Agro project to cut Botswana’s imports

An agro-infrastructure project that will give Botswana’s farmers access to a road network, a drainage system, and water control is expected to cut Botswana’s import bill, says Botswana’s agriculture deputy secretary.

Leslie Botshoma, the deputy secretary of the ministry of agriculture, said this while addressing local farmers during an inspection tour to assess the progress of the project which is funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB), and was approved in 2009.

The project is planned to be completed by the end of September in Pandamatenga, some 910 km north-west of the capital, Gaborone, and was set out to ensure that the country’s import bill funds are used locally.

“The principal objective of the project was to ensure good and successful production and eventually cut the import bill by half,” said Botshoma.

Under the project, some 270 kilometres of tarred and gravel roads have been built, in addition to the 370 km long drains.

Botswana’s import bill is currently estimated at US$800 million, said Botshoma. Herman Venter, chairperson of the Pandamatenga Commercial Farmers Association, said thanks to the project, there had been a period when farms were not water-logged.

“Water-logging was so extreme at Pandamatenga Farms due to a poor drainage system. As farmers, we are confident that we will be filling the silos and definitely cut the import bill by a significant percentage,” added Venter.

The infrastructural development project is expected to benefit local farming further. Some farmers have started growing mung beans due to a huge demand from China and several other Asian countries.

Pandamatenga now exports 20 000 tonnes of beans annually to China, India and Canada.