Temo letlotlo’s growing pains

Baitshepi Sekgweng
GETTING HELP: Temo Letlotlo has proved fruitful for farmers

P45.3 million paid to seed suppliers and tractor owners….BUT… only 28, 213 of 129, 644 hectares ploughed

Although the 2023/24 cropping season has proved dry and hot, exactly as was expected, the drought has not dried up enthusiasm for government’s newly introduced Temo Letlotlo scheme.

Officially launched on 26 October last year, in just over three months a total of 105, 000 local farmers have already signed up for the programme!

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To date, 37, 376 subsistence farmers have received e-vouchers to buy seeds and pay for tillage services, for a distance covering 129, 644 hectares.

However, the lack of rains means only 28, 213 hectares has been ploughed so far (by 5, 082 farmers), leaving over 100, 000 hectares unploughed.

The programme has given out P43.5 million to seed suppliers while a further P1.8 million was paid to tractor service providers.

As of the beginning of February, National Development Bank (NDB) had processed a total of P28.4 million worth of loans, of which P12 million was approved for funding while P9.7 million was disbursed to farmers for the seasonal loans.

Under the interest subsidy facility, which supports commercial farmers who do not benefit directly under Temo Letlotlo due to their ploughing area exceeding 500 hectares, NDB has disbursed P101 million.

In terms of tractor and fencing applications, NDB approved 34 applications for the tractor and implement components and two for the fencing scheme, amounting to P5.6million and P58, 000 respectively.

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Giving an update on the programme during Tuesday’s parliament sitting, Minister of Agriculture Fidelis Molao said he was happy with the progress being made after a shaky start.

“The cropping season started at slow pace due to late rains and the launch of Temo Letlotlo programme, which encountered some teething implementation challenges at the inauguration stage. The registration of service providers in the programme to facilitate payments by farmers is ongoing with 188 outlets in the business of selling seeds registered across the country and already selling seeds to farmers ,” said Molao adding 2, 365 tractor owners have been registered under the programme while a further 1, 130 are being processed.

“The ministry has 257 extension officers with each officer overseeing at least 500 farmers but the plan is to reduce this number to 120. Currently 244 extension officers have been hired on short-term contract to complement existing numbers and facilitate farmers this cropping season. However, the long-term solution for improving extension delivery is to outsource this service to private sector,”‘ explained Molao.

Temo Letlotlo is a productivity led, reward based agro-ecological programme whose main aim is to improve Botswana’s food security at both household and national level.
The household component assists micro-scale farmers with 100 percent subsidy and targets the farming population whose monthly income is less than P4, 000 (initially this was set at P2, 500 but was later revised).

The national food security element, meanwhile, targets individual small-scale, medium scale, large scale farmers, groups and clusters.

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In order to increase productivity at farm level, as part of the programme Botswana Agricultural Marketing Board (BAMB) has distributed 59, 966 bags of fertilizers to 7, 488 micro scale farmers across the country.

Keen not to leave anyone behind, farmers using animal draught power (those that plough using donkeys) are also registered for service provision, with 947 such farmers benefiting to date.

Meanwhile, in an effort to enable farmers who could not plant a chance to complete their farming operations, although the ploughing season closed on Wednesday (14 February) south of Dibete, it was extended to 27 February in the north.

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