Botswana‘s efforts to produce enough food for itself has been noted as bearing fruits, this emerged recently at a number of agricultural gatherings nationwide.
A week ago in Mosisedi Farmers Harvest day, Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi observed that Botswana was capable of being food sufficient and even exporting agricultural food produce to foreign markets. The VP however remarked that such dream will not be realized over night. Currently, Botswana imports cumulatively across all food commodities well over 50 % of its food consumed daily. Notably a lot more under the fruits fresh produce and diary, milk products with only 6 % of milk consumed locally being produced in Botswana.
The country’s biggest supplier of agricultural produce is South Africa. Apart from government policies which include agriculture tailored funding frameworks; incentives and land allocations, farmers’ commitment is viewed as major ingredient to realization of Botswana’s dream of being food secure.
Cluster farming, which is a cooperative-like large scale professional farming set-up is one of the strategic models echoed many times as a highly productive undertaking. Mosisedi farms and Pandamatenga farmers are notably some commercial farming setups that are believed to be true success stories of cluster farming.
Government investment arm Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) Chief Executive Thabo Thamane urged other farmers from other locations around Botswana to come to the party by learning from Mosisedi farmers and other successful cluster agricultural producers.
“We as CEDA spent over 50 million in Mosisedi farmers alone, and we continue doing more for these serious farmers ranging from organized training, skills exchange and capacity building, but my worry and concern is that other farmers around the country are just spectators in this endeavour of commercializing agriculture, we have long asked them to formulate very formidable clusters with feasible ideas well put in paper so that we can assist them financially but they are not showing any seriousness,” he said. Mosisedi Farmers Association comprises of twenty-five dedicated farmers, who collectively till over 10,000 hectares of land, with the common objective of ensuring food security for the country producing field crops.
CHALLENGES FACING AGRICULTURE IN BOTSWANA
Just like any other economic sector, Agriculture is faced with its own unique challenges that are mainly environmental because of the nature of the sector itself. Most farmers being small scale and non commercial depend on rain for ploughing and also use outdated methods of farming.
For Animal Husbandry Botswana as a semi desert vegetated country is vulnerable to animal diseases with a common one being Foot and Mouth Disease which has proven expensive to deal with in the past. As for crop produce, slow adoption of Batswana farmers to modernized techno-based models and methods of farming due to lack of knowledge and agricultural education hinders efforts of a commercial farming Botswana. Botswana‘s climate conditions also contributes negatively to farmers’ produce.
Vice President Masisi noted that issues of poor climate conditions needed to be outsmarted by introduction of new technologies and modernized practices of farming. “Considering the scarcity of higher yielding agricultural land, I urge all farmers to embrace Climate Smart Agriculture as it promotes sustainable intensification of agricultural inputs, which increases output per area, without necessarily increasing the area under production. Furthermore, I encourage farmers to continue soil testing and using the right agro-chemicals for their crops,” he emphasized.
Poor infrastructure is also noted as a contribution to slow improvement of the agricultural sector locally. Still at the Mosisedi Harvest Day Bangwaketse Paramount Chief Kgosi Malopi told gatherers that poor roads was a huge challenge during the times of harvest. He said that farmers needed roads in good conditions to move large tonnes of harvest to reach their market after ploughing seasons. He however commended government efforts where electricity reached most farmers and this helps them cut costs of operations and improved on efficiency.
Mosisedi farms also recently joined the Motloutse farms in SPEDU region to enjoy subsidized connection of electricity in their farms. “Mosisedi Farmers’ Association is amongst those who have already benefited from ESP, with 18 farms now connected to electricity. I am further informed that the Association is planning to do irrigated arable production in response to climate change and the electricity will facilitate installation of irrigation equipment,” observed Masisi.â€¨
Botswana Government efforts to unleash potential in the Agricultural Sector precisely commercial farming are commendable. The establishment of National Development Bank, though it hasn’t been as much as successful as anticipated has assisted in setting up of some of Botswana’s largest commercial farms especially in the livestock segment.
