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Farmers fear bleak harvest ahead

Keikantse Lesemela

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Farmers are facing a bleak harvest season following poor rainfalls which are likely to lead to stunted growth of crops in most parts of the country.

Last week the Business Trends met with farmers in Kanngwe who expressed their hopeless expectations to harvest this year. Masego Ofentse said she planted a 50 hectare field but two thirds of the crops have wilted due to extreme high temperatures. She planted maize, sorghum and black eye beans. “I am not going to get food from this field, almost all the crops have been affected by extreme heat therefore they failed to produce food.

This is a bad year for us,” said a downbeat Ofentse. Meanwhile, John Phirinyane planted 320 hactares of maize in an 800 hactare field but all the crops could not pollinate. “I planted a lower portion this year because I realised there is insufficient rainfall. All these crops in the field are not going to yield harvest, it’s a huge loss,” said Phirinyane.

Gofaone Mapitse ploughed 405 hacters in a 600 hactare field and he is expecting only 20 percent harvest from the field. He said this year he ploughed in lower ration due to lack of resources and insufficient rainfall.

“This year the banks could not give us loans because we still have arrears from last year. We are negotiating with the government to help us clear the arrears” Mapitse said last year the government paid 85 percent to banks and farmers only paid 15 percent but this year the government only gave them 30 percent.

Each year, government spends about P600 million on the agricultural inputs programme for citizen farmers and in the last four years about P800 million was spent on drought relief initiatives. Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Patrick Ralotsia has told the media that experts are still finalising estimates of the harvest, but already they reckon farmers will get only 40 percent or less of what they planted this season. “Even more worrying is that major producing areas like Pandamatenga and Mosisedi have not been spared by the poor rains.

There was a time at the beginning of the season when we thought things would be good, but now if you see what’s happening across our districts, you would be quite shocked.Most of the crops planted are stunted and already showing signs of wilting,” said Ralotsia.

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Botswana Railways hit by fuel theft

The MidweekSun Admin

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Botswana Railways CEO, Louis Makwinja

Botswana Railways lost fuel business due to continuous incidents of stolen fuel from the tanks and delays mainly at Mafikeng, in the north Western side of South Africa.

Botswana Railways Chief Executive Officer Leonard Makwinja said, during 2017/2018, their biggest failure was in this area. “Our biggest failure in this aspect was on imports, transporting of fuel from South Africa proved to be a challenge.

There have been incidents of fuel loss on tankers, sometimes a delay in Mafikeng when trains changed and when it arrives in Botswana the tank would be half empty, “said Makwinja. He said this was worsened by allegations that road transportation was cheaper. Currently, they have employed a fuel consultant to look into the whole fuel transportation. “We believe a solution will be found soon.”

The BR Chief explained they heavily rely on the relationship with Transnet to successfully execute its freight mandate. Most of the imports through rail come from South Africa and the main export through rail which is salt and soda ash is transported from Botash to Mafikeng. “Going onwards we have to depend on Transnet for connections to the respective destinations. Our strategic plan going forward is to improve our services to the oil companies so that we are more reliable, timely and profitable.”

During the period, Makwinja said they had to focus on cost containment. The main cost drivers are staff cost, fuel and maintenance of the locomotives. In his statement on Botswana Railways 2018 annual report, Makwinja said the organization’s performance was subdued due to lack of capacity to meet the demand. “In terms of tonnage, our target was 2 million tons but we only achieved 1, 5 million tons. This adverse variance can be attributed to a number of factors including lack of sufficient locomotives and practicing conservative business initiatives and marketing,” he said.

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Calls to improve crop yields with technology

Keikantse Lesemela

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Greenhouse Technologies managing director, Amanda Masire has urged entrepreneurs to venture into agriculture as it is a lucrative business and more beneficial to the national economic development, despite climate change challenges.

Speaking to Business Trends, Masire said there is a need for more training and knowledge on modern agriculture technologies for the country to have sustainable food production. “I am passionate about agriculture and food production. I want to help my country to produce food for itself and reduce dependency on imports. I have learnt that despite all the challenges of climate change, we can still produce our own food through the use of modern technologies,” said Masire.

Masire is an agri-business developer, specializing in horticulture, beekeeping and fish farming. She currently operates Greenhouse Farmers Academy offering training and mentorship on horticulture farming. “Agriculture is the most lucrative business that young people should be looking into. Currently, we depend much on South Africa. We should rise up and develop the sector because as Batswana we have rich land that we are not utilising.” Her services include horticulture starter kit, which includes business plans, lessons, fertilisers and all equipments necessary for a particular horticulture project.

She is currently working with the Ministry of Agriculture Development and Food Security to develop the ISPAAD Program. She said government would embrace modern farming technologies to improve food production. “Most Batswana have lands which they are currently not ploughing because of climate change conditions while the government gives out fertilizers and seeds every year to subsistence farmers yet there is no yield. I have come up with solutions, which include testing soil and supplying lime treatment to reduce acidity. This will help improve crop yield when adopted with other technologies,” she said.

Speaking during Stanbic Lionness Lean In Africa, Masire said with the challenges in the agriculture sector, Batswana should stop looking much into the problems and getting discouraged but should rather think of solutions. “Government is trying but we individuals also need to be innovative and assist government in improving food security. Young people should take opportunity of the agri-business market and reduce unemployment,” said Masire.

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