competitive. He also asked them to take advantage of the programmes extended to them so that they can produce more quality food adding that if the country produce more food it can enjoy exporting to other countries in the future.