Monday, August 17, 2009

H.H.Lt.Gen.Mompati S.Merafhe,MP, the Vice President of the Republic of Botswana,at the Occasion to Officially open the National Agricultural Show

source: Republic of Botswana (16/8/09): TAUTONA TIMES no 21 of 2009
The Electronic Press Circular of the Office of the President
“Democracy, Development, Dignity and Discipline”


[Salutations]…Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I am delighted to officiate at this important occasion, the 2009 National Agricultural Show, which is the culmination of various agricultural shows which have been held in different districts of our country. This is an event that provides an opportunity through which players in the agricultural sector assess their performance against that of their peers from the rest of the country. New technologies, research breakthroughs and best practices that can be replicated as models of successful agricultural development are also showcased during occasions such as this one.

2. Director of Ceremonies, that the agricultural sector is one of the major contributors to the national economy, especially to the development of the rural economy, is not in doubt. Despite its seemingly declining level of contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) compared to other sectors, agriculture remains the mainstay of rural livelihoods. It therefore has the potential to contribute significantly towards Government’s endeavours to grow this country’s economy as well as create employment for most of our rural populace.

3. It is for this reason that the Ministry of Agriculture’s role of ensuring that agricultural policies and programmes are implemented continues to get the full support of my Government. This commitment is demonstrated by the establishment of the Agriculture Hub, whose main objective is to commercialize the agricultural sector and increase the number of citizens who will benefit from it.

4. Director of Ceremonies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, I find the theme for this year’s show which says: “Agriculture: Mitigation to Global Economic Downturn”, very relevant given the current economic crisis that has befallen the world, and measures that the Government of Botswana has put in place to address the situation.

5. In responding to this downturn Government, through the Ministry of Agriculture, has embarked on a number of initiatives that facilitate farmers to produce food at household and commercial levels for the improvement of food security in Botswana. These initiatives include encouraging farmers to lease underutilized land to potential agricultural investors as well as the funding of support programmes for the use of improved technologies. They also entail the reorganization of the Ministry of Agriculture to cater for Policy Research and Statistics and Business Promotion.

6. Other initiatives are the Zambezi Agro-Commercial Integrated Development Project and the Agricultural Infrastructure Development Initiative that are anticipated to develop critical infrastructure such as roads, water and electricity in production areas. Additional efforts are directed at demonstrating the potential of agriculture for investment to the financial institutions such as commercial banks, the National Development Bank (NDB) and the Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA).

7. To build the confidence of these commercial institutions in supporting the agriculture sector, an agricultural insurance scheme is being considered in view of the challenges posed by extreme weather conditions and pest outbreaks in the country.

8. All these initiatives are coordinated through the Agriculture Hub and the National Agricultural Master Plan for Arable Agriculture and Dairy Development (NAMPAAD) and are designed to both advance agriculture as well as ensure that its contribution to the economy is realized.

9. My Government also continues to explore opportunities through which horticulture farmers can be assisted. One such opportunity is the establishment of the Gaborone Horticulture Market which is a joint venture initiative between the Ministry of Agriculture and the Botswana Development Corporation. The primary objective of this market is to facilitate the sale of horticultural produce to well established retailers in the country.

10. Director of Ceremonies, it is not in doubt that most of the lives of Batswana are anchored on the cattle industry. I therefore want to implore farmers to take advantage of measures put in place by the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) to turn farming in to a profitable undertaking. These measures include:

? the opening of offices in various districts in an endeavour to bring the BMC closer to the farmers,
? direct purchase of cattle from communal areas,
? the introduction of 24 hours offloading of cattle at the BMC,
? collaboration with the Department of Veterinary Services and the Police to lift restrictions on cattle movement and the establishing of central permitting facilities,
? the promotion of weaner production and feed lots as well as
? the introduction of the import parity prices for cattle sold to the abattoir.

11. Director of Ceremonies, I never want to miss the opportunity to talk about the Integrated Support Programme for Arable Agriculture Development (ISPAAD) at occasions such as this one. This is a clear success story worth telling. The programme has shown great potential in increasing grain production particularly if farmers use improved technologies and manage their crops adequately. The components of this programme require the participation of the private sector in supplying machinery and equipment, inputs, and providing ploughing services, thereby augmenting the efforts of Government in ensuring that adequate and reliable draught power is made available on time.

12. Through this programme we anticipate a grain yield in excess of 90 000 metric tons during the just ended cropping season, which is an indication that we can produce sufficient food to meet the national requirement.

13. Another component of the ISPAAD is the strengthening of the extension services through which expert advice is readily made available to farmers. In its endeavour to strengthen these extension services the Ministry of Agriculture has created posts of and assigned District Coordinators to all districts. The District Coordinators will act as catalysts in the integration of the ministry’s functions at district level.

14. Director of Ceremonies, Distinguished guests, I have been reliably informed that the Ministry of Agriculture intends to hand over the running of the agricultural shows to the private sector, particularly farmers’ organizations. It is for this reason that this year, the ministry has invited other Farmers Unions from the region and the Royal Agricultural Society of the Commonwealth from the United Kingdom, to come and share experiences and skills of running shows by farmers. It is my firm belief therefore that our farmers organizations will take full advantage of this opportunity.

15. I wish to conclude my remarks by extending my profound gratitude to those who have partnered with the Ministry of Agriculture in making this event the success that it is. I have been informed that this show was made possible through inputs of various stakeholders and individuals who generously contributed an estimated amount of over P700 000 towards the grand champion prizes of different categories and other expenses. This is indeed a commendable gesture and I urge you to continue with the good work as your efforts are in fulfilment of the Setswana saying that “tsema le thata ka mong wa lone”.

16. The exhibitors for the different categories deserve my commendation because without their participation this show would not have been as resoundingly successful as it is.

17. I must also commend my colleague the Minister of Agriculture, Honourable Christian De Graaff, and his team for having successfully organized this event. It takes a great effort and dedication to organize an event of this magnitude.

18. It is now my pleasure to declare the 2009 National Agricultural Show officially opened. I thank you Ladies and Gentlemen for the courtesy of your kind attention. PULA BAGETSHO!!!

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