Expensive work permits hinder growth in agric

The agricultural sector is faced with many problems, among which is drought, lack of entrepreneurial skills, inefficiency of programmes such as CEDA, LEA and FAP and expensive work permits for farm workers.

This emerged during Agriculture Sector Human Resource Development (HRD) Plan national stakeholder consultative workshop yesterday, where committee members shared their draft plan. The plan, which is yet to be taken across the country to farmers, outlines some of the challenges such as lack of entrepreneurial skills by farmers and possible solutions like training farmers and farm workers as well as accrediting them

Professor Happy Siphambe said they have identified these problems as main reasons behind the failure of the sector.

“We found that some of these programmes like CEDA, LEA and Young Farmers Fund just like the failed FAP, are not fully efficient. There is a need to develop them in order to increase productivity in the Agriculture sector,” said Siphambe, adding that another problem that needs innovative ways to guarantee survival of the agricultural sector is drought caused by the climate change.

Siphambe noted that there was a need for a separate legal instrument for obtaining work permits for foreigners, as it was proving too costly to pay for work permits for farmworkers who are mostly Zimbabweans.

The Sector Plan chairperson Dr Howard Sigwele said they will focus on developing different farmers’ associations in order to have structures that will support their effort. He said they also want farmers and workers to be trained as most of them lack skills. “We want to have training for farmers and farmworkers that will be accredited by Botswana Qualifications Authority,” he said.

Moreover, Sigwele said they will call for Agriculture teachers and lecturers to be those that are hands-on and not just doing the job to make a living.

For his part, guest speaker from the Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions Dr Theo de Jager called on farmers to join forces in order to be able to get more from farming. He however criticised the Botswana Agriculture Union for not performing to the best of its ability.

Jager further commended the young farmers in the country stating that he met some of them recently and they showed that they have passion for the industry and were determined to go far. “The young farmers use social media to link with others. We should allow them to do it the way they want to, they have acquired new knowledge that can increase productivity and have to be encouraged,” he said.

Jager also called for a mindset shift on the African continent, stating that farmers usually spend more than they are earning, noting that it should be the other way round just like in any business. He further encouraged the farmers to link with the market, singling out housewives as important community as they are the ones who prepare food and know what they want eaten in their households.

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