After years of assisting a diverse of sectors, the National Development Bank (NDB) is now shifting its focus to the agriculture sector, Chief Executive Officer, Lorato Morapedi has revealed.
The bank was established in 1963 through an Act of parliament with a mandate to assist new and existing businesses financially.
Speaking recently where the bank awarded one of its customers following a campaign, Morapedi said the bank’s mandate has always been clear; to assist across all sectors.
These range from the property; retail services; agriculture; and human development sectors.
“Over the years we have realized that while Botswana used to be known for agriculture and one of the first African countries to have access to the European Union (EU) market because of our good beef and good farming methods, this has over the years slipped,” said Morapedi.
With the agriculture sector’s contribution to the GDP taking a dip over the years, and currently at around less than 2 percent, Morapedi said the bank has taken a cautious decision to zero-in into this sector.
“We cautiously decided that at least between 40 -50 percent of our investments every year have to go to agriculture,” said Morapedi, noting that the development has come at the right time as the government looks to commercialize the sector, especially cattle breeding and dryland farming.
Morapedi noted the bank has over the years made investments in areas such as Pandamatenga and Tuli Block adding that the bank is happy that those investments have paid off.
“Right now when you talk of cereal production, the country is self-sufficient, we have been able to work with our farmers, particularly in the Pandamatenga areas where we have been able to increase our yield per hectare from an average of 1.5 tonnes per hectare 10 years ago to an average of 3.5 tonnes per hectare,” revealed Morapedi.
Furthermore, Morapedi said the size of land currently being cultivated has also increased in the last decade, especially in the Pandamatenga area where productive land increased from 20, 000 hectares to the current 38, 000 hectares.
As the bank turns its focus to the agricultural sector, it has now started campaigns to cultivate an interest in agriculture, especially in active citizens who are still working.
“The idea of waiting for people to leave their employment and jump straight into commercial agriculture has got its risks, one would eventually burn their fingers due to lack of experience, hence we felt it is important to cultivate interest while one still has consistent income,” said Morapedi.
As part of its strategy, Morapedi has revealed NDB has decided to reposition as an agricultural bank.
“As we go forward, we will invest little in other sectors because agriculture is the green diamond, we have abundant land and as Batswana, we are quite exposed to lots of innovation and smart technologies,” said Morapedi.