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Farmers underutilize cluster farming- Minister

The Minister of Agricultural Development and Food Security, Dr Edwin Dikoloti, has informed parliament that implementation of cluster farming is faced with challenges.

When answering a question from Sefhare-Ramokgonami legislator, Kesitegeile Gobotswang, who had sought the minister to update the house on the implementation of cluster farming, the minister said cluster farming was faced with some challenges owing to underutilization by farmers.

He explained that this is because of heavy bushes as fields are not debushed hence farmers opt to use clusters for different purposes like grazing of livestock.

Another reason, according to Dikoloti, is the low productivity at farm level which is as a result of poor linkages in the sector across the value chain.

Cluster fencing was introduced in 2008 as one of the components of the Integrated Support Programme for Arable Agriculture Development (ISPAAD).

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The minister said it was expected that the performance of the arable sub-sector would be greatly improved by fencing fields.

Now over a decade down the line, the initiative is yet to meet its intended objectives.

To address these challenges, the minister told parliament that a project unit was set up in October last year whose objectives are to raise on-farm productivity and improve marketing with a value chain by forging establishments of various agricultural linkages.

According to Dikoloti who is also Member of Parliament for Mmathethe-Molapowabojang, so far a total of 36 clusters have been fenced, covering an area of over 70, 000 hectares or 165 kilometres.

He said an area of 44, 000 hectares is under construction while those shortlisted for construction is over 20, 000 hectares or 425 km fencing upon completion.

But under the new project unit, Dikoloti explained that the project has adopted a phased approach, starting with pilot clusters at Leshibitse, Masunga, Mookane and Kgoro with a cumulative 15, 000 hectares or 51.55 km.

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He said a total area of 307 hecatres have been de-bushed in Masunga of which 200 hectares was carried out by the farming community and the remaining by government.

Other areas under piloting are targeted for early next year and once up and running, Dikoloti says the focus will now go into other completed clusters.

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