CEDA also a government arm funds viable agricultural projects to tunes of millions and government has already spent billions of pula investing in Agriculture through CEDA. For environmental challenges Government with additional technical support from regional and global partners has introduced the Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) programme. This is a long-term initiative that commenced in 2015 and is expected to continue until 2030. Masisi echoed that the primary aim of the CSA programme is to improve agricultural productivity, while reducing farmers’ vulnerability to climate change.
“CSA will boost investment in agricultural research and innovation in order to achieve high levels of sustained productivity. Vision 2036 aspirations speak to a sustainable agricultural sector that optimizes agricultural returns through the adoption of modern applicable farming technology. It is, therefore, pleasing to note that the CSA programme has already encompassed the use of technology as a driver for attaining high output in the agricultural sector,” he said.
Government last year September rearranged ministries and aligned departments to keep to times with evolving economic challenges, administration and governance shortcomings. The Ministry of Agriculture as realigned to add the segment of Food Security with an aim of fast tracking Botswana‘s quest for food sufficiency.
Former President of Botswana Sir Ketumile QJ Masire was quoted recently applauding the efforts of Botswana in improving the agricultural sector saying they are beginning to bear fruits. Masire, a farmer himself observed that youth participation in agricultural businesses presented hope that in decades to come agriculture will create jobs and deliver a much needed diversified economy.
The Bulb World Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and entrepreneur, Ketshephaone Jacob has been selected as a 2021 Top 50 Africa’s Business Hero.
Jacob was chosen from a pool of 12,000 applicants – many of whom are highly-skilled and accomplished entrepreneurs.
Africa’s Business Hero, sponsored by technology entrepreneur, Jack Ma, aims to identify, support and inspire the next generation of African entrepreneurs who are making a difference in their local communities, working to solve the most pressing problems, and building a more sustainable and inclusive economy for the future.
The initiative is as inclusive as possible and applications were open in English and French to entrepreneurs from all African countries, all sectors, and all ages who operate businesses formally registered and headquartered in an African country, and that have a 3 year-track record.
Every year, finalists are selected to compete in the ABH finale pitch competition and participate in a TV Show that will be broadcast online and across the continent.
The finalists will compete for a share of US $1.5 million in grant money.
The Bulb World, is home grown LED light manufacturing company, which was partly funded by Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) at the tune of P4 million, to manufacture LED lighting bulbs for both commercial and residential use in 2017.
The Bulb World operate from the Special Economic Zone of Selibe Phikwe. Early this year, The BulB World announced its expansion to South Africa, setting in motion its ambitious Africa expansion plan.
During the first quarter of 2021, production in Botswana’s economic nucleus- the mining sector contracted by 12 percent. This is according to Mining Production Index released by Statistics Botswana this week.
The country’s central data body revealed that Index of Mining production stood at 74.4 during the first quarter of 2021, showing a negative year on-year growth of 12.0 percent, from 84.6 registered during the first quarter of 2020.
The main contributor to the decline in mining production came from the Diamonds sector, which contributed negative 11.7 percentage points. Soda Ash was the only positive contributor in the mining production, contributing 0.1 of a percentage point. However Soda Ash’s contribution was insignificant to offset the negative contribution made by Diamonds.
The quarter-on-quarter analysis by Statistics Botswana experts shows an increase of 16.3 percent from the index of 64.0 during the fourth quarter of 2020 to 74.4 observed during the period under review.
Diamond production decreased by 12.1 percent during the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same quarter of the previous year. The decrease was as a result of planned strategy to align production with weaker trading conditions mostly linked to Covid-19 protocols restrictions.
Botswana’s diamond sector is underpinned by Debswana, the country’s flagship rough producer- a 50-50 joint venture between government and global mining giant De Beers Group. The other producer is Canadian based Lucara Diamond Corp through its wholly owned Karowe Mine which is a relatively small but significant production that has made a name for itself worldwide with rare diamond recoveries of unprecedented carat size.
