Government recently increased farming subsidies for all farmers to benefi t from the Integrated Support Programmed for Arable Agriculture Development (ISPAAD).
Farmers who have been categorized into three groups of subsistence, emerging and commercial farming will receive subsidies ranging from 100 per cent for subsistence farmers, 35 and 30 per cent for emerging and commercial farmers respectively.
In a spirit of unity, the Assistant Minister joined the farmers in a hymn and prayer. “We pray that the food production will improve.
Honestly for people to be found dying due to starvation in this country should not happen,” Molebatsi prayed.
After the launch Voice Money interviewed some of the farmers who expressed their views on the revised ISPAAD.
Emerging farmer from Pandamatenga, Simeon Msengwa(44) appreciated the repackaged incentives.
“Government should have also increased the number of hectares that they plough for us under ISPAAD.
It seems this time around they were only considering tractor owners and increased their payment from P400 to P800.
Government will only think of us later which will give us farmers a tough competition,” said Msengwa who owns a 33 hectare farm.
“However, the improved ploughing payments will entice more tractor owners who have in the past complained of high costs of spares and diesel,”said the father of three.
“But in summary ISPAAD is helping us, it is a favour because hybrid seed and fertiliser is very expensive.
We pay half and government pays the other half.
Of the 33 hectares I am ploughing government pays the first five hectares and the remaining 28 hectares I pay half of the cost while government foots the rest of the bill,” he continued.
“Life is a lot better since ISPAAD was introduced, unlike when we bore all the costs of farming,” said Msengwa who has been in the industry since 2008.
Gotso Wright who is also an emerging farmer who ploughs 30 hectares in the North West District said, ” Am pleased with the new ISPAAD guidelines, especially the one for the subsistence farmers which has put the minimum requirement for one to be assisted under ISPPAD to plough at least 5 hectares.
It will encourage most people, they will gain something in return.
Most of the farmers in my area were ploughing very small areas, for fear of failing to weed and ending up with our crops being choked by weeds,” she said.
“Even though farmers who only do row planting qualify for the incentive, those who are determined will use donkeys, cows and whatever you have to plant the right way.
Besides row planting is more productive anyhow.” she highlighted.
Wright who has been a farmer for 10 years said farming was the way to go.
“You farm not only to sustain your family but many others around you benefit.
We may work in the city and all over, but at the end of the day we all end up tilling the land,”said the 53- year old woman.
For Tshekelo Tsheko the new ISPAAD guidelines are a breath offresh air and have brought in new life into the arable farming sector.
“Most of us were in the dark and very anxious when other farmers asked about ISPAAD.
We have learnt a lot and we embrace these new initiatives with open arms, ”said Tsheko who is a Chairman of a farming association in Gunotsoga.
“We are now empowered and from now on we will move in the right direction.
Another thing is that this programme does not discriminate against any farmer whether rich , poor or disabled,” continued Tsheko from Chobe District who has managed to sell his produce to Botswana Agricultural Marketing Board for the past three years.
Meanwhile retired Deputy Permanent Secretary Edison Woto was of mixed opinion.
“In my opinion the new ISPAAD is good progress, because it recognizes that there are various categories of arable farmers.
The packages of the programme have been done in a such way they are relevant to the level of operation that one is engaged in.”
“ I am not very keen on the term of subsistence farmer because it implies that I only grow crops for consumption, but am growing crops for selling which is part of commercialisation.
But due to the 10 hectares I have I am under this category. But I do operations as commercial farmers.
My first gripe when it comes to this category is that the assistance is 100 per cent, so does not instil farming discipline in terms of commitment by the small scale farmers.”
He predicted the same wastage which was experienced prior to ISPAAD is likely to continue, unless subsistence farmers are required to give the same type of commitment which is required from commercial farmers.
“It is only fair to say the level of subsidy should have been increased for the small scale farmers.
Either by between 10 and 15 percent, but never up to 100 per cent.
People should show that commitment by having a share in the cost of their operations.
Just Like the emerging and commercial farmers who are being assisted with a subsidy of 35 and 30 per cent respectively,” said Woto, who farms in Tutume sub district.
The Chairman of the Panadamatenga Commercial Farmers Association said, “I am excited about it.
This will create growth and interest in the farming industry.
At the end of the day we have to have food for this country.
Our neighbours are suffering more and more each day due to climate changes.”
“As commercial farmers we are happy about the subsidy, it is a much appreciated bonus.
This is one of the only country in Africa where farmers are so well looked after.
We have to treasure and look after such treatment. It doesn’t happen anywhere in Africa,” said Tinnar Kruger.