The Committee on Agriculture, Lands and Housing has found that in order for Botswana to increase agricultural productivity and gravitate towards food and nutrition security, there is a need to develop and implement an agriculture transformation strategy with immediate effect.
For his foreword, Member of Parliament for Jwaneng-Mabutsane and the Committee Chairman Mephato Reatile noted that; As a landlocked net importer of most commodities, Botswana finds itself in a rather precarious position especially during crisis times as highlighted by the current Covid-19 pandemic. Time and again we find ourselves exposed to external vulnerabilities as a country through our over-reliance on our neighboring countries for almost everything including food.
Similarly, Reatile said, Botswanas vulnerability is further exacerbated by aridness and mostly poor soils. Climate change presents further risks to an already declining sector and without meaningful strategies to harvest, recycle and re-use water to support agriculture production, this sector may never realise its full potential. There is an urgent need to address issues of the national head, nutrition, our agricultural support systems and regulatory framework if we are to achieve food security.
He emphasized on the mandate of the committee saying it is in our responsibility as a Committee of Parliament, to ensure that Government interventions, where they exist, are done within provisions of the laws, budget and meet the needs of the people and where there are none those immediate efforts are made to rectify the situation and there is accountability.
The report of the Public Hearings on Botswanas Food Security and the Impact of Covid-19 Pandemic on Agriculture, Lands and Housing industries has revealed that 100, 007 ha of potential arable land comprising thirty six community cluster farms, and that only 45 000ha is ready for cultivation and 55 000 ha needs to be cleared, the concern is that without a clear strategy, the country continues to miss out on opportunity to attain food security.
The Committee also found that Botswana Agricultural Marketing Board (BAMB) despite its recent modest achievements and turn around, still lacked the capacity to procure all the anticipated local harvest of cereals for the 2019/2020. The Covid-19 movement restrictions also led to crops rotting in farms while farmers struggled with accessing implements and labour to harvest the produce.
Even more disturbing to the Committee was Botswanas seed import bill of P109 million annually attributed to lack of local seed production. The Committee was concerned that local initiatives such as the Phuduhudu cluster farms for seed production, have not taken off or received support to address this anomaly. It is this Committees view that ownership and affordability of seeds are essential to the food security resilience of especially poor farmers and farmers right to multiply, use, exchange and sell their own seeds should be protected and developed.
It is also worrying to the committee that despite the impact of climate change on agriculture, there appeared to be slow progress in adopting or financing climate smart agriculture. The beef sector is also on life support and it is evident that the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) has not heeded any of the multi-million Pula expert advice from both locals, regional and international stakeholders.
A major part of this decline is attributed to the lack of incentives to producers together with all the associated inefficiencies of the BMC which has enjoyed a monopoly of the sector from time immemorial. What is even of more concern is the decline of the national herd which has fallen significantly over the years from 3 million to 1.4 million.
According to the report, access to land and security of tenure remains a challenge in Botswana. The Committee learnt that current waiting lists for both State land and Tribal land to Batswana stood at over 600 000 with an average waiting period of over 23 years. This concerns the Committee that investors and local elites involved in land deals continue to access and buy land in both tribal and state land to the detriment of citizens.
To save the country on the downward trend, the committee recommended the implementation of the Cluster Development Strategy with immediate effect accompanied by a comprehensive monitoring and evaluation framework to ensure success.
The committee is of the belief that such a strategy must identify high production zones and put in place tailor made support packages with a priority on land allocation, infrastructure and water development. Existing Commercial clusters of Mosisedi, Tuli, Phuduhudu, Pandamatenga, Kweneng, Borolong and Ngwaketse must be afforded priority.
The committee recommended that in light of Climate Change impacts, the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security must develop incentive packages for new Climate farming, adaptation and mitigation methods.
The report also went on that the National Development Bank (NDB) be transformed into an Agriculture Bank with a mandate to provide support to agriculture development including insurance cover to farmers. This because, the current funding models have not yielded much results in terms of boosting production and ensuring food security.
