For a long time, Botswana has experienced a sluggish agricultural output in despite efforts by government to promote the sector.
The continued failures have prompted government to ramp upseveral initiatives and policies that are agriculture-focused in order for the country achieve sustenance and ultimately self-sufficiency in food security.
Whilst we understand that government is determined to realise avibrant agricultural sector and thereby bring about self-sufficiency, we would like to caution that the country should guard against over-subscription and saturation of same products.
Government has come up with programmes such as the Integrated Support Programme for Arable Agriculture Development, Livestock Improvement & Infrastructure Development, and interventions like National Development Bank, Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency, Local Enterprise Authority and Young Farmers Fund to promote a cost-effective and ultimate intensification of commercialisation of the sector.
Added to that, commercial financial institutions have also been encouraged to make funding for farming accessible in order to push production. However, while this is commendable, it could also breed over-saturation of products in a small market such as Botswana. Therefore, it is imperative to strike a balance between increasing agricultural productivity and supporting the long-term development of supply chains and rural economies in developing the sector.
We must also encourage diversity in the process of achieving sustenance in food security and self-sufficiency. There is already existing locally produced consumables from the sector, but they are struggling to penetrate the market. Those we must focus on nurture them and grow them to get value for investment.
Current policies can deliver enough if there is monitoring and evaluating of projects ably assisted through government programmes. This would in turn assist government to make wise decisions in future as to what needs to be done or which areas of the agricultural sector should be prioritised for growth.
On another level, government should also invest in research opportunities in agriculture to build truly sustainable farming systems. In that regard, we are of the view that newly-established National Agricultural Institute for Research and Development (NARDI) is a welcome development as it will provide a properly focussed, researched based and well-informed intervention for sustainable solutions to the challenges facing the sector.
It is our contention that government’s efforts over the years, while good, have not been guided by proper research and coordination and therefore failed to bring about the much-needed results. Research has an important role to play in meeting targets. As such we agree that agriculture sector should be prioritised.
A sober look at the agricultural sector value chain is thus a critical mix of Botswana’s economic diversification plan. It is the therefore, NARDI’s role to point the country in the right direction to avoid a situation in which we appear to be shooting in the dark in our efforts to get return on investments in the agricultural sector.
“Agriculture is the most healthful, most
useful and most noble employment of man.”
– George Washington