NFTRC Graces Letsema Celebrations
A team of National Food Technology Research Centre (NFTRC) last week participated at the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security’s letsema event which was held at Takatokwane Village in the Kweneng west region.
The event which was officiated under the theme, “Practicing Smart Ag-riculture to attain Food Security” brought farmers from all the ten re-gions of Botswana together as well as other stakeholders in the agri-culture sector in a bid to tackle challenges that food security is faced with in the country as well as forming a platform for exchange of ideas.
All participants were privileged to visit selected agricultural projects in line with the theme of the event. The three projects visited included an integrated farm owned by Mr Robert Phetogo, a poultry project ran by Poverty Eradication beneficiary Ms Dineo Ramonyelenyele and a commercial crop farm owned by Elias Ramusu representing rain fed agriculture.
Mr Ramusu ploughs a total of 1300 hectares with 860 hectares at Maboane and the rest at Phuduhudu. At Maboane alone he ploughed 100 hectares of the red maize commonly known as the 506 variety, 400 hectares is the white maize commonly known as 411 variety, the rest of the ploughed area was mostly beans and a little bit of sorghum.
When asked about how he came about deciding how much of each commodity to plough he stated that he was driven by the fact that Batswana mostly consume white maize meal, hence more hectares required to produce the white maize (411 Seed Co variety).
Mr Ramusu stated that he uses liquid fertilizer and chemicals for weed control.
The poultry project (Prosperity Eggs) is ran by a poverty eradication beneficiary in Maboane village, Ms Dineo Ra-monyelenyele. She got her assistance in July 2016 and keeps a total of 48 layers. This project supplies eggs in the area mostly at Maboane clinic and Mahupu Unified School in Takatokwane.
The project gets continuous mentoring and assistance from Feed Centre in Gaborone as well as the regional agricultural office. When asked about the challenges the project was faced with, Ms Ramonyelenyele stated that at the inception stage, she lost a lot of chickens due to feeding them with the local water but was later advised to boil the water first before giving it to the chickens to getrid of excess salts. She said since practising that now there is a sign of stock survival and the business is progressing well.
The team visited Mr Robert Phetogo’s farm from Serowe who practices integrated farming in Maboane lands. He operates a 30 hectares farm and his crops include lab-lab, sunflower, maize and sorghum.
He said he occasionally practices crop rotation as a form of pest control. Mr phetogo got most of his assistance through the Ministry of Agriculture to acquire; a solar operated borehole, reservoir, storage facility and grass cutting equipment. He said he cuts the grass frequently to process fodder for small stock which he keeps in the farm and also assists as a fire breaker.
Mr Phetogo said the major challenge he faces is lab-lab, indicating that though it’s a good source of protein for his animals, it is also prone to spoilage. He said that one has to practice good storage to stop fungal attack as the product is weather sensitive.
When briefing farmers NFTRC’s Acting Managing Director Dr Martin Kebakile said NFTRC is an institution with laboratories for analysing and testing foods as well as training programmes to equip interested individuals with food processing skills. He said NFTRC has food processing department where product development takes place by well qualified personnel for better delivery.
Speaking during the official opening His Excellency the Vice President of the Republic of Botswana Mokgweetsi Masisi said Botswana land is a gift from God therefore must be utilised and preserved as it does not grow old but people do. Mr Masisi alerted the farmers that they should be on the lookout for the coming developments because the parliament has recently passed new bills namely the tribal range bill and ranches bill, whose purpose are to aid food security efforts in the country.
He urged farmers not to allocate land for them-selves or to extend their plots without Land Board consent adding that the law of Botswana supports agricultural development therefore farmers must enhance their farming methods to be competitive.
He encouraged farmers to build toilets at cattle posts as well as at their farms to elude the spread of diseases such as measles which culminates to poor productivity.
“As a developing country we must work hard and develop or processes and our raw materials in order to bargain a better income,” Mr Masisi said. When enlightening farmers on related matters, he said some boreholes produces good water therefore can be purified and processed through the skills acquired at NFTRC.
He said farmers must be able to produce better harvest despite harsh weather conditions, taking Israel as an example.
He further urged farmers to strive to make farming interesting to the youth in order to get them interest-ed. He concluded by encouraging farmers to use the latest technology which is highly regarded by today youths to attract them into agriculture.
On his part Assistant Minister of Agricultural Devel-opment and Food Security Mr. Kgotla Autlwetse said the government spent 7.5 million importing food from neighbouring countries.
Mr Autlwetse concluded by saying Batswana must work hard and manage their farms in order to feed not only their families but the nation as a whole.