Botswana: ISPAAD will help attain self-sufficiency in food production - Kgathi
Speaking at kgotla meetings to sensitise the residents about the new programme in the two villages on Wednesday, the Assistant Minister of Agriculture, Mr Shaw Kgathi, said over the past years a substantial amount of money was used on ARAP, ALDEP and other agricultural support programs but they have not led to improved food security.
"It has therefore become necessary that ALDEP 111 be modified to address challenges facing farmers,' he said.
Mr Kgathi said worldwide, food has become more expensive because of high fuel prices and other related factors. The situation worsened the problem of food shortages in Botswana, hence the need for the country to adopt possible corrective measures that would ensure self-sufficiency in food production.
Unlike ALDEP 111 which was discriminatory, Mr Kgathi said ISPAAD is open to everyone. He said all farmers aged 18 years and above in possession of Omang or resident and work permits will be required to produce proof of accessibility to land to be eligible for this new programme.
Under ISPAAD, Mr Kgathi explained, farmers were encouraged to form clusters for their fields to be fenced.
The Ministry of Agriculture will consult the communities and local authorities about the idea of clustering fields to promote collective ownership of the new scheme, he said, adding that clusters would be of varying sizes with a minimum of 15 hectares.
He said the new programme would lead to the provision of potable water to the clusters. Where possible, the government would drill boreholes or purchase existing boreholes and hand them over to the cluster management committees to operate and manage.
He said ISPAAD would facilitate the provision of free seed to arable farmers, which would be enough to plant a maximum of 16 hectares.
Farmers can source additional seed for fields more than 16 hectares directly from any locally registered suppliers at 50 per cent subsidy.
The new programme will also provide rain-fed farmers with free fertilizers up to five hactares as a way of improving performance and thereby increase food production.
Mr Kgathi said the government will facilitate access to seasonal loans for farmers by injecting funds into the National Development Bank with a view to enabling it to finance agricultural projects.
He however told the farmers that ISPAAD will be monitored and reports submitted regularly to ensure guidance on the continuation of the project. Benficiaries who abuse the programme will not benefit from it in the next ploughing season.
Some Sebina and Mathangwane farmers felt that the programme was introduced too late for their particular plans.
Ms Rita Hobona argued that agricultural support programmes should be focused in relation to the needs of the farmers.
Many farmers complained that they had not benefited even from ALDEP 111.
Mr Makhubalo Ndee advised farmers to stay at the lands in order to achieve better results instead of operating through what he called a system of remote control. He complained about pests that continue to destroy their crops. Farmers in the two villages also decried lack of agricultural extension officers. BOPA