The Botswana Prison Service has shared its aspiration to contribute to the country’s food security.
Prisons commissioner, Colonel Silas Setlalekgosi revealed the ambition when addressing Public Accounts Committee (PAC) recently.
Setlalekgosi asked for the committee’s strategic support in order to contribute handsomely to the country’s food basket.
He said they believe that prisons services can greatly contribute by putting to work the good sets of hands in lock-up. He revealed to have drafted a food security strategy that is awaiting Cabinet approval to embark on the rehabilitative plan to contribute towards the country’s economy.
Setlalekgosi said COVID-19 has taught them a lot, especially the need for the country to be self-sufficient and not depend on other countries for ‘almost everything’.
The commissioner said he is currently working with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security and have identified idle farms, which they could utilise. “We do have a couple of small farms, but have to look at the issue of water and other important things. We have 200 hectares in Molepolole, we are reviving it because we have plans to make it a dairy farm,” he said.
Asked by PAC chairperson and the Member of Parliament (MP) for Selebi-Phikwe West, Dithapelo Keorapetse if the law allows the use of inmates, Setlalekgosi conceded that the law permits such use stating that there are protocols to be followed.
“My hope is that this would be done within international standards in respect of the use of inmates in labour. We do not want to find ourselves that sentences are imprisonment with hard labour,” Keorapetse said. Responding to Keorapetse’s concerns, Setlalekgosi stated that with protocols followed
Francistown South MP, Wynter Mmolotsi applauded prisons for their ‘good initiative’ stating that it will be a good thing for them to aspire to contribute to the country’s food security.
Sharing the same sentiments, the MP for Tonota, Pono Moatlhodi gave prisons services the green light for the service to venture into farming. “Go ahead and venture into farming like you wish. It is the only way that you could keep inmates busy, Makgoa ba re, the devil normally finds some duty for idle hands, they are at prison for rehabilitation and one of the things that could help with that is farming. COVID-19 has showed me that we are beggars as Batswana because we rely on other countries for almost everything. Go and set an example in Molepolole, make use of those 200 hectares,” he said.
Moatlhodi said if South Africa were to close its borders Batswana would perish from hunger despite having water and fertile land for farming.
He added that Tonota College of Education has farming land that is underutilised and advised the commissioner to consider meeting management to make use of the soil.