Botswana first formulated a
national policy on agricultural development
in 1991. At the time, identified development objectives aimed to improve food security, diversify production base, increase output and productivity, increase employment, and provide a secure and productive environment for producers and conserve of agricultural land resources for future generation. An analysis of the evolution of policy objectives since independence shows that the major policy change was the abandonment of food self-sufficiency and its replacement with the broader food security strategy in 1991. While food self-sufficiency meant promotion of domestic production of food-grains at all cost, food security is concerned with access to food at affordable prices, irrespective of the source of such food. Thus, imports would also play an important role as a source of food. These aspirations are also reflected in the revised national food strategy of 2002 which calls for policy to promote commodities based on comparative advantage and to concentrate public support on the provision of public goods such as infrastructure and research and development.
Rationale for Policy Review
The National policy on Agriculture is currently under review. The need to review the policy comes from the fact that since the launching of the first policy in 1991, a number of macro and sector specific developments as well as international conventions and commitments, which have a bearing on agriculture, have taken place. At a macro level, Botswana adopted Vision 2016 as an overarching strategy for social and economic development. One of the aspirations of Vision 2016 is to eradicate absolute poverty by the year 2016. In addition, Botswana adopted a National Strategy for Poverty Reduction (NSPR) in 2003, to allow for a coordinated approach to poverty reduction. Given the high incidence of poverty in rural areas, agriculture has a role to play in contributing to the achievement of poverty reduction targets. The introduction of the 10 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) as a broad-based tax on consumption in 2002 was another important development with a direct bearing on agriculture. In an effort to support the agricultural sector, a number of agricultural products and farming inputs were given special treatment, through either exemption or zero rating. Botswana also adopted a crawling band exchange rate mechanism in 2005, to replace the fixed peg regime. This was one of the measures aimed at creating an export price competitiveness of domestically produced commodities.
Still at a macro level, economy-wide schemes such as the Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) established in 2001 and the Local Enterprise Authority (LEA) established in 2004, have also extended support to agriculture through the provision of grants, low interest loans and support services to the local industry needs of Small Medium and Micro Enterprises encompassing training, market access facilitation, mentoring, business plan finalisation as well as facilitation and of technology adaptation and adoption. A Young Farmers Fund (YFF) offered by CEDA was also launched, in 2006 to issue loans at lower interest rates and longer repayment periods than the regular CEDA programme.
At a sectoral level, a number of production-level programmes, some of which were started before 1991 but ran through that period, were targeted at different agricultural sub sectors. In arable agriculture, key programmes were the Arable Lands Development Programme - ALDEP (1981 to 2008), Accelerated Rainfed Arable Programme – ARAP (1985/86 to 1995/96), National Master Plan for Arable Agriculture and Dairy Development – NAMPAADD (2002 to date) and the Integrated Support Programme for Arable Agriculture Development – ISPAAD (2008 to date).
In the livestock sub sector, key support programmes have included the Fencing Component of the 1991 Agricultural Policy and the Livestock Management and Infrastructure Development - LIMID (1997 to date).
Market level support has involved grain and beef state trading, respectively, under the auspices of the Botswana Agricultural Marketing Board (BAMB) and the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC). An important development was the liberalisation of the grain industry in 1991, to improve competitiveness and to lower prices for grain. Since then, BAMB was mandated to adopt import parity pricing and its import monopsony was removed to ensure lower staple food prices. To achieve import parity prices, BAMB currently sets producer prices based on monthly prices posted by the South African Futures Exchanges, adjusted for transport costs, moisture, impurities and BAMB’s mark-up. In the cattle industry, important developments included the overhauling of the livestock industry through the passing of the Livestock Improvement Act into a law in 2009 as well as initiating the process to review the BMC Act. Also, at a sectoral level, the government has recently made efforts to commercialise agricultural operations through a number of initiatives.
Internationally and regionally, a number of initiatives are worth recognising in the policy development process. Among the major ones are the Millennium Development Goals for reducing hunger and poverty by half come 2015; the Dar-es-salaam Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security which recognises the importance of the agricultural sector in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region; the Maputo declaration which requires that SADC members states allocate at least 10 percent of their national budget to agriculture.
In view of all these developments, it is imperative that Botswana should develop a new agricultural sector strategy.