Monday, August 3, 2009

Remarks by H.H. the Vice President Lt.Gen.Mompati S. Merafhe, MP at the Official Opening of the Letlhakeng Sub-District Agricultural Show

source: Republic of Botswana (1/8/09): TAUTONA TIMES no 19 of 2009
The Electronic Press Circular of the Office of the President
"Democracy, Development, Dignity and Discipline"


[Salutations]...Ladies & Gentlemen,

1. It was indeed a pleasure for me to receive an invitation from the Letlhakeng Show Committee to come and join you this morning as you celebrate the holding of the 2009 Letlhakeng District Agricultural Show. It is pleasing to know that agricultural shows in this sub - district have been held without fail for the past fourteen years since the inaugural one in 1994. That this has happened amid challenges such as the loss of interest in farming by most of Botswana youth and spells of drought that our country has experienced over the years is commendable. It is not a secret that while most districts abandoned holding agricultural shows as a result of these challenges, Letlhakeng sub-district soldiered on.

2. Director of Ceremonies, agricultural shows still remain an important platform through which farmers and other entrepreneurs showcase their achievements. They help those involved to learn from each other, to market products and most importantly to promote a culture of competitiveness which is necessary for our survival in modern times. Agricultural shows therefore serve as important vehicles in efforts for propelling this country towards attaining food security.

3. Food security in Botswana is important, particularly that we can no longer rely on importing large quantities of food from other countries due to the effects of the prevailing world economic recession. It is for this reason, Director of Ceremonies, that I was particularly elated when I learnt that the Letlhakeng Show Committee has come up with a theme which says: "AGRICULTURE: MITIGATION TO THE ECONOMIC CRISIS". This theme no doubt creates awareness that agriculture can make our country prosper, and thus become less dependent on imports or donor organisations for food. It also promotes the awareness that effective farming methods will increase the contribution that the agricultural sector makes to our Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Farming should therefore no longer be perceived as just a part time vocation, but a viable source of employment with the potential to help our country reduce the current levels of unemployment.

4. Director of Ceremonies, Government continues to facilitate increased agricultural production through the introduction of support schemes to Batswana. These schemes include the Integrated Support Programme for Arable Agriculture Development (ISPAAD), which assists farmers with draught power in the form of tractors as well as the provision of inputs such as seeds and fertilizers, to boost crop production. The introduction of this programme has led to an increase in the number of farmers who have ploughed their fields during the 2008/09 cropping season as compared to the previous seasons. The expected national grain yield for this season, as a result, is in excess of 93 000 metric tons, which is a great success when compared to the yield of only 43 000 metric tons realized in the last season.

5. The uptake of ISPAAD in this sub - district is equally encouraging. I have been informed that this season 3 331 farmers have taken advantage of the programme, ploughing a total of 11 995 hectares compared to only 1 326 farmers who ploughed 4 753 hectares during 2007/08 cropping season. It is however a cause for concern that there are some farmers who fail to take good care of their fields after they have been assisted through this programme. Most farmers do not weed their fields, and fail to scare away birds that destroy their crops.

6. Let me warn that if this kind of neglect continues there will be no further assistance for such farmers, because we cannot continue throwing good money for bad. I therefore want to take this opportunity to urge all farmers to start as early as now to prepare their fields for the next ploughing season, in fulfilment of the saying that; "Mosele wa pula o epiwa go sale gale", because ISPAAD will continue even in the next cropping season.

7. Director of Ceremonies, Ladies and Gentlemen, the livestock sector in Botswana continues to have a significant input in the contribution that agriculture makes towards the GDP. This is the reason why Government through the Ministry of Agriculture continues to invest heavily in this sector. This investment is in the form of free cattle vaccinations against Anthrax (Kwatsi), Quarter Evil (Serotswana) and Brucellosis (Pholotso) among others, as well as subsidies on other vaccines and stock feeds supplied through the Livestock Advisory Centres.

8. Government also provides free extension services to farmers which include diagnosis of animal ailments and general education about animal husbandry. These are services which farmers have to pay for in other countries.

9. Other initiatives geared towards the improvement of the quality of our livestock have been put in place by the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC), and these include:

* direct purchase of cattle from communal areas,
* the introduction of 24 hours offloading of cattle at the abattoir and
* the promotion of weaner production and feedlots.

10. Government also funds the construction of cattle loading ramps, which are available for use by all local farmers, and I am told this sub-district has seven such ramps. These are indeed measures that should turn farming into a profitable undertaking. I would like to urge more farmers to take advantage of the opportunities because they are meant for you.

11. Director of Ceremonies, I am fully aware that in the recent past there has been an increase in incidents of stock theft in Botswana, with the hardest hit districts being North East, Boteti, Kgatleng and Kweneng. To address this very worrying state of affairs the Botswana Police has established a Stock Theft Unit which is dedicated towards the fight against this vice. The Administration of Justice has also set up Stock Theft Courts which will no doubt speed up the resolution of cases of livestock theft. These courts are situated in Francistown, Letlhakane, Mochudi and Molepolole. I therefore want to urge farmers, and members of the community at large to support these initiatives by cooperating with the Police in their investigations and apprehension of suspects of stock theft cases.

12. It is also critical for farmers to ensure that their cattle are properly looked after as well as inserted with the Livestock Identification Trace back System or bolus, commonly known as "Omang wa dikgomo". The bolus creates the trace back system for our cattle which is a requirement of the European Union for Botswana beef to enter the European market.

13. Director of Ceremonies, it will be remiss of me to conclude my remarks without commending the Letlhakeng Show Committee for having worked tirelessly in organizing this event. The exhibitors and judges for the various categories also deserve to be commended for their dedication, the results for which we will cherish for many more years to come.

14. It is now a great pleasure for me to declare the 2009 Letlhakeng Sub-district show officially opened. Let me thank you Ladies and Gentlemen for your attention.

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