FRANCISTOWN: Interest in agro-tourism investments and other commercial undertakings have peaked amongst Chobe District residents following government’s decision to relax provisions and allow Batswana to change the use of land they hold title on.
The relaxed provision will enable aspiring business people to engage in economic activities different to what they had originally intended to use land for.
Government took the decision less than a year ago after it was discovered that many Batswana are sitting on idle land that does not add value to the economic development of the country.
“We have received an impressive number of applications from locals who want to integrate various tourism activities such as operation of campsites within their farms,” Chobe Land Board chairperson, Johane Chenjekwa told a press briefing here recently. “Although I do not have readily available figures, there is a huge volume of applications from locals. “Locals fully embrace the change of land use policy.” He added: “They appear to be very keen on having their share in the tourism industry. Based on their applications for change of land use, Batswana are also keen to explore other areas such as fish farming and manufacturing”.
According to Chenjekwa some of the businesses that locals want to invest in include fodder production and agro-processing. He highlighted that the Land Board is still working on applications (for change of land use) by residents in the district.
Farmers in areas within the Chobe district have in the past pleaded with government to allow them to change their land use to other commercial activities. They bemoaned that depending entirely on arable agriculture was not viable as their farms were constantly destroyed by marauding elephants.
Another alternative that they had suggested to the government was that they be allowed to integrate other commercial activities in their farms to mitigate against the risks of constantly losing their harvest as a result of the destruction caused by elephants.
Early this year, the Assistant Minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Machana Shamukuni urged businesspeople in the Chobe District to venture into unexploited business markets such as manufacturing and ICT.
Shamkuni said residents in the area should consider venturing into manufacturing of hotel cosmetics amongst others as they are in demand in this area because of the boom of the hospitality industry.
Tourism and farming play a significant role in the economy of the Chobe District. The Chobe District has 354 registered enterprises, which are mainly in agriculture and tourism. Economic activity in Chobe is mostly centred around Kasane and Pandamatenga.
According to Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA), out of the P415 million business loans issued by the parastatal in the Chobe region in the last few years, P271 million were towards the agricultural sector.
CEDA statistics show that P21.2 million was in the tourism sector and the rest of the funds were divided into property, manufacturing and others.