Within a few months of its launch, Temo Letlotlo, a government’s flagship productivity-output-led programme continues to encounter implementation challenges hampering its smooth take-off.
Fidelis Molao, the Minister of Agriculture indicated this recently when updating Parliament on the program’s progress since it launched in November 2023.
Despite Temo Letlotlo steaming ahead with Molao noting that approximately 105,000 farmers are registered on the Temo Crop Management System, the program has encountered teething problems, particularly a need for more human capital and transport.
“Critical to the implementation of Temo Letlotlo is the capacity of extension services in terms of human resources and transport requirements. The Ministry of Agriculture currently has 257 extension officers with each officer overseeing at least farmers,” he said.
Molao explained that to mitigate this, the plan is to reduce the number of farmers per extension officer to 120 and the ministry has engaged 244 extension officers temporarily to complement the existing staff and facilitate farmers in the current cropping season.
“The long-term solution to improving extension delivery is to outsource the service to private players. The ministry has developed invitations to tender (ITT) for the acquisition of extension services from the private sector and the companies that will be contracted or awarded these tenders are expected to employ close to 601 extension officers who are currently unemployed,” he elaborated.
While the Ministry of Transport & Communications availed 87 vehicles over the festive season to assist in transporting extension officers to increase outreach, Molao said his ministry is currently exploring long-term solutions for the transport challenge.
Other challenges that the program is facing as implementation is in progress include farmers in the Chobe and Okavango Districts practicing molapo farming who according to Molao used their resources to secure draught power services because the program inputs were not yet accessible as their ploughing season started in August earlier before the program was unveiled.
“The uptake of fertilizer is slow, particularly in areas such as Mahalapye, Palapye and Serowe as farmers are still skeptical about the use of fertilizers. Public campaigns are ongoing to educate and encourage farmers on fertilizer use. The concept of the tema ke kgetsi initiative, which has been misinterpreted by farmers across the country, also posed a challenge to the successful implementation of the program. Suppliers under the micro-scale component are still slow to share their KYC information to facilitate payments. Network issues across the country for our extension services are also a challenge, he added.
Molao revealed that his ministry has intervened in some of the challenges by providing alternative gadgets with different mobile networks to ease network issues and additionally authorised extension officers to work on weekends to reduce the backlog. Landboards have also come on board to issue resolutions to authenticate ploughing fields where ownership certificates have not been issued.
Launched in November 2023, Temo Letlotlo aims to support micro, small, medium and large farmers through financial assistance and the provision of inputs to promote food security and self-sufficiency.
It caters for two components; household food security and national food security. The first component targets micro-scale farmers providing them with a 100 percent subsidy. Expectations are that these farmers would be capacitated through input supplies to grow enough crops to meet their household food security needs.
The second component targets individuals, small, medium and large-scale farmers, and clusters providing them with seasonal loans at prime rates through the National Development Bank (NDB). This component produces grain on a commercial base, which Molao said is marketed through the Botswana Agricultural Marketing Board (BAMB) and other various channels to meet the national food security needs and ultimately export the surplus.
Temo Letlotlo is multi-sectoral comprising various ministries, state-owned enterprises and the private sector as role players.
“The role of the government in Temo Letlotlo is limited to planning, regulation, promotion and coordination to improve an enabling business environment in the agricultural sector,” he told legislators,” Molao told legislators.
Delivering the budget speech recently, Finance Minister Peggy Serame revealed that another flagship programme, Thuo Letlotlo is to be launched in the 2024/2025 financial year. The programme is expected to catalyze the animal production sector by increasing the national herd, enhancing the quality of the breed and enabling Batswana to take advantage of the Government’s Artificial Insemination programme aimed at improving the current quantity and quality of breeding stock across the country.
Serame highlighted that the 2024/25 budget recognizes agriculture as one of the critical sectors in the economy with its proposed budget being substantially increased.