Despite their tag as the first-borns of Botswana, farmers seem to be getting the short end of the stick, in terms of accurate, timely and relevant advice from research and policy developers.
Before the mining miracle triggered by the finds in Orapa, farmers were this country’s economic backbone and even today, agriculture is the country’s largest employer and potentially a principal avenue for diversification.
However, as the worst rain season in 34 years settles across the country, research and policy developers are conspicuously quiet in terms of preparing farmers, particularly the struggling subsistence folk who make up the majority and bear the responsibility for supporting most families in Botswana.
Even as we are mid December – a period when tillage activities should be gathering momentum – it is unclear whether authorities in the Agriculture Ministry have adequately prepared and informed farmers in systematic manner, about the challenges expected this rain season.
To their benefit, Agriculture minister and his charges have traversed the length and breadth of the country addressing Kgotla meetings and advising farmers on ways to avoid losses, in light of the forecast poor rains.
They urged farmers to avoid planning maize and rather opt for sorghum and pearl millet, which can better resist harsh weather conditions. They also urged farmers to devise various water harvesting mechanisms to heighten water conservation.
Noble as these efforts are, they are episodic and disjointed and the exact opposite of what is required, which is a scorched-earth, border-to-border educational campaign coupled with tangible policy tweaks to the ISPAAD programme, government’s main agricultural support instrument.
Simply put, the assistance
Before we blame the country’s first borns for next year’s crop failures, we need to ask whether we researched adequately and efficiently transmitted the warnings to them in a timely manner.
“Agriculture not only gives riches to a nation, but the only riches she can call her own.”
- Samuel Johnson