Bots seeks national food security

Government is determined to produce food for Botswana through initiatives such as the clustering principle under the Integrated Support for Arable Agriculture Development (ISPAAD) Vice President Ponatshego Kedikilwe revealed at the official opening of the National agricultural Show Wednesday.
“Currently, there are 31 348 ha in clusters. Additional 34 048 ha are being developed. Such clusters are at different stages of implementation. The total area to be clustered will therefore be 65 000 ha,” said Kedikilwe.
He said, “The current Pandamatenga area is 50 000 ha. On completion of all the clusters under development there will be some 115 000 ha that can be farmed commercially in arable production. However, proper crop husbandry methods must be seriously adopted to enhance cereal production.”
The development of the Zambezi Agro - commercial project will add another 30 000 ha of land for arable production, part of which will be irrigated.
Horticulture produce will require about 90 000 metric tonnes to feed the whole nation. Honey will require 40 metric tonnes annually. Milk requirement is 60 million litres. Sheep and goat meat requirement is 520 metric tonnes and 2116 metric tonnes respectively.

“It is against this background that I commend all farmers who have heeded the call to commercial agriculture and improved methods of cultivation at the Mosisedi cluster in the Southern District and the Pandamatenga in the Chobe District, who have demonstrated that it is possible to produce a yield of at least 3 tons, i.e. 60 bags of 50 kg, in one hectare,” said Kedikilwe.

He said, “This goes to indicate that a properly ploughed, row planted with the use of fertilizers and herbicides a five hectare field supported under ISPAAD can yield 300 bags of 50 kg.
According to officials when ISPAAD programme was introduced in 2008 cereal output was only 55 000 metric tons and increased to 118 000 metric tons in 2011. This year a cereal harvest of around 200 000 metric tonnes is expected.
Good rains are not a sole condition for increased production with different climatic conditions dictating "one size doesn't fit all". Hence, the establishment of the Special ISPAAD programme.
The special ISPAAD programme targets the western side of the country which has unique agro-climatic conditions which support and enable special production systems like the breeding of karakul sheep.  
“Horticulture development incorporates a policy determination that, as appropriate, whenever water sources like dams are developed, land be set aside for irrigation. The P1.74 billion Lotsane and Thune dams will irrigate over 600 hectares. To further anchor horticulture development with definitive off take, the Botswana Horticulture Market will be changed from the current agency model to a wholesale set up. The horticulture processing plant being set up by the Selibe Phikwe Diversification Unit (SPEDU) in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture should also promote value addition and development of a strong horticulture industry,” said Kedikilwe.
Officials concede that inadequate infrastructure is still a major problem that hinders agricultural production in the country.
Government developed the Agricultural Infrastructure Development Initiative (AIDI) in 2006 which has not benefited from a full implementation because it came at a time when the economy was experiencing a decline. I must however assure farmers that government has not abandoned the initiative. 
“Government continues to encourage formation of farmers' associations which can improve efficiency and reduce extensive farming costs as farmers can benefit from the economies of scale if they are organised into operational units,” said Kedikilwe.

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