… but stinting agriculture means less food production and burgeoning food import bill
The Botswana Government has been criticised for contravening a United Nations (UN) declaration that calls on member states to allocate around 10% of their national budgets to the agricultural sector.
It has emerged from the latest budget that the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security has been allocated P1.34 billion, which is 3% of the national budget and contrary to the UN Malabo Declaration that was initiated in Maputo.
In an interview with Global Business this week, local agriculture analysts and development specialists warned that government’s decision to stint agriculture would continue to hamper contribution of the sector to the country’s GDP and restrict Botswana’s economic growth.
Recent figures from Statistics Botswana show that for the past 10 years, the contribution of the agriculture sector to the GDP has been stuck between 1.8% and 2.1%.
According to analyst Pear Ranna the low budget allocated to the agriculture sector means famers will continue to receive limited financial support and produce less food. “Because of the low funding of the sector, the high imports of fresh produce by local retailers will continue,” Ranna told Global Business. “This is of great concern because it shows that the government is lagging behind in terms of supporting local farmers.”
She stated that due the low funding, development programmes under the Ministry of Agriculture will be underfunded. “We have programmes under the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security such as the Livestock Management and Infrastructure Development (LIMID) and the Integrated Support Programme for Arable Agricultural Development (ISPAAD) which in some regions of Botswana always face challenges of funding,” Ranna continued.
Another agricultural analyst and development specialist, Michael Diteko, noted that all sub-sectors of agriculture were not growing because of the government’s decision not to comply with the Malabo Declaration. “All agricultural sectors have suffered, except poultry,” Diteko said. “Sub-sectors such as horticulture, livestock, dairy and grains are all stagnant, if not in regression. They require more funding in order to grow.”
There was a need to embrace new technology, which requires extra funding. “Countries like Ethiopia, for example, have invested in green houses that are being rented out to farmers to increase agricultural production,” he said. “We have to move away from rain-fed to irrigation in our crop production. This means funding for infrastructure in the form of irrigation equipment and dams.”