Road network to improve production at Pandamatenga farms
The Pandamatenga Agricultural Infrastructure Project is expected to boost production at Panda farms and consequently reduce the food import bill.
The project, developed at a cost of P600 million, entailed construction of a 270km road network within the farms as well as drainages to reduce water logging.
Previously, according to Pandamatenga Commercial Farmers Association Chairman, Hermann Venter, farmers found it extremely difficult to access their farms during rainy period due to poor road networks, which were regularly waterlogged.
Fortunately, in 2009 government came to their rescue when US$60.2 million was secured from the African Development Bank to finance the costly project.
Pandamatenga farms are run by 54 farmers, who predominantly grow sorghumas well as maize and beans among others.
The area is considered the breadbasket of Botswana due to its ability to produce massive yields.
Speaking to journalists during a recent media tour of the project, Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security, Lesley Botshoma admitted government is worried about the food import bill, which he revealed stands at around P8 billion andgrowing.
“We want to find ways and means of ensuring that we reduce that food import bill. That P8 billion could be money utilized within the country and it’s by no means small change!” emphasised the deputy PS, adding the project was undertaken to ensure production improves as well to make sure access to the production area is of top notch.
However, government’s efforts come at a time when drought has tormented the land, withPanda farms recording yields much lower than previous years.
In the immediate past ploughing season, 10, 140 hectares were ploughed at Panda farms compared to 38, 305 hectares planted in the previous season.
For his part, the Project Coordinator, Stanley Semetsa explained it was previously impossible to move around the farm during rainy season,even when using a four-wheel drive vehicle.
With these kinds of problems facing the farmers, Semetsa revealed government approached the African Development Bank for a development of infrastructure loan, which involved roads and drains as well as part of the fence.
The loan was approved in April 2009 with the projectinitially meant to take four years to complete.
However, because the designs were done before the bank was approached, Semetsa said the project had to be repackaged to see how best to improve what was initially designed.
When it was approved, Semetsa said the loan was to cover approximately 27, 000 hectares but during the course of the project, the area was increased to 45, 000 hectares.
“We increased after we took a review of the works and realised that we have savings, and with these savings we could manage to do the whole 45, 000 hectares,” stated Semetsa who is confident the project will relieve the farmers.
The project was divided into two phases, with the first starting in 2011 and ending in 2015, with the second commencing in 2014 and completed in 2016.