Famed for its outstanding crop production activities and good soils, the Barolong Farms area, located approximately 70 kilometres south of Gaborone, has long anchored the country’s hopes of one day achieving food self-sufficiency.
However, with the general decline in rainfall over the years and the successive occurrence of harsh weather conditions, the cropping seasons in the area have produced declining yields.
Now, Barolong farmers are calling on government to come up with solutions for dry land agriculture. Dry land agriculture refers to crop activities unsupported by irrigation and in areas of poor rainfall.
Although government has been promoting climate smart agriculture technologies such as conservation agriculture, farmers in the Borolong area feel more needs to be done to improve outputs, especially those from dry land agriculture.
The Secretary of the Barolong Farmers Association, Joseph Maseng says large-scale farming being done in the area has the potential to improve, but a lot needs to be done to assist farmers because climatic conditions have not been favourable in recent years. “Being a semi-arid country, Botswana is projected to get even drier under the effects of continuing climate change, which will affect the country’s ability to attain food security,” Maseng says from his base.
“As such, we should move towards smart agriculture technologies to nip the situation in the bud.
“Government should invest in agricultural research to find ways to improve farming and crop production.
“We have so many people with doctorates at Sebele who should be assisting us. They should do research and come up with improved seeds of high standards that can withstand the harsh conditions.
According to Maseng, policy formulation should be informed by practical situations. He believes that people with experience in farming should be roped in to give direction when programmes aimed at reviving agriculture are made so that they speak to real situations.
Despite the downturn in yields within Barolong Farms, Maseng says unlike their counterparts around the country, farmers there do not easily give up even during seasons of poor rains and other harsh conditions.
Here, farmers continue to plough their fields and are optimistic every season.
That optimism will come in handy this year as climate experts have warned that the region could slip back into the El Nino phenomenon, last experienced between 2014 and 2016 with devastating effects.
“The meteorology people have not told us their predictions for the coming season. “We have not heard anything relating to possibility of El Nino. However, I must tell you that our farmers don’t just rely on them for predictions,” he explains.
Maseng adds: “We are optimistic that it will rain and on time. Although we were hit during the previous El Nino, we are recovering. That’s the challenges of dry land farming”.
Furthermore, he says, knowing which crops are right for which conditions will give farmers a better chance of emerging successful whatever the course of the upcoming season.