Gaborone-Botswana Minister of Agriculture Development and Food Security, Karabo Socraat has set in motion plans for a new transformative food production programme to replace the Integrated Support Programme for Arable Agriculture (ISPAAD).
Socraat told the country’s parliament that the Government came up with several programmes including the ISPAAD to address the challenges of low productivity and output.
However, despite all these programmes, food security situation in the country has not improved as low productivity and increased food import bill remain a problem.
“The Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security (MOA) has then decided to come up with an efficient, cost effective and sustainable arable farming programme designed to increase agricultural productivity and food security at household level. The new programme has been designed with the following goals,” Socraat said.
The Minister reiterated that the programme is meant to enhance agricultural productivity and output growth, promote inclusivity in agricultural production and improve social capital base.
“The programme shall have, among others, the following objectives including increasing in the yield of selected crops through the introduction of output based encashment, introduction of insurance cover, seasonal guarantee loans as well as robust promotion of climate smart agriculture and promotion of investment in crop production by increasing agricultural commodities in the product space from four to at least 10 products by the year 2024.
“This will be done through the promotion of post-harvest handling and marketing of key rain fed crops (logistics, packaging, storage management technologies, and pest management and preservation technologies), promotion of procurement of farm produce through Economic Diversification Drive and facilitation of contract based production,” she said.
The Agriculture Minister said the promotion of agro-ecological production by aligning four of the eight Agro Ecological Zones according to commodity potential by the year 2024, in order to maximise production as the country is not homogeneous in terms of soil characteristics, rainfall patterns, land uses, crops adoptability and change of seasons.
“We aim to increase the area cultivated in 16 clusters from 60.7% (35,686.62 ha) to 100% (58,785.62) by the year 2024. To achieve this, infrastructure will be developed in clustered production areas as well as to facilitate establishment of private sector led service centres within the clusters as well as strengthening farmers’ position in the food supply chain by reviewing the current farmer’s committee structures and capacitating the Agricultural Management Associations (AMA) as well as promoting a robust public and private extension service base,” she said.
She also emphasised the need of promoting agro tourism through the utilisation of unproductive land for lodging and other recreational facilities as well as relocating agricultural exhibitions to clusters.
“The designing of the programme has been finalised. However, my Ministry realises that even though the new programme is ready to be implemented, it will not be feasible in this coming ploughing season. Some of the reasons, amongst others, are that the ploughing season is starting in October 2021 and farmers have not been informed about the new programme, it might cause confusion and frustration amongst farmers and input suppliers to learn and implement the new programme at the same time and the Ministry, further needs more time to communicate the new programme before implementing it, for proper buy-in and understanding of the new parameters of the programme,” she said.