Having spent 28 years of his life working for Debswana in the mines of Jwaneng, in 2011 Daniel Makwana decided to swap diamonds for oranges.
The 63-year-old runs a three-hectare orange farm in Molalatau, located deep in the Bobirwa District.
With the help of the Local Enterprise Authority (LEA), he is one of a select few to make a living growing and selling oranges in Botswana.
Last week, Voice Money, along with a number of other media houses, was given a tour of Makwana’s impressive Set Mark Orange Farm.
The excursion was part of a LEA initiative to showcase some of the enterprises they assist.
After warmly greeting his guests, the aging horticulturist humbly describes citrus production as ‘stress-free, easy work’ that does not require much manpower.
It does, however, demand a lot of water.
“The trees are watered with an electric pivot covering all three hectares. As for now, there are two employees as the irrigation system is innovative. Each hectare is watered once, and receives 60 litres every six hours.”
He explained that to begin with, back in January 2011, having injected over P1 million to start his business, he planted hundreds of oranges in plastics. A month later, he transplanted them into the soil, stretching out for one-and-a-half hectares.
Nine years later and his production has doubled.
On average each hectare contains 375 trees – in total his farm has around 1, 125 tress – all capable of producing hundreds of oranges.
“In a year each tree can produce about 35 bags weighing 7kg. Each bag sells for P65 but it depends – sometimes we go down to P60 and the schools normally afford to buy them for P40,” declared the farmer.
At the moment his product is still green but fresh and free from insects. Makwana expects his oranges to start ripening between March and July and is hopeful of another bumper harvest.
According to Makwana, the orange market is ripe with potential and thus he is able to choose who he sells to.
“My current market includes Selibe Phikwe Choppies, Pick n Pay, hawkers and individuals.”
Highlighting some of the expenses involved in his profession, Makwana says he pays a small fortune for fertilizers and in electric bills.
“When the orange tree is flowering that is when it really demands care as one has to feed it for the best harvest. We also have to plant trees as wind-breakers. Oranges flower in the windy season and if the flowers are taken by wind it’s a loss!”
Turning his attention to the impact LEA has had on his blossoming business, Makwana revealed the agency has taught him valuable horticultural techniques.
“These include how to detect trees, market linkage, benchmarking and technology gap analysis. Without LEA you cannot go anywhere!” exclaimed the bespectacled farmer, his weather-beaten features lit up with a proud smile.
As for the future, Makwana plans to add onions and potatoes to his crop.
However, he is restricted by funds as the seeds are too small to be planted by hand and require a special planter, which comes at a high cost.