Dryland farming is one of the risky arable farming especially for commercial farmers in Botswana where rain is not reliable but Mosisedi farmers have soldiered on.
Mosisedi farmers who are engaged in dry land arable farming last year caught the eye of President Ian Khama when they celebrated harvest day and donated some of their produces to the less privileged.
One of the farmers Jan Cronje said that he managed to fill one of the silos at Pitshane alone when he produced 40,000 tons of maize. He also produced 2000 tons of sunflowers and made a profit of more than P5.5 million.
According to Cronje, farming is not for the faint hearted as it demands hardworking and dedication, “there is a misconception that farming is about farming, which is nonsense because passion alone cannot take you anywhere.”
Last season he planted 1800 hectares and leased some of the ploughing fields around the farms but this season they are faced with a difficult situation, drought.
“We are faced with drought and don’t expect any good harvest this season,” said the worried farmer noting that they have been poor rains coupled with extreme heat which killed their crops.
Another reasons that led to them failing in ploughing is what Cronje term ‘desert planting rules’ and said that they didn’t stick to the rule.
He said their crop spacing was too big and failed to retain the moisture.
One of his worries is that he has to service his loan at National Development Bank (NDB) and with envisaged loss it is going to be an uphill battle.
Though he has suffered a setback this season, Cronje is optimistic that next season it will be a good year for arable farming.
Dickson Baruakgomo who is the vice chairperson of Mosisedi farming cluster said that this ploughing season he ploughed 210 hectares and planted only sorghum.
Just like Cronje, he is worried that he is going to make some loss as he might not meet his target of 350 tonnes, “with the current situation am expecting less than 50 tones.”
In last year’s harvest, Baruakgomo said that he made P1.7 million before profit which most of it used to service his loan with NDB and pay his employees.
Though he is going to incur some losses due to poor harvest, Baruakgomo said that next year he will increase the number of hectares he is ploughing.
One of his main worries is the prices at Botswana Marketing Board (BAMB) which he said are too low and doesn’t take into considerations the costs they incur during ploughing.
He said that they have registered their displeasure with BAMB management who promised to look into their concerns.
NDB Chief Executive Officer Lorato Morapedi they have had meeting with BAMB management regarding their pricing on behalf of their clients and she was hopefully it will bear fruitful results.
Chairman of Mosisedi farming cluster Quett Rabai said that their cluster is an inspiration to most of farmers in Botswana and added that speaking in one voice has really helped them and now they have international partners.
“Even commercial banks listen to us when we approach them,” he said.
He said that they are in the process of having a service centre, silos, lodges and fueling stations within their area.
Currently Mosisedi farmers are in consultation with government to have their road network improved and be connected to the electric grid which will cost P10 million.
“If we have power we will be able to engage in irrigation farming and this will boost food security in the country,” said Rabai adding that with connection to power they will not worry about lack of rains and will plough all year long.
Mosisedi Association arable farming covers about 10 000 hectares of farming land and the cluster is made up of 18 members.