Amid the on-going human-wildlife conflict in Chobe which even negatively affect crop production, government has moved swiftly and proposed to sponsor the construction of cluster fences for smallholder farmers in Pandamatenga to curb wildlife damage to crops.
Officially opening the Chobe agricultural show recently, Minister of Agricultural Development and Food Security, Fidelis Molao said the proposal has already been approved by the Okavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA). Molao admitted that wildlife especially elephants hampers crop production in Chobe. “As we probably know, Botswana has the largest elephant population in Africa resulting in increased levels of human-elephant conflict which sometimes leads to the destruction of crops and at times human fatalities. Moreover, predators appear to have increased as they kill livestock in large numbers,” Molao told the gathering. He encouraged farmers never to lose hope in crop production despite the adversities bedevilling them adding that government will always offer support where possible for them to realize their dreams.
Furthermore, Molao indicated that despite the late rains farmers in Pandamatenga have planted short day crops such as cow peas, mug beans and chick peas, hoping to utilize the available moisture. “I must commend you as Pandamatenga farmers for exporting mung beans to the Asian market. I understand that annually you export 7 402 tonnes amounting to a value of P49, 273,985.00,” he revealed. Molao went on to say that horticulture production is also increasing and farmers mostly supply onions, water melons, butternuts, spinach and green mealies. The value of production in the current planting season is estimated to be a little over P1 million.
According to Molao, on annual basis, on annual basis, Botswana requires about 30 000 tonnes of cereals. Strategies to improve food security include opening up more land in order to attract investors to venture into crop production individually or in partnership with Batswana, Molao said.
Chairperson of Pandamantenga small scale farmers, Edgar Moyo told this publication that they commend government’s decision to finance the construction of cluster fence around their farms. “Such an initiative will encourage some of my colleagues who had abandoned their farms to re-venture into crop production. Some farmers had quit farming as they were being terrorized by elephants and other wild animals,” Moyo pointed out.
Herman Venter, Chairperson of Pandamatenga Commercial Farmers Association said they are pleased by the assistance they receive from government such as being helped to control pests. Venter however expressed concern that they are being terrorized by quelea birds which greatly affect their yields.