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Master Farmer Masisi walking the walk through dwindling Agriculture data

President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi’s efforts of being the ‘Agriculture President’, being a farmer himself, are going against the grain as statistics show that this country’s supposedly food producing sector is almost moribund.

BusinessPost has compiled data which shows that the mainstay of Botswana’s Agriculture sector (cattle), which is a source of food for households and beef export, has its numbers hit by the scourge of drought while commercial farming is almost non-existent in this country and would not make any statistical movement.

There are many alarming anomalies in the latest Annual Agricultural Survey Report 2019 where some vital data was seen as too trivial that it cannot make it to national statistics and 2018 farming statistics were omitted due to absence of survey that year.

The latest Agriculture survey said while Botswana consists of two distinct sectors, namely the commercial and the traditional sectors; the agricultural survey carried out in 2019 covered the traditional sector while the commercial sector coverage was low and as such cannot be used to produce meaningful results to guide policy and decision making. According to Stats Bots, the results of the 2019 survey will be compared with the 2017 survey results since there was no survey in 2018.

President Masisi cannot be relying on the available statistics which have omissions and staggering findings.  Masisi was subleased Banyana Farms for 14 years this year but the recent statistics do not show this country is making strides, if anything we are going against the outward passion for farming by the President has shown.

Masisi’ passion comes a long way, when he was still Vice President and that was the last time the agriculture survey was conducted. In 2017 before he became President, he told African leaders to increase efforts of achieving sustainable employment opportunities and food security on the continent by transforming the agricultural sector.

But locally statistics tell a melancholy story that contradicts Masisi’s dream as the cattle enterprise under the Livestock production subsector which showed a decline in 2019. Arable production showed a downward production trend in all the major crops compared to the 2017 Annual Agricultural Survey results.

“Cattle population for the traditional sector dropped from 1.1 million in 2017 to 935 000 in 2019. The decline in cattle population is attributed to an increase in cattle deaths from 64 447 in 2017 to 102 255 in 2019. Cattle lost due to straying/theft are lower than the 79 799 in 2017 but still considerably high at 53 571 in 2019. This indicates that a significant number of cattle were lost due to straying/theft in 2017 and 2019,” said the survey.

While the increase in cattle birth rate from 47.3 percent to 56.5 percent, the mortality rate offset that twice over, doubling from 5.9 percent in 2017 to 10.9 percent in 2019 and off-take rate enlarged from 5.5 percent to 7.0 percent during the same period.

According to the statistics, the mortality is attributed to the severe drought that ravaged the country during the 2017/2018 and 2018/2019 seasons. The scourge of drought became a menace in this country’s agriculture as both the years 2017/18 and 2018/19 were declared drought years for the whole country (Botswana Environment Statistics, Natural and Technological Disasters Digest 2019) and as such the decline in both crop and livestock production indicators is attributed to drought.

Botswana has been a drought country since 2001, and this continued for two decades save for the 2008/2009 and 2013/2014 seasons which were never declared as drought periods. The Prevalence of Food Insecurity which was released recently posted that at national level 50.8 percent of the population in Botswana was affected by moderate to severe food insecurity in 2018/19, while 22.2 percent of the population was affected by severe food insecurity only.

“The whole country was declared drought stricken during these periods: 2001-2005; 2007-2008; 2011-2013; 2014-2015; and 2016-2019. This report further reveals that cereal production does not meet the country’s cereal requirements, resulting in over dependence on imports. A total of BWP9.53 Billion was used to import cereals (maize, rice, sorghum, millet and wheat) during the period 2010-2019,” said the latest Statistics Botswana report.

The 2019 drought statistics suggests that the traditional crop sector experienced poor harvest compared to 2017. Sorghum production recorded a substantial reduction from 5,975 metric tons in 2017 to 826 metric tons (86.2 percent) in 2019. Maize production also experienced a huge reduction from 13,911 metric tons to a staggering 987 metric tons (92.9 percent), while millet production dropped from 1,099 metric tons to 313 metric tons (71.5 percent) in 2017 and 2019 respectively.

The beans/pulses also realized a significant reduction in production from 2,348 metric tons in 2017 to 583 metric tons (75.2 percent) between the 2017 and 2019 agricultural seasons. About 85 percent of Botswana’s agricultural output is derived from livestock production, mainly cattle. It is estimated that Botswana imported P6.32 million worth of food and agricultural products in 2014.

The Prevalence of Food Insecurity which was recently released by Statistics Botswana show that at national level 50.8 percent of the population in Botswana was affected by moderate to severe food insecurity in 2018/19, while 22.2 percent of the population was affected by severe food insecurity only.

When opening Mosisedi 4th Harvest Day in May, Masisi said the agricultural sector remained important to livelihoods of most Botswana citizens. Government had put in place numerous programmes and policies such as Integrated Support Program for Rain-fed Arable Agriculture Development (ISPAAD), Livestock Management and Infrastructure Development Programme (LIMID), and the Policy on National Food Security aimed at enhancing the sector.

The president further said these development initiatives were aimed at enhancing the lives of the majority of citizens especially those who lived in rural areas. President Masisi said Mosisedi farmers were a source of inspiration to many Batswana, particularly young farmers. He said the farmers had proven beyond doubt that commercial farming in the country was viable. Masisi believes young farmers are also inspired to venture into farming, but statistics are on the contrary.

