After an enduring relationship with the National Development Bank (NDB), businessman Monty Chiepe is now readying to convert his stud breeding enterprise into an international operation that will revolutionise farming in Botswana.
The company, Impact Genetics Botswana, breeds cattle that are capable of producing prime beef for export markets and are best suited for Botswana’s harsh climatic conditions. This is achieved using embryo transfer technology, which involves superovulation, followed by artificial insemination, flushing the uterus to gather embryos and in vitro fertilisation. The embryos are then matured and implanted into surrogate females.
Chiepe’s business was motivated by his realisation that agriculture’s contribution to the national economy has regressed to negligible levels over the years, largely because of climate change and the fact that many people do not approach agriculture as a business, but a retirement pursuit.
“We have regressed as a country because we don’t treat agriculture as a business. Instead, we approach it as a hobby for retirees. Further, Africa’s harsh climate makes agriculture very risky. But we can change all this and make agriculture very profitable by using the right technology,” he said during a recent media tour organised by NDB.
Over the years he was fortunate to travel the world and benchmark with internationally renowned Brahman stud breeders in the United States and Brazil. Using the lessons learnt from his international travels, Chiepe set up an artificial insemination and embryo transfer plant using heifers, top-quality semen and embryos purchased from leading Brahman breeders. Through genetics, Chiepe was able to identify technology that stimulates egg production, fertilise the egg with quality sperm and facilitate mass production of quality animals.
“This technology enables us to produce lots of quality animals in one year, instead of the current situation where one cow only breeds one calf per year,” said Chiepe.
Further, he said, embryo transfer technology will be able to solve the problem of high mortality rates and low productivity levels in African herds. The ability to apply technology in breeding will enable farmers to predict the value of their animals and play a more meaningful role on the beef industry value chain. Going forward, Chiepe intends to avail the technology to local farmers at affordable rates, a move that he says will change farming in Botswana completely.
“We have designed models that will enable us to achieve this and we must now seek international capital. We also intend to export semen and embryos,” said Chiepe.
For her part, NDB Head of Client Services Sethunya Gaolebogwe said agriculture has always been a major focus for the bank, as it places a lot of emphasis on food security, economic diversification and citizen empowerment.
“Projects such as this one are very comforting because they bring solutions. Agriculture has always been troubled by drought and animal diseases, which rendered some farmers unable to service their loans with NDB. That said, we are proud to have been part of Mr. Chiepe’s growth because we started with him from the beginning,” she said.