Sunday, July 12, 2009

Speech by His Honour the Vice President, Lt. Gen. Mompati S. Merafhe, MP, at the Offficial Opening of the 2009 Ghanzi District Show

source: Republic of Botswana (11/7/09) TAUTONA TIMES no 18 of 2009
The Weekly Electronic Press Circular of the Office of the President
Democracy, Development, Dignity and Discipline


[Salutations]… Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen:

1. I was very delighted to receive the invitation to come and open this 2009 Ghanzi District Show because the opportunity of being here cannot be resisted by anyone, especially if they appreciate the importance of agriculture to our livelihoods as Batswana.

2. That this is the second most popular annual show after the Gaborone one cannot be disputed. This is demonstrated by the multitudes of people who have braved this cold weather from all over the country, and indeed from across our borders, to come and feast their eyes on the beautiful exhibits that are on display today. In fact the Ghanzi District Show is a standard item in a lot of people’s diaries.

3. Director of Ceremonies, it is not in doubt that we as Batswana have a strong affection for farming. This affection is however compromised by our largely urbanized society which prevents most of us from spending as much time in our farming areas as we did in the past. The importance of this occasion in providing an opportunity for farmers, and other entrepreneurs, to showcase their achievements, as well as to learn from each other can therefore not be over emphasized. This, Director of Ceremonies, is in line with my Government’s endeavour to diversify the country’s economy away from over dependence on minerals.

4. It is for this reason that I believe the organizers of the Ghanzi District Show could not have come up with a better theme than the one that says: “DIVERSIFIED, COMPETITIVE AND SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS: A way to Socio–Economic Growth”. The theme promotes the use of improved farming technologies, which if effectively applied will increase the contribution that the agricultural sector makes to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This theme is also in line with Government’s initiative of establishing the Agriculture Hub, which falls within the ambit of the Cabinet Committee on the Economy and Employment, which I have the privilege of chairing.

5. The overall objective of the Agriculture Hub is to commercialize the agricultural sector and diversify it through viable and self sustaining agriculture enterprises while at the same time increasing the number of citizens who will benefit from agriculture.

6. Director of Ceremonies, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is not a secret that Ghanzi district is the mainstay of the livestock industry in Botswana. The district does not only pride itself in the ability to produce large numbers of livestock, it is also famous for maintaining high quality breeds. I am informed the district has in excess of 305 000 herd of cattle and 80 000 small stock. I therefore want to implore farmers to take advantage of initiatives that the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) has put in place to turn farming into a profitable undertaking. These initiatives include:

• the opening of an office in Ghanzi which I am told will be operational towards the end of the year,
• direct purchase of cattle from communal areas,
• the introduction of 24 hours offloading of cattle at the abattoir,
• collaboration with the Department of Veterinary Services and the Police to lift restrictions on cattle movement and the establishment of central permitting facilities,
• the promotion of weaner production and feedlots.

7. Director of Ceremonies, it is important to mention that Botswana has recently signed the Interim Economic Partnership Agreement (IEPA) with the European Union. The signing of this agreement accords Botswana Duty Free, Quota Free (DFQF) access of all products into the European Union market. This is indeed an opportunity for Botswana farmers as the European Union has a very lucrative market for our beef. It is therefore of utmost importance that farmers continue supplying cattle to the BMC.

8. I am alive to the challenges that farmers in this district are exposed to because of their proximity to the Foot and Mouth prone Ngamiland District. In order to minimize the threat of this disease crossing into the Ghanzi district, Government through the Department of Veterinary Services has invested a lot of resources in preventative measures along the Kuke Disease control cordon fence. These measures include the upgrading of some sections of the fence to a 2.4 meter game proof fence and upgrading the remainder to buffalo fence standard. The Department of Veterinary Services continues to monitor the situation and has intensified surveillance in 10 km radius of the Kuke fence. A high degree of vigilance therefore needs to be maintained by all of us to keep this hub of cattle production free from contracting the Foot and Mouth Disease.

9. In an endeavour to facilitate increased agricultural production and ensure food security in Botswana, my Government has also introduced the Integrated Support Programme for Arable Agriculture Development (ISPAAD). This is a programme through which farmers are assisted with draught power in the form of tractors as well as provided with inputs such as seeds and fertilizers to boost their crop production. The programme was introduced during the 2008/09 season and the expected grain yield is in excess of 93 000 metric tons. This is no doubt a great success if we were to make comparisons with the 2007/08 season yield of 43 000 metric tons. I however note with a sense of apprehension that in Ghanzi District the uptake of this programme was very low as only 714 hectares were ploughed by 423 farmers.

10. One of the components of ISPAAD is the strengthening of extension services, whereby extension officers are available to advise farmers on the types of crops to plant in different parts of the country. And I have been informed that soils in this district are suitable for crops such as beans and water melons. This information forms part of the advisory services you must get from your extension officers and reap the benefits of the available Government assistance programmes.

11. Director of Ceremonies, let me take this opportunity to commend the Ghanzi District Show Committee on having successfully organized this event over the years. My commendation also goes to the sponsors, volunteers, judges and exhibitors for the hard work and dedication they have put in to make this an exceptionally successful event.

12. Director of Ceremonies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, it is now my great pleasure to declare the 2009 Ghanzi District Show officially open. I thank you Ladies and Gentlemen for the courtesy of your kind attention. PULA!!!

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