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Parliament abolishes Young Farmers fund


The ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is set to abolish the young farmers fund and replace it with a refurbished youth entrepreneurship fund.


Eight years on, the government has moved to pass a motion in parliament that called for the young farmers fund to be replaced, “to carter for other young people with other business ideas other than agriculture”. The motion was passed on Friday by Member of Parliament (MP) for Kgalagadi North, Itumeleng Moipisi.


 However Members of Opposition in Parliament are against the move as they believe it would defeat the purpose of the fund which the BDP created ahead of the 2009 general elections as a tool to empower the country’s youth, which were at the time disadvantaged by existing funds requirements.


The BDP however, has used its numbers advantage to pass the motion.  Several BDP MPs including cabinet Ministers are of the view that the new fund, which is yet to be introduced, would broaden the scope of the existing fund. In fact the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Slumber Tsogwane believes that the idea is progressive.


“I think he has the plight of youth at heart. When the young farmers fund was formed, we were encouraging the youth into farming as you know our youth shun farming. Those who developed interest ventured into the farming industry and some joined in as a last resort and have failed because they did not like it,” Tsogwane debated.


Opposition Members nonetheless maintained that the Young Farmers fund was good initiative and has encouraged young people to venture into farming and food production. The opposition expressed fear that the ruling party was only trying to play a political mind game by reintroducing existing programmes under a new package.


The government has several youth support funds for different business ventures under the Ministries of Youth, Sports and Culture. The grants include Youth Empowerment Scheme (YES), Youth Development Fund, art and culture grants, Kickstart Programme, and the E-nnovation youth empowerment programme which aims to encourage the out of school, marginalised and unemployed youth to venture into sustainable and viable income generating projects.


Of all the youth programmes, young farmers has the highest finance support as a project could be funded with up to P500 000 while CEDA loans go beyond P2 Million.


Opposition MP, Haskins NKaigwa of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) maintained that the reason young people are failing to access other existing funds such as main line CEDA loans is due to accessibility challenges.


“You need a tool to get the funds. You need a business plan and a business plan has to be done by a consultant who in turn needs to be paid. CEDA would not just issue money because somebody needs it. It has to be convinced that the planned business is viable,” Nkaigwa maintained.


Another opposition MP, Ndaba Gaolatlhe of the UDC argued that funding is just one aspect of the eco system which the country needs to develop in order to achieve needed results in as far as youth and citizen empowerment is concerned.


According to Gaolathe the government should consider establishing appropriate well targeted and diversified support mechanisms through smart subsidies, incentives for the growth of agro-industry sector, research and development, training and capacities. Other areas of worth, Ndaba explained would be opening of market access opportunities, local and international access to potential partnerships.


Poverty, poor health, hunger and lack of education continue to limit the potential of the youth in increasing productivity and agricultural incomes in the country and the rest of the Southern Africa region.


According to the Economic Commission of Africa, forty percent of the total unemployed in the region are youth and majority of them live in rural areas. For those that are employed, low productivity, underemployment and meagre earnings characterise their agricultural profile.

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