The proposed first and second phases of the Zambezi Integrated Agro-Commercial Development Project (ZIACDP) is estimated to cost about $780 million (P5.4 billion) in setting up the water infrastructure alone.
The ZIACDP is a three-pronged project whose first primary objective includes extracting water from the Zambezi into a 20,000 hectares greenfield farming area about 50, 000 kilometres from Kazungula. The second phase includes taking the water to the Pandamatenga area to irrigate the current farms or the new farming area that will be created.
In an interview with Mmegi, Agriculture Hub coordinator Neil Fitt, says that the project, which is not financed by the national budget or NDP10 due to its magnitude, is expected to be the flagship of Botswana's quest to attain food security.
" I would estimate the project to cost about $780 million in just setting the water infrastructure alone which will enable us to extract water from Chobe/Zambezi and pump it to the new farming area as well as to Pandamatenga.
" Due to the size of this project, government is only funding the majority of the feasibility study while the rest will be financed by private investors. We hope to be done with our due diligence in the first quarter of this year and from there we will go into the actual planning.
"We are looking for partners to finance and possibly operate the projects right from the setting up of the pipeline to the actual farming. Some investors including Botswana companies and some Multinational corporations have already expressed interest in the projects," he said.
Initially, government was supposed to have set
The third objective of the project includes taking the water down to Letsibogo to join the National Water Carrier.
According to Fitt, the primary mandate is to establish a viable commercial integrated agricultural development, which will improve Botswana's food security, diversify agriculture, meaningfully contribute to the country's GDP and create employment for over 6000 people in the first phase. The second phase which includes pumping of water into Pandamatenga as well as farming is expected to create 4000 additional jobs.
While the projects are still at the early stages, Fitt is hopeful that by the end of the next cropping season, farmers should be on the ground in the new Pandamatenga area.
"As for the Zambezi Project, if we get the go ahead, we are hoping to start in 2011 and have the first crops in 2014. Much will depend on whether government gives us the greenlight to go ahead," he added.
Among some of the agricultural initiatives that the Agricultural Hub is overseeing include, National Master Plan for Arable Agriculture and Dairy Development (NAMPAAD), Integrated Support Programme for Arable Agriculture Development (ISPAAD), the restructuring of BMC, Livestock Management and Infrastructure Development (LIMID). There is also the Expansion of the Pandamatenga dryland farms, the agriculture infrastructure development project and the ZIACDP.