On the other hand, quarter-on quarter analysis shows that production has improved, registering a positive growth of 17.5 percent during the first quarter of 2021 compared to the preceding quarter – 2020 Q4.
Though production was significantly lower in the first quarter, the two producers ended Q2 with rare diamond recoveries. Debswana early last month found the world’s third largest gem diamond – weighing 1098 carat at Jwaneng Mine, its flagship gem quality diamonds producer, also regarded the world’s richest diamond mine.
A week later Lucara announced its second biggest recovery, the 1174 carat clivage near-gem dug from its Karowe Mine. The diamond is the world third in carat size after the plus-3000 carat Cullinan found in South Africa back in 1905 and the 1758 carat Sewelo unearthed at its Karowe mine in 2019. Debswana and Lucara are investing billions of pulas in underground mining projects to extend the life of its mines, Jwaneng & Karowe respectively.
In terms of Gold which is produced at Mupani mine near Botswana’s second city of Francistown output decreased by 17.9 percent during the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same quarter of the previous year.
Similarly, quarter-on-quarter analysis reflects that production decreased by 21.4 percent during the first quarter of 2021, compared to the preceding quarter. The decrease was as a result of the deteriorating lifespan of the mine as well as the impact of COVID-19 which slowed down the mining activities.
Soda Ash production increased by 11.1 percent during the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same quarter of the previous year. In terms of quarter-on-quarter Soda Ash production also showed an increase, picking up by 2.1 percent during the period under review. The increase in production is attributable to the effectiveness of the plant following refurbishment which occurred in the third quarter of 2020.
Salt production decreased by 34.0 percent during the first quarter of 2021, compared to the same quarter of the previous year. Similarly, the quarter-on-quarter analysis shows that salt production registered a decrease of 32.9 percent during the period under review. Both salt and Sodash are produced by partly government owned Botswana Ash (BotsAsh) operating from Sowa town near Makgadikgadi pans.
Coal production decreased by 11.2 percent during the first quarter of 2021, compared to the corresponding quarter of the previous year. The decrease was attributed to the reduced demand from Morupule B Power Station following the remedial works being undertaken, as one boiler was in operation during the period under review.
Although production fell, Statistics Botswana says there was no shortfall in supply of coal due to stockpiling. On the other hand, the quarter-on-quarter comparison shows that coal production increased by 20.4 percent compared to the preceding quarter.
Botswana’s flagship coal producer is Morupule Coal Mine; a wholly state owned mining company located in Palapye producing primarily for Botswana Power Corporation (BPC)’s power generation plants Morupule A & B.
The other coal producer is Botswana Stock Exchange listed Minergy which operates a 390 MT Coal Resource mine in Masama near Media in the southwestern edge of the Mmamabula Coalfields.
Department of Mines in the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology & Energy Security has awarded mining licence to Tshukudu Metals-a subsidiary of Aussie firm Sandfire Resources ,giving the company a green light to start piecing the ground at its Motheo Copper Project near Gantsi.
Lefoko Moagi, minister in charge of mineral resources in Botswana confirmed to weekendpost on Tuesday. Minister Moagi revealed that “the licence has been approved , but Sandfire Resources as a listed company will report to its shareholders and investors then make an official public statement” he said.
Based on a forecast copper price of US$3.16/lb (reflecting current long-term consensus pricing) the Base Case 3.2Mtpa – Ghantsi copper project is forecast to generate US$664 million (over P7 billion) in pre-tax free cash-flow and US$987 million (over P10 billion) in EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Tax, Depreciation and Amortisation), at a forecast all-in sustaining cost of US$1.76/lb over its first 10 years of operations.
In December 2020, the Board of Sandfire Resources approved the commercial development of the Motheo Copper Mine located in the Kalahari Copper Belt in Botswana, marking a key step in its transformation into a global, diversified, and sustainable mining company.
