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VCF promises to transform Botswana agribusiness

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Over 200 members of the Value Chain Farming (VCF) Africa-Botswana are optimistic that if they work together they will ultimately be able to feed the nation and sell beyond borders. The farmers converged in a three-day Summer School and Conference theme, ‘Unlocking Agricultural Opportunities,’ that took place at Ave Maria Conference Centre and Botswana Univeristy of Agriculture and Natural Resources (BUAN) in Sebele, hosted in partnership with Botswana Insurance Company. Speaking at the event, Managing Director of Value Chain Farming Africa, Tshepiso Ntshobotho said the event is a bi-annual school that runs during summer and a second session in the winter session called Agribusiness Winter School and Conference.

She explained that the events are designed as crash classes in latest critical information on Agribusiness. “The conference is critical to my farmers, my partners and even for my environment. “We have focused on problems in Agriculture for far too long. What I have been craving for is solutions and new innovations to tackle these problems,” she said. VCF Africa is an Agribusiness Consortium of BEXA Consulting, Private Department of Food Energy and Enviromental Studies (DAFEES) both in Italy, Alieforg in Zimbabwe and Longreach International, which Ntshobotho co-owns. Ntshobotho, who has a Degree in Animal Health and Production, said her company is geared up for massive transformation of the Botswana Agribusiness industry.

“Our thrust is not only to close the import gap but have connected our farmers to the global market. The World Bank has said by 2050, 80 percent of the world’s food will be coming from Africa. We hold the world’s largest chunk of arable land. We have always been destined to take care of the world.” According to Ntshobotho, VCF is connected to the continent biggest Tilapia farmer and distributor, that is, Lake Harvest that operates according to the highest world standards. The organisation is also connected to the continent’s biggest fresh produce distributor, Rolex Imports and Exports with its core expertise in air and land freight of perishable produce. VCF has connections with Global Markets through their sole standing subsidiary, Nhimbe Imports and Exports.

“My company is part of a network of over 7 000 food exporters and importers. I am talking of our produce not only having access to local chains but also going as far as big food chains like TESCO. Our goals for Botswana include; to have 80 000 commercial Good Agriculture Practices certified farms over the next 10 years; 400 000 hectares of irrigated land; 486 345 direct job and 80 109 processing centres,” Ntshobotho said. Currently, VCF represent over 200 active members of the Value Chain Farming Africa-Botswana network. “We are processing their funding through a local bank,” Ntshobotho said. She is confident that her company will sustain member-farmers through five key pillars who have decided to commercialise and expand their market beyond Botswana. The key pillars are; access to finance, access to markets, access to information, access to water and access to contemporary efficient technology.

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SMEs benefit from Consumer Fair growth

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The Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) has applauded Botswana Consumer Fair’s continued efforts to improve small to medium enterprises’ linkages.

BITC Chief Executive Officer, Keletsositse Olebile, when opening the fair, said the event has provided interactive forum for both local and foreign exhibitors. He said the shopping show has enabled manufacturers, wholesalers and traders to market their products directly to consumers, an alignment to government’s endeavors.

“As part of government intention, we continually encourage local sourcing by retailers and distributors,” said Olebile who is just few months into his new post. He further celebrated the growth of Botswana Consumer Fair over the years, attributing the expansion to quality of goods displayed at the previous shows.“Improved quality and increased variety of wares increases the interest of the visitors and makes them look forward to returning the following year,” said Olebile.

This year’s exhibitors at the 13th event still running under the banner: ‘It is more than just shopping’ have been drawn from Lesotho, Zambia, Swaziland, South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Egypt, Japan, India, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

Consumer Fair is a flagship event for Fairgrounds Holdings and provides a platform for small medium enterprises (SMEs) from the different sectors of the economy to showcase and promote their products and services. In addition, the SMEs are expected to establish long term business linkages and promote local manufactured goods.Fairgrounds Holdings is already optimistic that the Fair immensely contribute to the socio-economic development of the country through supporting SMEs.

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‘Involve SMMEs in standards development’-Minister

Keikantse Lesemela

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Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, Bogolo Kenewendo appealed to Botswana Bureau of Standards (BOBS) to include the Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) when developing the standards to improve the sector.

She said the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry has identified three areas of focus going forward which are modeled on SMME development, investment promotion and export development apexes. “I would like to implore you to include this sector in standards development processes and assist in improving SMMEs conformity to standards and compliance to technical regulations,” said Kenewendo.

Speaking during the BOBS Technical Committee Members appreciation ceremony on Thursday, Kenewendo explained that the important roles of standards are underpinned by the aspirations and intentions espoused in both diversified export led economic growth and job creation as priority areas. “It goes without saying that the diversification of the economy requires a National Quality Infrastructure and Technical Regulatory Framework that promote competitiveness of Botswana goods and services.”

She also emphasized that an effective National Quality Infrastructure and Technical Regulatory Framework are essential as they provide crucial links to global trade, market access and export competitiveness through their contribution to consumer confidence in product safety, quality and the environment.Since inception in 1997 BOBS has published more than 1700 standards through 48 technical committees across several sectors of the economy; 109 certification licences have been issued against some of these standards. Currently 46 Botswana Standards are being implemented through the standards regulations with a view to protecting the health and safety of consumers as well as protection of the environment.

On her note, BOBS Vice Chairperson of the Standards Council, Professor Edward Dintwa said standards are powerful tools for helping organisations that implement them to realize their potential, have access and compete in the global marketplace. “In this highly competitive and complex world, issues of sustainability and productivity, viewed from economic, environmental and societal perspectives require that businesses must be more efficient in their operations, which can be achieved through the implementation of standards”.

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