According to the Annual Agricultural Survey Report 2019, the participation of youth in agriculture is still low, out of a total of 54,908 traditional farmers/holders countrywide, only 5.3 percent were aged between 15 and 35 years. The statistics further said the majority of farmers were in the 65 year age group and above (34.9 percent) and between 55-59 years at 12.4 percent.

Farming is still a man’s business if the released statistics are anything to go by. In the 2019 agricultural season, male farmers continued to dominate farming at 63.1 percent compared to their female counterparts with only 36.9 percent participation.
The land issue
International reports suggests that Botswana’s agricultural potential is limited due to the Kalahari Desert that occupies a large area in the country. The same study gives credence to the local survey of 2019 as it states that the subsistence/traditional farming are the norm with less than a 1,000 commercial farming enterprises.

Masisi on the other hand believes that he turn the country into a commercial farming force. In May at Mosisedi, Masisi said government would “fast track land allocation for commercial agriculture.” He also talked of government offering funding to farmers, so that they can help food insecurity and make Botswana a food exporter. Agriculture accounts for about 3 percent of Botswana’s GDP. In 2019, agriculture contributed around 1.95 percent to the GDP of Botswana, 28.3 percent came from the industry and 60.62 percent from the services sector.

When trying to convince African leaders about the importance of farming in 2017, Masisi said 50 per cent of available land in Africa was suitable for agriculture, but the sector was hindered from performing at its full potential by challenges such as drought, diseases, low productivity and lack of appropriate technology.

According to Stats Bots, compared to 2017 agricultural survey results, there was a decrease in area planted and area harvested for all the crops in 2019 except for millet which remained the same. The crop sector recorded substantially low yields during the 2019 season when compared to the 2017 cropping season, in terms of both yield per hectare planted and yield per hectare harvested.

The yields per hectare planted for sorghum dropped from 251 kg/ha in 2017 to 48 kg/ha in 2019, while maize yield was 225kg/ha in 2017 but dropped to 25kg/ha in 2019. The millet yield reduced from 353 kg/ha to 91kg/ha between 2017 and 2019 respectively, while the yield for pulses also showed a marked reduction from 86 kg/ha to 31 kg/ha between 2017 and 2019 survey years respectively.

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China’s GDP expands 3% in 2022 despite various pressures

2nd February 2023
China’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) expanded by 3% year-on-year to 121.02 trillion yuan ($17.93 trillion) in 2022 despite being mired in various growth pressures, according to data from the National Bureau Statistics.

The annual growth rate beat a median economist forecast of 2.8% as polled by Reuters. The country’s fourth-quarter GDP growth of 2.9% also surpassed expectations for a 1.8% increase.

In 2022, the Chinese economy encountered more difficulties and challenges than was expected amid a complex domestic and international situation. However, NBS said economic growth stabilized after various measures were taken to shore up growth.

Industrial output rose 3.6% in 2022 over the previous year, while retail sales slightly shrank by 0.2% data show that fixed-asset investment increased 5.1% over 2021, with a 9.1% hike in manufacturing investment but a 10% fall in property investment.

China created 12.06 million new jobs in urban regions throughout the year, surpassing its annual target of 11 million, and officials have stressed the importance of continuing an employment-first policy in 2023.

Meanwhile, China tourism market is a step closer to robust recovery. Tourism operators are in high spirits because the market saw a good chance of a robust recovery during the Spring Festival holiday amid relaxed COVID-19 travel policies.

On January 27, the last day of the seven-day break, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism published an encouraging performance report of the tourism market. It said that domestic destinations and attractions received 308 million visits, up 23.1% year-on-year. The number is roughly 88.6% of that in 2019, they year before the pandemic hit.

According to the report, tourism-related revenue generated during the seven-day period was about 375.8 billion yuan ($55.41 billion), a year-on-year rise of 30%. The revenue was about 73% of that in 2019, the Ministry said.

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Business

Jewellery manufacturing plant to create over 100 jobs

30th January 2023

The state of the art jewellery manufacturing plant that has been set up by international diamond and cutting company, KGK Diamonds Botswana will create over 100 jobs, of which 89 percent will be localized.

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Investors inject capital into Tsodilo Resources Company

25th January 2023

Local diamond and metal exploration company Tsodilo Resources Limited has negotiated a non-brokered private placement of 2,200, 914 units of the company at a price per unit of 0.20 US Dollars, which will provide gross proceeds to the company in the amount of C$440, 188. 20.

According to a statement from the group, proceeds from the private placement will be used for the betterment of the Xaudum iron formation project in Botswana and general corporate purposes.

The statement says every unit of the company will consist of a common share in the capital of the company and one Common Share purchase warrant of the company.

Each warrant will enable a holder to make a single purchase for the period of 24 months at an amount of $0.20. As per regularity requirements, the group indicates that the common shares and warrants will be subject to a four month plus a day hold period from date of closure.

Tsodilo is exempt from the formal valuation and minority shareholder approval requirements. This is for the reason that the fair market value of the private placement, insofar as it involves the director, is not more than 25% of the company’s market capitalization.

Tsodilo Resources Limited is an international diamond and metals exploration company engaged in the search for economic diamond and metal deposits at its Bosoto Limited and Gcwihaba Resources projects in Botswana.  The company has a 100% stake in Bosoto which holds the BK16 kimberlite project in the Orapa Kimberlite Field (OKF) in Botswana.

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