Bots looks up to Australia to fight hunger
Botswana is grappling with the challenge of turning its agricultural sector around to meet local food demand and has pinned its hope on Australia to come to its aid. This was revealed by Minister of Agriculture Christian De Graaff during a visit by Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Stephen Smith. “We continue to rely heavily on food imports. The agricultural sector produced less than half the country’s basic food requirements mainly due to the fact that production was not commercialized. As such, the country had a challenge to commercialize the sector to improve productivity,” he said. The minister said Botswana was working on developing appropriate technologies, training of farmers and extension workers as well as supporting youth to participate in agriculture. ‘Other initiatives include improving the bio-security and total management of the value chain of agricultural production. Agriculture is one of the sectors that continue to benefit from the partnership and cooperation Australia and Botswana forged such as support of the plant quarantine system,” he said. According to De Graaff such assistance covered training of Batswana in pest risk analysis and other bio-security areas as well as structuring of plant quarantine activities, cooperation in livestock identification and traceback system. “Australia plays a major role in establishment of the livestock identification and traceback system as Botswana benchmarked in Australia to meet international beef market requirements. Botswana also continues to procure some livestock identification equipment from Australian companies,” he said. He said the two countries also cooperated in the restructuring of the Botswana Meat Commission. “Botswana appreciates Australia’s support and is committed to sustaining the cooperation to benefit the agriculture sector as it is the livelihood of most Batswana particularly those in rural areas,” he said. Bushfire management was another area where Botswana continued to benefit from its cooperation with Australia since the two countries experienced almost similar weather conditions. Smith said Botswana and Australia shared common interests and could still do more on issues of defence, peace and security, agriculture as well as human development. “It is imperative for Botswana to build human capacity through strengthening of the education and knowledge systems for its people. Let me assure Batswana that Australia is committed to assisting your country with the technical expertise to diversify the economy,” he said.