Agri challenges weigh down Bots’ economy

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    A report by Market and Research shows that the contribution of the agricultural sector to Botswana’s gross domestic product declined to 2.1% in 2017. Before 2017, agriculture contributed approximately 2.4% to Botswana’s gross domestic product (GDP).

    Agriculture’s contribution to Botswana’s GDP decreased to P376.20 million in the fourth quarter of 2017 from P380 million in the third quarter of 2017.

    From 2003 until 2017, agriculture contributed an average of P341.57 million to the GDP of Botswana, reaching an all-time high of P432.80 million in the second quarter of 2010 and a record low of P182.80 million in the fourth quarter of 2005.

    The Ireland-based research group said the sector is the mainstay of Botswana’s rural economy, adding that World Bank data showed that 42% of the southern African country’s population lives in rural areas.

    The data also showed that approximately 70% of rural households in Botswana depend on subsistence farming for their livelihood.

    More than 80% of the income of the agricultural sector is derived from livestock, while crop production contributes slightly less than 20%.

    “Despite continued government support for the development and modernisation of the agribusiness sector, the growing of crops is still dominated by rain-fed subsistence farming carried out by farmers using traditional farming methods,” the report said.

    These are characterised by the limited use of fertiliser and certified seeds, low mechanisation, limited irrigation and low productivity.

    According to the report, even on commercial farms, which are mechanised and use modern inputs such as fertilisers, hybrid seeds and pesticides, the potential for greatly increased crop production is low because of the semi-arid climate, low soil fertility in most areas and recurring drought.

    The country’s agriculture is faced with a number of challenges that are mainly environmental because of the nature of the sector itself. Reports indicate that a majority of the farmers, mostly small-scale and non-commercial, depend on rain for ploughing and also use outdated methods of farming.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 the common one being foot-and-mouth disease, which has proven expensive to deal with in the past.

    As for crop production, slow adoption of local farmers to modernised techno-based models and methods of farming due to lack of knowledge and agricultural education hinders efforts of commercial farming in Botswana.

    Botswana‘s climatic conditions also contribute negatively to farmers’ produce.

    President Mokgweetsi Masisi was recently quoted as saying the issues of poor climate conditions needed to be outsmarted by the introduction of new technologies and modernised 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,” the President was quoted as saying.

    – Southern Times Africa

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