GABORONE – Government has proposed that arable farmers within ISPAAD clusters be merged and realigned for ease of infrastructural development.
When delivering State-of-the-Nation Address on November 5, President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi said government had, therefore, identified four crop clusters in Masunga, Mookane, Leshibitse and Malwele to pilot the programme.
He assured Batswana that government would continue to assist arable farmers through several programmes such as ISPAAD.
He said over 62 000 farmers planted 268 530 hectares during the 2017/2018 ploughing season as compared to the previous year where 335 181 hectares were planted by 86 989 farmers.
He, however, stated that 66 098 tonnes of estimated cereal production for 2017/18 were recorded compared to production of 128 000 tonnes in the previous year.
The reduced cereal production was attributed to the low rainfall during the 2017/2018 cropping season which resulted in government declaring an arable agricultural drought in August this year.
Dr Masisi highlighted that the supply of maize continued to be a challenge with Botswana Agriculture Marketing Board (BAMB) continuing to receive low quantities of maize, hence likely import from South Africa and Zambia.
Regarding livestock management, President Masisi said 30 140 Livestock Management and Infrastructure Development Programme (LIMID) projects had been implemented from September 2010 to June 2018, while 3 215 projects were implemented in the 2017/2018 financial year at a cost of over P82 million.
He further added that 1 587 projects had been implemented from April to June 2018, of which 561 of those projects were youth owned.
The president explained that implementation of the Dairy Development Strategy led to a steady improvement in the dairy sub sector as over 8.6 million litres of milk were produced in 2017/2018 compared to over 6.2 million litres the previous financial year, which represented an increase of 39.3 per cent.
He said milk imports for 2017/2018 financial year were estimated to be 45.5 million litres at a value of P250.6 million, adding that the high proportion of the imported milk presented an investment opportunity in the area of dairy production.
President Masisi stated that government was undertaking initiatives to address the challenges facing beef sub sector in a holistic manner.
He said government was working on a project to reinforce the competitiveness of the beef industry through cluster development, which aimed at transforming the domestic beef and cattle industry into a viable, competitive and profitable undertaking that would benefit all value chain players and in turn improve the livelihoods of Batswana.
“As part of the efforts to transform the bee and cattle industry, government has undertaken to restructure and ultimately privatise the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) and further implement the Beef Productivity Training Programme through development operations with government of New Zealand to improve productivity of the beef sub sector,” he said.
Similarly, he said, government had taken a deliberate decision to resuscitate the Lubu smallstock farm in Kgalagadi District to enhance the supply of improved genetic material to farmers across the country and also develop Setata farm No. 65 in the Boteti Sub-district as a small stock production and training farm.
He, however, outlined the outbreaks of the Foot and Mouth disease (FMD) particularly in the Ngamiland area as a major challenge to livestock production over the years.
“The last two years have seen two outbreaks in Ngamiland with the most recent one occurring in June this year,” he said adding that ‘government continues to prioritise the control of the disease through vaccinations and active surveillance programmes.’
He said it was worth noting that government in partnership with international technical partners had undertaken numerous workshops to capacitate both farmers and extension staff on the concept of Commodity Based Trade (CBT), which provides an avenue for the exportation of meat from FMD endemic areas such as Ngamiland.
President Masisi stated that it was encouraging to note that government continued its efforts to expand the green zones including zone seven in Bobirwa where vaccinations had been stopped and there had not been any FMD outbreak in five years.
He said government’s collaborative vaccination programme with Zimbabwe continued to produce positive results as there had not been any threat of FMD along the Zimbabwean boarder in recent years.
“The increase of elephant populations and their migratory patterns pose a serious challenge, including a strain on resources for the effective management of disease control infrastructure,” he said.
Furthermore, the president highlighted that government had established Botswana Animal Identification and Traceability System (BAITS) youth owned cafes, with 60 of those earmarked for the current financial year with an increase of such cafes anticipated in the next financial year.
To alleviate the shortage of livestock feeds, President Masisi said government continued to promote Nappier grass production as a pilot project, established in Molepolole on a private farm. 
A project, which is a demonstration for conservation agricultural technology, is done in collaboration with the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ).
He said ‘the grass is also being multiplied at Sebele, Mahalapye, Impala and Kang.’ BOPA