“When you grow your own food, you savor it more because of the effort it took to get it to the table.” As a nation we have seen the importance of being self-reliant and produce our own food, which has been even more amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic. As Regional Agriculture Manager at FNBB, my responsibilities include; successful implementation of the agriculture strategy for the Bank, ensuring that Agriculture Customer Value Propositions are being achieved, and providing guidance and solutions that best meet the needs of our clients.
The importance of our country’s food security, meaning the ability to produce the bulk of what we eat, is a key lesson that will propel us to provide for many generations to come and become economically stable. Currently, Botswana imports over 50% of all food commodities, mainly from our neighboring country South Africa, causing an annual import bill of P7.6 billion. Due to border closure, logistical constraints have caused disruptions leading to shortage of some food commodities in supermarkets.
In addition, the pandemic has demonstrated the importance of the agricultural sector, given its ability to support economic growth and create sustainable jobs. Around the time when Botswana gained independence, agriculture was contributing 30% to Botswana’s GDP. Today, this valuable sector contributes only 2%.
COVID-19 also teaches us that agribusinesses need to have risk management skills in place. It’s important for them to continuously review their logistics and supply chain and ensure that there are risk strategies put into place. Such risk strategies may involve stockpiling in order to cater for disruptions in the supply chain.
During recent years and more especially during this time of COVID-19, we have seen a tremendous rise in interest in agriculture among Batswana, both the young and old. To those that have shown interest, I wish to encourage them do it with immense passion, be excellent team players and most importantly understand that great results take time, thus requiring a great amount of patience.
As the saying goes, “never waste a crisis”, this period presents us with the opportunity to tap in to renewable energy, where energy can be produced using solar power, wind as well as biomass. With around 1.1 million cattle, we are now presented with the opportunity to produce energy using cow dung, for example.
FNBB is deliberate in providing tailormade solutions for the agribusiness sector. With each client seeking to solve for specific needs, the bank offers financing to empower farmers, insurance services for farm assets, crop and livestock as well as investment opportunities.
All in all, there are abundant opportunities in the agricultural sector, all we must do is tap on to these. With Government offering an array of initiatives to help grow the sector, it is within our reach to build wealth for our future generations.