Botswana Telecommunications Corporation Limited (BTC) has announced that its 3rd Francistown Marathon will be held on Saturday 20th April 2024 at Obed Itani Chilume Stadium in Francistown. The BTC Francistown Marathon is officially recognised by World Athletics and a Comrades Marathon Qualifier will offer race categories ranging from 42.2km, 21.1 km, 10km, 5km fun run, 5km peace run for children and has introduced a 5km and 10km categories for wheelchairs athletics.
BTC also used this opportunity to announce beneficiaries who received donations from proceeds made from the 2nd BTC Francistown Marathon that was held on April 23rd 203.Â BTC donated a play area, plastic chairs and wooden tables for pupils worth a total of thirty eight thousand, one hundred and three pula, fifty thebe each (P38, 103.50) to Monarch Primary School, Tatitown Primary School, Mahube Primary School and Gulubane Primary School. Ditladi and Boikhutso clinics each received a donation of benches, television sets and 10, 000 litre water tanks worth thirty seven thousan, eight hundred and ninety eight pula (P 37, 898.00). Additionally, BTC also donated seventy thousand pula (P70,000.00) to their marathon technical partner, Francistown Athletics Club (FAC) which will be used for daily operations as well as to purchase equipment for the club.
The BTC Francistown Marathon aligns seamlessly with BTC’s corporate social investment programme, administered through the BTC Foundation. This programme is a testament to BTC’s dedication to community development, focusing on key areas such as health promotion. The marathon, now in its third year, not only promotes a healthy lifestyle but also channels all proceeds to carefully chosen charities as part of BTC’s commitment to impactful and sustainable projects.
Speaking at the launch, the BTC Managing Director Mr Anthony Masunga stated that the marathon underscores BTCâs commitment to community upliftment and corporate social investment. He stated that âthe annual event which has been in existence since 2016, having taken a break due to the covid and other logistical issues, is instrumental to the economic upliftment of the city of Francistownâ. He congratulated all the beneficiaries for having been nominated to receive the donations, adding that âthe donation of proceeds from the 2023 marathon aims to highlight BTCâs commitment and heart for Batswana and our continued impact in the different industriesâ.
He further stated that through this marathon, âwe demonstrate our steadfast commitment to having a good influence on our communities, this event is a manifestation of our dedication to promoting education and a healthier, more active societyâ. Â He concluded by stating that âBTC looks forward to another successful marathon that will leave a lasting positive influence on the greater Francistown community and the country at largeâ he said.
Giving welcome remarks, the Councillor for Donga, Honourable Morulaganyi Mothowabarwa stated that âhe is ecstatic that BTC is collaborating with the City of Francistown on yet another installment of the Marathonâ. He continued to offer his support to BTC to enable this marathon to continue over the coming years, stating that the âCSI element is a welcome development that helps empower our communitiesâ, he said.
The 3rd BTC Francistown Marathon is officially open for registrations and athletes may use the following platforms to register and pay; through Smega by dialling *173# and choosing opton 5, then choose Option 3 for the Francistown marathon, at any BTC store or by visiting the BTC website and clicking on the BTC Francistown Marathon and choosing the relevant options.
Thapelo Letsholo, Member of Parliament for Kanye North, delivered a moving speech at the United Nations International Anti-Corruption Day commemoration, praising President Dr. Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi’s digitalization initiative in the fight against corruption. Letsholo highlighted the importance of embracing digitalization in governance as a crucial step in curbing corrupt practices.
According to Letsholo, the implementation of digital systems in government services can significantly reduce direct interactions between citizens and officials, which often serve as fertile grounds for corruption. By minimizing these opportunities for illicit activities, the efficiency and transparency of public services can be enhanced. Letsholo pointed to Estonia’s success in digital governance as an example, where public services have become more transparent, accessible, and efficient.
The MP commended President Masisi’s commitment to digitalization and E-Governance, emphasizing that it aligns with global anti-corruption standards. He called for full support and active participation from all sectors to ensure the success of this initiative.
