SELEBI-PHIKWE: Tswapong region has been identified as a centre of excellence and an agricultural economic zone for watermelon production because of the quality and high yield of the commodity it produces every year.
The Department of Agricultural Research has observed that though farming is done in all parts of the country, some commodities are produced under environments that are difficult for their optimal performance. This in turn disables effective use of meager human resource hence the need to farm according to agro-ecology and social acceptance. The director, Pharaoh Mosupi said at a workshop of researchers to address the challenges of agricultural production that it is important to centre each commodity where they perform better. He added that in addition to quality yield that would be achieved it would also curb situations where experts are posted to areas where their expertise would not be fully utilised.
“Hence the establishment of centres of excellence for each commodity is very crucial,” he said. He added that researchers from the Mahalapye research centre should focus on improving the production of water melons in Tswapong region because the social acceptance, the zeal and willingness is already there among farmers in Tswapong region. “We now need to come strong on the agro-economic aspect of water melons in the region to enhance the yield. We must go in full force and make the environment more conducive,” he said.
Tswapong region produces high yield of water melons annually and many people from other areas buy the commodity from the region to sell in their respective areas.
Mosupi further said they have also identified the North Eastern region as a centre of excellence for sweet potato production and said instead of Batswana having to cross borders to buy the commodity, sweet potatoes can be produced on a commercial scale in the North East hence farmers there should be empowered to move from backyard gardening of the commodity to produce it on a larger scale. He also cited that the South East area on the other hand is a centre of excellence for piggery production because pig farms perform better in that area than anywhere else in the country.
“We have even started buying pigs from them as the ministry so that we can preserve them and improve their production and quality. This would ensure that at the end of the day we would not lose their gemplasm,” he added.
Southern Kgalagadi is suitable for small stock production while
The director said that agricultural production has so many challenges that need to be addressed by refocusing research. He emphasised the need for all stakeholders to address the challenges through ecological based researches. He said not every part of the country is suitable for every commodity, but it has different agro economic zones that must be utilised to their full potential to ensure self sufficiency in food production. He added that the need for researches had been triggered by challenges at play such as poor soils, changes in societal and health demands, climate change, global warming that affect agricultural production, invasive pests and diseases outbreaks. He cited that some of the pests have been discovered to be coming from as far as Latin America.
“All these call for a change of focus. All stakeholders have been brought on board for enhanced collaboration of all institutions to shape the agricultural sector and ensure the establishment of economic agricultural zones.
He stressed that the special economic zoning is critical because it identifies centres that can do better in certain commodities compared to others. He said when they were formulated all ministries were invited hence his department participated in the policy making. “Botswana has the potential to be self-sufficient in food production and we are here to spearhead that hence our research should develop technologies appropriate for agro-ecology,” he added.
Mosupi further noted that agriculture still provides the largest amount of livelihoods but accounts for only three percent of the Gross Domestic Product. He also indicated that only five percent of land in the country is suitable for agricultural production, but just less than one percent is cultivated.
“The area under crops varies from year-to-year and even in good years the crop area is only around 0.65 percent of the land area,” he said. He said the country’s sandy soils are not suitable for cultivation, but supports considerable numbers of cattle, goods and other livestock, as well as wildlife.