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MOO-VING BACKWARDS: Agriculture production is in decline

Drought, disease hamper Agric sector from full potential

The results of an in-depth 2017 Statistics Botswana survey, released this week, show local agriculture is hampered by both drought and disease.

Agriculture in Botswana consists of two distinct sectors: commercial and traditional (i.e. not for profit-making).

The survey covered the traditional sector only and found it was not performing to optimal levels due to inconsistent rainfall and animal diseases such as Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD).

In keeping with the trend of previous years, the survey noted that livestock production, especially of cattle, was on the decrease.

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In contrast, arable production showed a marked improvement in all the major crops compared to the 2015 agricultural census results.

“The good performance of the crop sector is attributable to the good rains received during the 2017 agricultural season as well as the input subsidies provided by the government,” states the report.

Amazingly, the cattle population showed a staggering 20 percent drop in two years, falling from 1.5 million in 2015 to 1.2 million in 2017.

The decline included a big increase in ‘lost cattle’, with the number of cows that went missing – either stray or stolen – rising from 48, 571 to 83, 901 within 24 months.

It seems love was not in the air as much as it once was either, with the cattle birth rate decreasing from 57.9 percent to 50.5 percent in the reference period.

The mortality rate also fell slightly, from 7.1 to 6.2 percent while the nation ate far less cows, with the off-take rate (number of cattle consumed) dropping from 6.6 percent to 5.7

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While the number of cattle fell drastically, it was a good time to be alive for goats, with their population increasing from 1.2 million (in 2015) to 1.4 million in 2017.

This growth came despite a slight drop in the birth rate, from 43.6 to 39.3 percent, as well as an increase in the morality rate, up from 16.7 percent to 22.9.

Goat was also a more popular dish in 2017 compared to 2015, with the off-take rate increasing from 7.1 percent to 7.3 percent between the two seasons.

The sheep population also flourished in the two-year gap, rising from 214, 234 to 242, 600.

As for the traditional sector’s crop sub-division, 2017 proved to be an excellent harvest for both sorghum and maize.

Maize popped to amazing new heights, with production reaching 13, 867 metric tonnes compared to 1, 417 two years earlier.

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Sorghum also enjoyed the extra moisture that fell in 2017, with production growing from 1, 927 to 5, 973 metric tonnes.

The survey states traditional agriculture plays an important role in rural development by providing food, income, and employment for the majority of rural dwellers.

In Botswana, it is viewed as having potential for growth and creation of employment opportunities, particularly for unskilled and semi-skilled citizens.

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