Letsholo also stressed the importance of improving detection methods and refining whistleblower laws to effectively combat corruption. He highlighted the unseen and unspoken facets of corruption as its lifelines, emphasizing the need for robust detection mechanisms and a system that encourages and protects whistleblowers.
Addressing the societal role in fighting corruption, Letsholo focused on the crucial role of everyday citizens and civil servants who often witness corrupt practices firsthand. He acknowledged the existing reluctance to report corruption due to the perceived risks of repercussions. To change this narrative, Letsholo advocated for creating an environment where staying silent is deemed more detrimental than speaking out. He called for a cultural shift where the potential benefits of exposing corruption outweigh the risks, ensuring that whistleblowers are protected and feel secure in coming forward.
Letsholo called for collective responsibility and action in creating a system that not only detects and reports corruption but also supports those who stand against it. He expressed hope that under President Masisi’s digitalization initiatives, the future of governance in Botswana will be characterized by integrity, transparency, and accountability. Letsholo’s speech resonated with the sentiments of hope and determination that permeated the commemoration, emphasizing the need for unity in the fight against corruption.
In summary, Letsholo lauded President Masisi’s digitalization initiative in the fight against corruption, highlighting its potential to curb corrupt practices, enhance efficiency and transparency in public services, and align with global anti-corruption standards. He emphasized the importance of improving detection methods, refining whistleblower laws, and creating an environment where speaking out against corruption is encouraged and protected. Letsholo called for collective responsibility and action in creating a future characterized by integrity, transparency, and accountability in governance.
FaR Property Company (FPC) Limited, a property investment company listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange, has recently announced its exceptional financial results for the year 2023. The company’s property asset value has risen to P1.47 billion, up from P1.42 billion in the previous year.
FPC has a diverse portfolio of properties, including retail, commercial, industrial, and residential properties in Botswana, South Africa, and Zambia. The company owns a total of 186 properties, generating rental revenues from various sectors. In 2023, the company recorded rental revenues of P11 million from residential properties, P62 million from industrial properties, and P89 million from commercial properties. Overall, the company’s total revenues increased by 9% to P153 million, while profit before tax increased by 22% to P136 million, and operating profit increased by 11% to P139 million.
One notable achievement for FPC is the low vacancy rate across its properties, which stands at only 6%. This is particularly impressive considering the challenging trading environment. The company attributes this success to effective lease management and the leasing of previously vacant properties in South Africa. FPC’s management expressed satisfaction with the results, highlighting the resilience of the company in the face of ongoing macroeconomic challenges.
The increase in profit before tax can be attributed to both an increase in income and effective control of operating expenses. FPC managed to achieve these results with fewer employees, demonstrating the company’s efficiency. The headline earnings per linked unit also saw an improvement, reaching 26.92 thebe, higher than the previous year.
Looking ahead, FPC remains confident in its competitiveness and growth prospects. The company possesses a substantial land bank, which it plans to develop strategically as opportunities arise. FPC aims for managed growth, focusing on consumer-driven developments and ensuring the presence of supportive tenants. By maintaining this approach, the company believes it can sustainably grow its property portfolio and remain competitive in the market.
In terms of the macroeconomic environment, FPC noted that inflation rates are decreasing towards the 3% to 6% range approved by the Bank of Botswana. This is positive news for the company, as it hopes for further decreases in interest rates. However, the fluctuating fuel prices, influenced by global events such as the war in Ukraine and oil output reductions by Russia and other Middle Eastern countries, continue to impact businesses, including some of FPC’s tenants.
FPC’s property portfolio includes notable assets such as a shopping mall in Francistown with Choppies Hyper as the anchor tenant, Borogo Mall located on the A33 main road near the Kazungula ferry crossing, and various industrial and commercial properties in Gaborone leased to Choppies, Senn Foods, and Clover Botswana. The company also owns a shopping mall in Mafikeng and Rustenburg in South Africa.
The majority of FPC’s properties, 85%, are located in Botswana, followed by 12% in South Africa and 3% in Zambia. With its strong financial performance, competitive position, and strategic land bank, FPC is well-positioned for continued growth and success in the property market.