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Foraging for food

Foraging for food
STEPPING UP: Government intends to increase food production

Botswana intensifies efforts to facilitate food security

With local production currently falling short of the national demand for most agricultural commodities, Agricultural Development and Food Security Assistant Minister, Beauty Manake says Botswana is stepping up efforts to facilitate sustainable food production.

She was responding to a question in parliament last Friday when Nata/Gweta Member of Parliament (MP), Polson Majaga enquired if the country is ready to facilitate enough food security for the whole year.

Manake said the ministry has started to enable a conducive agricultural environment by analyzing local agricultural production capacities against the national demand.

She also said the ministry is looking to identify agricultural commodities that have a ‘comparative advantage’ – i.e. it is cheaper to produce them locally rather than importing them.

“We have identified agricultural production zones across the country and we pledge to implement them through cluster farming and formation of marketing cooperatives,” revealed Manake.

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The Assistant Minister explained that currently there are 11 sub-sectors within the Agriculture ministry and the objective is to develop them to their maximum capability.

She gave the example of fish production, which she noted can take place in Chobe, Ngamiland, Okavango, and different dams found in the central region.

“Another example is that of dairy production where the plan is to build a dairy belt from Otse to Ramatlabama,” continued Manake.

According to Manake, the ministry will soon publish 2020 agribusiness opportunities in Botswana in partnership with the Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) to guide their financing structures against viable business opportunities.

“To ensure that there is resilient agricultural growth, we have embarked on farmer profiling and needs assessment to provide target-based subsidies across all the different sub-sectors,” she added

Majaga had also wanted to know what the ministry did in terms of helping to procure farm produce from subsistence and commercial farmers in Botswana.

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Manake, in her response, said the ministry played an active facilitation role in the procurement of farm produce for the Covid-19 food basket by the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development from both commercial and smallholder farmers.

She revealed farm produce valued at P14 million was directly purchased from smallholder and commercial farmers in all the 10 districts.

“Government also provided P200 million through the Covid-19 Relief Fund to Botswana Agricultural Marketing Board (BAMB) for purchasing of Strategic Grain Reserves,” said Manake, adding the bulk of the procurement has been done locally and is continuing.

The Assistant Minister also said prices have been increased in commodities such as millet by P900 per tonne, from P3, 100 to P4, 000 per tonne.

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