Suitable policies and conducive environment are said to be the integral factors that could help improve the competitiveness of smallholder livestock farmers in Africa. This was revealed by agricultural experts during a conference on policies for competitive smallholder livestock production held in Gaborone last week.
Experts from different countries aired concerns on policies which are made but are not implemented. They pointed out that for smallholder livestock farmers to begin to be more proactive and competitive; policies should not only be found on paper but they must be put to work.
Speaking on the side-lines of the conference a representative of International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) based in Kenya Asaah Ndambi said non-implementation of policies is a great concern among African countries. Ndambi told this publication that in most cases policies are formulated and written down, but they are not put into use, which affects the ultimate production of farmers. “Policies normally provide a conducive environment for farmers but in most cases these environments are not made available for farmers which affect their final productivity and competitiveness,” he said.
Another expert from Malawi Andy Safalaoh, concurred with Ndambi saying this is the same problem smallholder farmers are facing in his country. Safalaoh said smallholder pig farmers in rural areas of Malawi tend to be less competitive because there are no effective policies in places to help make the environment conducive for them. He said unless these are put into place the farmers will always be unlikely to compete effectively in the already saturated markets.
The experts called on different governments to take the issue of policy making seriously as it is crucial to helping smallholder famers. They argue that without proper and functional policies it will always be difficult for smallholder farmers to become more competitive. Smallholder farmers are those who keep small numbers of livestock and they always find it difficult to compete with those that are already established and have a lot of livestock.
When officially opening the conference acting Minister of Agriculture Patrick Ralotsia assured the delegates of his ministry’s commitment and dedication towards any policy that is geared towards the improvement of competitiveness in agriculture. Ralotsia pointed out that agriculture continues to be an important contributor to the country’s GDP as such it needs to be given proper attention.
The acting Minister said currently his ministry’s policy is to drive for commercialisation to make agricultural produce sustainable locally. He applauded the organisers for bringing the conference to Botswana saying it is suited to be held here since most of the country’s farmers are still smallholder farmers. “This description does not only fit Botswana but the better part of Southern Africa,” he said adding that the conference will come handy to them.
Ralotsia pointed out that at the Ministry of Agriculture they believe that agricultural production can only become sustainable if it is made profitable. He said “profitability can only be made possible through commercialisation. Smallholder farmers can only benefit from livestock revolution if they improve their competitiveness and have access to markets”. Ralotsia also said his ministry take issues of policies in any agricultural sub-sector very seriously as they provide guiding principles and direction which should be followed to accelerate growth of the sector and ultimately the economy of the country.
The aim of the conference was to discuss competitiveness in agricultural food production and marketing and to shed light on factors that influence competitiveness especially towards smallholder livestock production. It brought together national and international agricultural experts including researchers, academics, policy maker and development partners with an interest in policy and improving livelihoods.
The conference was conducted by Botswana Institute of development and Policy Analysis (BIDPA) in conjunction with the Australian Government through the Australian Center for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).