Collaborates with BRCS

Botswana Red Cross Society (BRCS) has in the past three years strengthened and re-established its relevance in community humanitarian services and reached out to more than 1.5 million beneficiaries across the country with different interventions.

Their latest is the launch of over P3.6 million-community horticultural farm in Gweta through their partnership with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the Japanese Government through the Japanese Embassy in Botswana.

According to BRCS Secretary General, Kutlwano Mukokomani, the farm sits on a 9ha land and has absorbed over 50 community farmers to equip them with training in horticulture and agribusiness.

Mukokomani says project’s beneficiaries also have access to infrastructure that includes a fully equipped borehole, irrigation system, farming inputs and affordable technical support by a full time Horticulture specialist.

Mukokomani believes that this initiative augments government efforts in alleviating human suffering by providing services to the most vulnerable in communities across Botswana.

“The Gweta community farm formed part of our 2021 Covid-19 food security Relief Project, which targeted and assisted 350 families with food items to the value of P750 per month for a continuous period of five months,” he said.

He added that BRCS has noticed that the key to food security is continuous and systematic access to food that is sufficient in quantity and quality.

Currently, the community farm is doing well and is producing 1.5 tonnes of fresh vegetables per month, which are supplied to local supermarkets like Choppies and Saverite including those in surrounding villages.

This is seen as aligned to the government agenda of promoting local production of vegetables and reducing the import bill.

“We believe the farm is in the right direction and will help resolve the food insecurity issues in the Gweta community,” Mukokomani said. Japanese Representative, Sayuri Himero said the Covid-19 pandemic demonstrated the need for a country’s self-reliance, adding that the drastic measures recently taken to close borders to agricultural produce is also indicative of the Botswana’s need to curb its over dependence on other countries.

“This project is successfully providing food assistance, capacity development and horticultural equipment and training in the Kgalagadi and Central Districts,” she said.

Himero explained that through the IFRC, Japan contributed the P3.6 million in response to the food and nutrition insecurity caused by Covid and to the re-establishment of subsistence farming activities in the area.

She said this is in line with the commitment made by Japan during the 7th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD 7), to contribute to the establishment of a resilient and sustainable societies in Africa.

At the TICAD 8 that took place in Tunisia in August this year, it was announced that over the next three years, Japan is going to invest US$30 billion in various sectors, including food security in Africa.

In January 2021, the government of Japan also announced the support for an Economic and Social Development Programme, with grant aid amounting to approximately P53 million for the provision of agricultural machineries and materials to mitigate the negative impact of Covid-19.

“This grant aid project will provide agricultural machineries and materials including walking tractors, vegetable driers and greenhouses that will help to modernise Botswana’s agriculture sector.

“We are expecting these machineries to be handed over to the Government of Botswana in 2023,” she said, adding that the Government of Japan intends to offer as much support as possible towards the improvement of Botswana’s agricultural environment and economic recovery.

Director of Food Production in the Ministry of Agriculture, Diirilwe Matoto said this initiative creates an opportunity for local producers like Gweta community horticultural farm, as the sub sector contributes only 40 percent of the national demand and 60 percent is met by importation.

“Food production is a cornerstone for every economy and as government we are committed to the development of farming in general, horticultural production in particular since it is through such endeavours that we can attain food security,” Matoto said.