Botswana: Conservation Agriculture Way to Go

Farmers in the Letlhakeng Sub-district have been advised to shift from the conventional methods of farming to embrace conservation agriculture.

Addressing ISPAAD stakeholders during a meeting to review the immediate past ploughing season in Letlhakeng on Thursday, the Kweneng West agronomy officer, Ms Evelyn Ramontshonyane said conservation agriculture was inevitable in this era of climate change where rains were scarce and only lasted for a shorter period of time.

“A few years back, the ploughing season used to start in December and lasted until January, but these days January is the time that rains start to fall, albeit for only a short period. This then calls for a shift in our ploughing season and methods,” she said.

Ms Ramontshonyane noted conservation agriculture had many advantages such as allowing a farmer to rotate crops seasonally, which helped preserve soil fertility especially if leguminous crops such as beans and peanuts were included.

Ms Ramontshonyane also indicated that conservation agriculture also had minimal soil disturbance and allowed mulching, which therefore led to the conservation of the much needed moisture.

She said this was a big advantage compared to a conventional method of ploughing using the mould plough that overturned a large chunk of soil and led to loss of moisture. She also indicated that the method had been tried and it produced better results than conventional methods of farming.

She further indicated that their office has held demonstrations in some clusters such as Moshaweng, and are planning to go around the sub district demonstrating to other farmers in the area.

Ms Ramontshonyane advised farmers in the area to up their scale of production and graduate from up-coming to emerging and ultimately commercial farmers, with the latter only being two in the region.

For their part, tractor owners complained that the department takes a long to pay them, something that they said makes their job difficult as they normally borrow some money to kick-start the ploughing season.

One of the farmers, Mr Joel Kgano also advised that assessment of yields after harvesting should be done by agricultural demonstrators rather than relying on farmers verbal reports as farmers are likely to either under or over-report.

“This will then give a wrong impression of the success or failures of ISPAAD, but with agricultural demonstrators themselves assessing the yields, we are sure of correct reporting and honest assessment of the programme,” he said.

In his vote of thanks, another farmer, Mr Lentswe Mosanako of Maboane encouraged fellow farmers to ensure that the country was food sufficient, something he said could only be achieved by taking the advice of experts through platforms such as workshops and field days.

He therefore urged farmers in the area to fully utilise the fertile lands in areas such as Maboane, and that they should take farming seriously like they would a formal job.

He also advised fellow farmers to take the welfare of their employees such as tractor operators seriously as a happy employee produces good results.

Source: Botswana Daily News.