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Maun Irrigation Project To Produce Bananas, Mangoes

BONIFACE KEAKABETSE
Nxaraga farmers with government officials at the Banana farm
MAUN: Ngamiland may soon have plenty of locally grown bananas and mangoes courtesy of a joint partnership between a local farmer, Lesika Molefhi and South African investor, Johann Bezuidenhout.

The P10 million irrigation project in Nxaraga will boost food production in Botswana by providing fruit trees and livestock feeds. The partners also want to spread their wings into agro-tourism by providing accommodation and promoting farm visitation due to abundant tourism potential in Nxaraga. The enterprising project, which is the only one of its kind in Ngamiland, is situated in Nxaraga about 20 kilometres from Maun. Explaining how the project started, Bezuidenhout said in 2015 he came to Botswana to begin a rotational commercial irrigation project. He then met Molefhi, a local farmer who agreed to avail his 500-hectare farm along the Nxaraga River for the project.  The partnership then took off and soon they grew 50 hectares of maize.

Bezuidenhout said: “our operation was on trial and error basis as we experimented to see what crop was good for this area. There is no commercial farmer here to benchmark from”. Bezuidenhout said they also tried growing wheat, but the crop was not good for the area. Then they tried soya beans but their produce failed to get a market. He said these challenges did not stop them, as they have currently grown sugar beans. Further, they have grown 300 hectares of fruit trees such as mangoes, bananas and avocadoes. He explained that their main challenge is that

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there are no markets for their produce, adding that they also rely on diesel-generated electricity due to no power supplies in the area

Molefhi on the other hand, explained that before he partnered with Bezuidenhout he was a mere small time farmer who relied on draught power. He said from the partnership, he is now part of a big project using modern machinery that he would not individually afford. He said after the project is fully operational, they will hire more than 300 people. Molefhi called on Batswana not to be afraid to lease their land to investors provided there is a legal agreement.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Agricultural Development and Food Security, Patrick Ralotsia briefly toured the project on Thursday before declaring to journalists that he was impressed with what he saw. Ralotsia reiterated that the project is a clear example that foreign investment in Agriculture is needed as it brings in employment, new technology and production methods, which boost food production in Botswana. Ralotsia explained that they encourage Batswana to lease their unproductive farms or go in to joint partnerships with foreign investors, adding that government is encouraging farmers not to sell their land but to lease. Ralotsia said since there is abundant water in the river farmers should utilise it to produce food.



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