BDP’s elusive dream of agricultural development

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) led government’s promises to facilitate further agricultural development remain illusive despite huge sums of money being spent on various programmes.

Botswana Guardian has established that horticultural produce continues to dwindle; the beef sector and livestock production is also tumbling while the sector’s contribution to GDP is also taking a knock. This is despite years of self-praise, clams of achievements and electoral promises made by president Ian Khama at the recent launch of the BDP election manifesto.

The manifesto highlights that BDP government has achieved a 30 percent employment through the agricultural sector. It further argues that programmes like the Integrated Support Programme for Arable Agriculture Development (ISPAAD) and LIMID have been developed to improve food security and animal husbandry. These are the very same programmes whose value to the economy remain unseen. While Khama pointed out that ISPAAD output has increased from 55 000 metric tonnes in 2008 to 118 000 metric tonnes in 2011, Botswana’s grain production (horticulture) continues to dwindle threatening the national food security.

But on the other hand Botswana Agricultural Marketing Board (BAMB), which buys grain from local suppliers to resell while managing the Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR) on behalf of government, has been decrying grain shortage. BAMB’s grain purchases reduced to 31 553 Mt in 2012/2013 financial period, declining from 33 767 Mt of grain purchased during the previous period. Sorghum purchases fell to 11 540 Mt in 2011/12 from 23 808 Mt purchased in 2012/11 owing to the dwindling production locally.

BAMB in 2012 resorted to buying extra grain from Australia which led to the purchased sorghum increasing further to 21 749 Mt in 2012/13. Maize purchases on the other hand fell significantly to 2 574 Mt in 2012/13 from 9 317 Mt bought in 2011/12. Billions of Pula are paid to countries like South Africa every year for purchase of basic foodstuffs like tomatoes, cabbage, milk, despite BDPs various agricultural programmes which have been dismissed by analysts and various institutions liker Botswana Institute of Development and Policy Analysis (BIDPA) as less valuable to the economy and a waste of money.

In its manifesto BDP has for years been promising Batswana that it would manage especially the Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) in a quest to boost animal husbandry and secure beef markets. The Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) and loss of markets, which have left some in certain areas unable to slaughter or sell their cattle, have caused cattle farmers in Botswana untold miseries. It is unclear how much has been spent on the fight against FMD to date, but by 2012, over P250 million ahd been poured into the campaign.

Farmers had their infected cattle killed in areas like Matsiloje, Matshelagabedi, Bobonong and Ngamiland areas. But cattle farmers associations have complained that the government compensation was way less that the cattle market price and would impoverish majority of farmers. At Ngamiland, farmers cannot sell their cattle to abattoirs since their animals are in a red zone, where FMD had hit seriously. Government’s efforts to secure a live cattle market for the farmers are ongoing. But on the other hand, the country also suffered a lot because the beef sector lost the lucrative European Union (EU) market, which crippled BMC financially and production wise.

Since January this year, BMC has lost P73 million in controlling the measles according to BMC CEO Dr Akolang Tombale. The measles is also feared to have spoiled BMC’s chances to export beef to lucrative markets due to compliance issues. Khama’s only victory in the agricultural sector is that 30 percent of employment is from the sector. But the majority of these are only farm workers with low paying jobs that have got less chances of economic sustainability. Instead of seeing agriculture’s contribution to the GDP being accelerated, BDP has only managed to further plunge agriculture’s contribution to just around 7 percent, from the highest of 22 percent it used to contribute.

Last modified on Thursday, 17 April 2014 09:19

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