Member of Parliament (MP) for Selebi- Phikwe West Constituency, Dithapelo Keorapetse has raised a concern on how agriculture seems to have collapsed looking at its percentage contribution to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
He said this when commenting on a motion that was tabled by MP for Sefhare-Ramokgonami, Kesitegile Gobotswang seeking to request government to review the Integrated Support Programme for Arable Agricultural Development (ISPAAD).
The review is to allow subsistence farmers the option of row planting, broadcasting or a mixture of the two planting methods taking into account the critical shortage of agricultural implements and an increasingly erratic rainfall pattern.
Keorapetse said agriculture ought to contribute significantly to the country’s GDP, as historically Batswana have been a nation that farm by rearing cattle and growing crops.
He said programmes amongst them Accelerated Rainfed Arable Programme, Arable Land Development Programme and Financial Assistance Policy have not worked. Keorapetse said if the programmes worked the country would be talking food self-sufficiency and food security in the 21st century.
“We cannot always give excuses that we are a semi-arid country, there are countries with the worst of conditions including Israel but it is food self-sufficient in many calls, but we have not researched enough nor invested enough in agriculture and cultivated the culture of productive commercial farming,” Keorapetse said.
He also said it has been a trend within government to emphasise handouts, which has left government in a Father Christmas type of arrangement. He stated the need for Botswana to move away from this arrangement, giving an example of the former heads of state who get 80% of what they used to earn as the President and on top of that getting the old age pension.
“Another thing you will see MPs as well as permanent secretaries queuing for ISPAAD, in order to benefit from these programmes which should be targeting the poor. Let’s move away from Father Christmas type of arrangement,
Keorapetse said it is worrying that even Namibia, which got independence in 1992, has surpassed Botswana. He went on to state that Botswana is not even a major player in beef and crop production. He said it was time to consider ploughing different crops.
“Let’s agree with Dr Gobotswang’s motion because Batswana ga bana digogi ba siiwa ke bokgola. The arrangement that Batswana should adhere to row planting is proving not to be working. Let’s review ISPAAD not only to allow subsistence farmers the option of row planting, broadcasting or a mixture of the two, but also a comprehensive review of ISPAAD,” he said.
He called on government to come up with a targeted programme for end users stating the importance of coming up with new methods of agricultural production.
When presenting the motion Gobotswang said currently the farmers who have broadcast their fields in his constituency are the ones with better yields because they managed to take advantage of the early rains.
He added that even the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka in his statement said there should be a distinction between subsistence farmers and commercial farmers so that when they come up with policies and programmes those two should be targeted.
“They should be targeted looking at the nature and character of these sets of farmers. Apart from declining production levels with the introduction of high breed seeds, ISPAAD if we are not careful, would kill indigenous crops when it is finally terminated,” Gobotswang said.