Tshukudu Metals Botswana (Pty) Limited (Tshukudu) a 100% owned subsidiary will be the owner and operator of the Motheo Copper Mine which is scheduled to produce up to 30,000 tonnes per annum of copper in concentrate over a 12 year mine life.TMB is targeting development of its Motheo Copper Mine in 2021 and 2022, with its first production in 2023.
GOVERNMENT NOT TAKING UP 15 % STAKE ON OFFER
Beginning of this year presentations were made to the Department of Mines as part of the Mining Licence approval process and to the Ghanzi Regional Council, additional information was requested by Department of Mines in April and was duly supplied by the company.
As part of the Mining Licence approval process, the Government of Botswana has a right to acquire up to a 15% fully contributing interest in all mining projects locally. Quizzed on whether government through Mineral Development Corporation Botswana (MDCB) would be taking up stake in the project Minister Moagi said, “No consideration is being made on that regard”.
“Government is not considering taking up a stake in the Ghantsi Copper Mine project, every opportunity is assessed on all risks, but Government makes money all the while from leases, taxes and royalties, remember if you take stake you are liable for liabilities of the project as well,” Moagi said.
Last month Sandfire announced that it has awarded over P5 billion worth mining contract to African Mining Services (AMS), a subsidiary of Perenti, to deliver the open cast operation.
The contract, which has an estimated value of US$496 million (over 5 billion), is the largest single operational contract for the new Motheo Project covering a period of 7 years and 3 months, with provision for a one-year extension.
The contract according to Sandfire Resources was awarded following a competitive 3-stage tender process which saw a number of key factors taken into consideration when selecting the preferred contractor.
These included Citizen Economic Empowerment, safety culture, equipment suitability and availability, commercial terms and identified improvement opportunities. Under the terms of the contract, AMS has agreed to form a 70:30 Joint Venture with a suitable local Botswana partner or partners.
The JV is expected to be finalized ahead of commencement of mining in early 2022. African Mining Services has been operating in Africa for over 30 years. AMS’ parent company, ASX listed diversified mining services group Perenti, already has a presence in Botswana through Barminco, their underground mining division, at the large-scale Khoemacau Copper Mine located 200km north-east of Motheo.
Last month Sandfire executives said the award of the open pit mining contract represents another key milestone in advancing the Motheo Project towards production, with all components of the contract in line with the key parameters outlined in the December 2020 Definitive Feasibility Study (DFS).
The company said full-scale construction of the US$279 million (over P 3 billion ) mine development is expected to commence immediately upon receipt of the Mining Licence, with mining scheduled to commence in early 2022 ahead of first production in early 2023. This week Sandfire Resources advertised over 10 positions in calling on applications from geologists, mining engineers and geotechnical engineers.
The Motheo mine has an initial mine life of 12.5 years based on production from the T3 pit. The initial development is expected to generate approximately 1,000 jobs during the construction phase and 600 direct full-time jobs during operations, with at least 95% of the total mine workforce expected to be made of up of Botswana citizens.
Later in the week Sandfire Resources announced in the company website that it has received the licence. Sandfire’s Managing Director and CEO, Mr Karl Simich, said the award of the Mining Licence represented a major milestone that would see a significant increase in construction and development activities on site.
“We are absolutely delighted to now be in a position to move to full-scale construction at Motheo, with our construction crews expected to mobilise to site over the next few days. I would like to thank the Government of Botswana for their support throughout the approvals process, which will see Motheo come on-stream in 2023 as one of very few new copper mines commencing production globally.”
Simich said the project is expected to generate approximately 1,000 jobs during construction and 600 full-time jobs during operations, and represents the foundation for Sandfire’s long-term growth plans in Botswana.
“Our vision is that Motheo will form the centre of a new, long-life copper production hub in in the central portion of the world-class Kalahari Copper Belt, where we hold an extensive ground-holding spanning Botswana and Namibia,” he said.