INTERNATIONAL – A local agro-infrastructure project is expected to enormously cut Botswana's import bill, Leslie Botshoma, deputy secretary of the Minister of Agriculture, said Saturday.
The project planned to be completed by the end of September in Pandamatenga, some 910 km northwest of the capital Gaborone, is intended to develop the local water control and drainage system as well as access to road network, according to him.
The official added that the Botswana government decided to carry out the infrastructure project partly in order to ensure that a significant amount of the import bill is utilized locally.
"The principal objective of the project was to ensure good and successful production and eventually cut the import bill by half," said Botshoma.
He made the remarks when addressing local farmers during an inspection tour to assess the progress of the project, which is funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and was approved in 2009.
Under the project, Botshoma said a total of some 270 kilometers of tarred and gravel roads have been built in addition to the 370 km-long drains. Botswana's import bill is currently estimated at $800 million, said Botshoma.
Herman Venter, chairperson of the Pandamatenga Commercial Farmers Association, said that thanks to the project, there had been for a period where farms were not water logged .
"Water logging was so extreme at Pandamatenga Farms due to poor drainage system. As farmers, we are confident that we will be filling the silos and definitely cut the import bill by a significant percentage," said Venter.
The infrastructure development project is expected to benefit the local farming further. Some farmers have started growing mung beans due to a huge demand from China and several other Asian countries.
Pandamatenga now exports 20,000 tonnes of beans annually to China, India and Canada.