Over the past years, the government has made a lot of cash injections into the agricultural sector in a bid to create employment and diversify in the economy. Various initiatives have been established to support farmers against challenges like limited rainfall and outbreaks of livestock diseases.
In addition, some agricultural projects, such as the Integrated Support Programme for Arable Agriculture Development (ISPAAD) and the Livestock Management and Infrastructure Development (LIMID), are currently being reviewed by the government to enhance their efficiency and effectiveness.
According to available statistics, employment in the agriculture sector was reported at a significant 20.39 percent of total employment in 2020, a rise from 19.9 percent in 2019. This is logical, given the import bans that were instituted for a considerable variery of agricultural produce, leading to more local production as more land was cleared for crop production. However, despite the employment opportunities created in this sector, agriculture continues to top when it comes to imported labour.
A recent Work Permits Holder 4th Quarter 2020 Report by Statistics Botswana presents figures of employee and self-employed work permit holders’ distribution by industry. According to the report, the highest proportion of employee and self-employed work permit holders (combined) were registered for Agriculture at 23.9 percent, followed by Education at 15.5 percent and Construction at 12.7 percent of work permit holders.
A closer look at the employee permit holders separately reveals that Agriculture still tops at 26.3 percent, followed by Education at 17.8 percent and Construction at 13.3 percent. The sector with the least proportion of imported labour is Foreign Missions (also known as the Diplomatic Missions) with 0.5 percent of total labour.
A further analysis in the type of imported labour in agriculture reveals, as confirmed by one local farmer, that more foreigners usually apply for permits as farm labourers to help with strenuous jobs like land preparation, weeding, cultivation, ploughing and harvesting. There is a common belief that Batswana are not very keen on taking up laborious jobs that are also among the lowest in remuneration, hence farmers are left with no option but to engage foreigners.
This is confirmed by the Statistics Botswana report where skilled agricultural workers make up only 0.9 percent while elementary occupations account for 27.2 percent of the total labour. These numbers are likely to be higher, considering that there are people working illegally on farms.
The Wholesale and Retail industries top in self-employed work permits with a proportion of 27.5 percent while Finance is at the bottom with 0.4 percent. This is an indication that more expatriates who come to Botswana to do business are targeting wholesale and retailing businesses.
The overall trend in the issuance and renewal of work permits has been on a decline for the past 10 years. The report states that in 2011, the total number of work permits issued in all industries was 10,054 compared to 3,324 in 2020, a decline of more than 60 percent. This downward trend is expected to continue with the advent of COVID-19 where travel restrictions have reduced movement across borders tremendously. On the other hand, the economic hardships resultant from the pandemic also leave little or no choice in the type of jobs to take up as most jobs have been cut off, especially for elementary occupations.
Agriculture, which is among the surviving industries during the pandemic because of the need for food, is likely to see an upsurge in more locals getting involved not only in running their own farms but taking it up as employment as well.
This article was prepared by Data Collection & Analysis (DCA), a business market research and surveys firm. Feedback or inquiries can be relayed to 76 740 658/ firstname.lastname@example.org.