‘You must be joking!’

SCATHING: Sekeletu(L),IN THE FIRING LINE: Molebatsi(R)

Ngamiland farmers laugh off govt’s advice to increase their cattle herds

Disbelieving farmers in Ngamiland have let out a snort of disgust at government’s recommendation that they increase their dwindling cattle herds.

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The advice to boost cow numbers was delivered by Assistant Minister of Agriculture, Molebatsi Molabatsi, who noted the country’s beef industry has potential for investment and good economic returns.

Speaking at a meeting with farmers in Maun last week, Molebatsi pointed out that not so long ago, Botswana’s cattle population exceeded 3 million – a figure that now stands at 1.7 million.

“This needs to be recovered!” he declared.

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To achieve this, Molebatsi revealed govt is helping farmers with cattle semen, medicines and feed subsidies among other programmes.

“We know our country is small and therefore we cannot consume all the beef that will be produced, but we are looking at exportation,” he explained, adding his ministry is in talks with several countries – listing United Arab Emirates, China and USA and Nigeria among others.

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Growing increasingly agitated as the Assistant Minister continued with his speech, the farmers insisted there was one big problem to his little plan: they simply don’t have the land to accommodate more cattle.

Making this point, local farmer, Gakegake Sekeletu said many farms in Ngamiland are already overcrowded.

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He is in no doubt who is to blame for this: the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC)!

Meant to be actively involved in the buying and exporting of beef, Sekeletu accused the BMC of failing farmers.

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“How can I crowd my ranch with cattle when there is no market, what will I do with them? We sell to BMC but it takes six months before they pay us. We will end up over-stocking; for instance my ranch’s holding capacity is 400 cattle but I currently have 500 because there is no market to sell, so Minister don’t play jokes on us,” seethed Sekeletu.

Expressing similar frustrations, another farmer, Kebitsang Ledimo said the farming community had been fed too many empty promises from the nation’s leaders, including the same Molebatsi standing before them.

“Take for instance when you were with the President in Tsau very recently, you announced that since this year is a drought season and you realised challenges facing farmers, feeds will be subsidised with immediate effect. Farmers were excited about it only to be disappointed because when they tried to buy feeds your officers claimed not to be aware of the said subsidies!”

Other issues raised included Ngamiland’s well-documented Foot and Mouth woes, which has kept the zone red for many years, making it difficult for meat from the area to penetrate the international market due to the stigma associated with the beef.

Making more promises, the Agricultural ministry maintained that in the very near future, Ngamiland is likely to be declared a green zone, with World Animal Health injecting P100 million for maintenance of cordon fences, including the buffalo fence in the Okavango Delta area.

Buffaloes are known to be Foot and Mouth carriers and are restricted from mixing with livestock for disease control purposes.

'You must be joking!'
UNIMPRESSED: Ngamiland farmers
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