Farmers in Pandamatenga have been reassured that they all stand to benefit from planned developments in the production area that include establishment of the Pandamatenga Special Economic Zone (SEZ) and the Zambezi Integrated Agro-Commercial Development Project (ZIACDP).
This was said by Acting Director of Policy at the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA), Jayson Sechele, during a recent consultative meeting with farmers by Assistant Ministers Beauty Manake and Molebatsi Molebatsi of Agricultural Development and Food Security and of Investment Trade and Industry respectively.
The tour was aimed at reviewing government’s investment in the agriculture sector and liaising with agro-producers to better understand their needs and challenges.
The farmers had raised complaints that there was no clear indication of how they stand to benefit from the envisaged Pandamatenga SEZ and ZIACDP. Sechele said SEZA had consulted extensively with Chobe District Council, Chobe Land Board and farmers on establishment of the Pandamatenga SEZ.
“Subsistence farmers in the Chobe region endorsed the SEZ and even asked to be included as part of the agro-production zone, which we accepted,” he explained. “In that regard, the 12 000 hectares currently used by subsistence farmers will be part of the Pandamatenga SEZ.”
However, commercial farmers complained that they will not benefit from the financial incentives offered under SEZA as they will not be licensed as SEZ investors. In response, Sechele said all farmers in Pandamatenga will benefit from the non-financial incentives that include infrastructure such as access roads, storm water drainage and power supply.
“The Pandamatenga SEZ offers an opportunity for farmers to grow and produce optimally,” he said. “SEZA will also bring on site a bouquet of support services like the one-stop shop, which will further improve productivity.”
Pandamatenga has been zoned as an agropolis SEZ with opportunities for investment in cereal production, agro-processing, water management solutions and pesticide and fertilizer production. The 96 500ha agro production zone comprises 44 500ha of existing commercial farming land and 12 000 ha occupied by subsistent farmers.
A proposed 40 000ha will be used for production of cereals like maize, sorghum, millet, wheat and barley; legumes like beans, chickpeas, groundnuts; oil seeds, fruits and vegetables.
“107.4ha in northern Pandamatenga has been reserved for processing of farm produce mainly for export. The zone thus comprises mainly light industrial land with supporting land for commercial, residential, civic and community use,” Sechele said.
The Pandamatenga SEZ is located 100km from Kasane-Kazungula, the country’s tourism hub. Kasane is a developed township with modern facilities and an international airport. It is also home to the Chobe National Park, at which the big five and other wildlife species can be found.