Farmers visit the solar powered water pumping infrastructure which allows for Otumile to pump water to fill tanks for crop irrigation

The Permanent Okavango River Basin Water Commission (OKACOM) through UNDP-GEF supported and financed project, in partnership with the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security (MoADFS) and Ngamiland Horticulture Growers Association showcased the Maun Climate Smart Horticulture Demonstration Project on Friday 04 December 2020. The event was  themed “Building resilient farmers through adopting Climate Smart Agricultural Practices’ and was hosted by Dolphins Farm owned by Mrs Gaotshwarwe Otimile (54 years). The official program started with an address by representatives of MoADFS, OKACOM and the demonstration farmers. This was followed by a tour of the hosting farm led by a narrative from Mrs Otimile who offered an account of the implementation of climate smart horticulture methods, the provision of infrastructure and the mentorship support received. Two more farms were visited, with varying high yield crops aimed at meeting the demand posed by specific target markets. The delegation of attendants were afforded the opportunity to pose questions and share insights on lessons learned by the farmers.

The objectives of the Maun Climate Smart Horticulture Demonstration Project Open Day were to:

  • Share lessons learnt in implementing climate smart agricultural practices among existing and aspiring farmers and line stakeholders.
  • Demonstrate climate smart agricultural practices that enhance production of higher value crops.
  • Demonstrate that local farmers can produce higher value crops sought by the higher end tourism and formal markets in Okavango.

Invited guests included officials from the  Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services, Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture, Local Enterprise Authority, the National Development Bank, Botswana Horticulture Council, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Ngamiland Horticulture Growers Association, Ngamiland Council of Non-Governmental Organization, District Commission and Traditional Authorities.

Otumile addressing other farmers as they tour her shade net which has a successful yield of lettuce

Experiences Shared and Lessons Learnt

Attendants were informed of the peer learning approach of experienced horticulture farmers in mentoring other farmers. The highlight was the practice of the Horticulture Demonstration Farmers who volunteered to mentor others in collaboration with the local Extension Officers from MoADFS in:

  • Climate smart agricultural practices
  • Soil sampling, application of correct fertilizers and pests’ control.
  • Selecting and growing of seedlings for higher value crops varieties.
  • Appropriate shade nets suitable for the local climate which facilitated production of higher value crop.
  • How the construction of water infrastructures at the correct height enabled farmers to use gravitational flow, resulting in energy savings to pump water over long distances.
  • How the construction of ridges, application of organic matter to build soil water holding capacity and application of surface drip irrigation targeting the crop root zone all heled to increase yield.
  • How the use of ridges and drip irrigation also enabled farmers to eliminate overwatering, nematodes and weed outbreaks, resulting in savings from pesticides and unnecessary energy costs associated with irrigation.
  • How the farmers using farming shade nets further enabled production throughout the season, enabling farmers to be consistent in crop scheduling, market supplies and reliability.

Expansion and Replication

As a result of the knowledge acquired from the demonstration project, some of the farmers have gone on to construct new shade nets to increase their production in a controlled environment. In order to share knowledge among others, the demonstration farmers are now hosting aspiring farmers to practically train them on aspects of soil preparation, management, seedlings production scheduling, care and management. Farmers have learnt how to do regular observations of their crops for potential pest outbreak and prepare timely actions. The following approaches for replication and upscaling have been identified:

  • In collaboration with Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security, OKACOM is engaging line government programs and financial institutions, including the Local Enterprise Authority, National Development Bank, Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture and District Commission to facilitate uptake of lessons learnt from the Maun Climate Smart Horticulture demonstration projects. The Ngamiland Horticulture Growers Association proposed a mentoring programme in which demonstration farmers will mentor young farmers and other farmers. The linkage of farmers to planned horticulture interventions and procurement would facilitate improved production at local level.
  • The Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security took full ownership of the Demonstration Projects and supported the farmers.
  • All demonstration farmers have expansion plans to upscale demonstration activities in their respective farms in order to meet market demand.
  • Aspiring farmers are keen to be linked to demonstration farmers for capacity and knowledge exchange by demonstration farmers, Horticulture Farmers mentor and Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security.
  • Line government horticulture programs have appreciated the demonstration project and are keen to like their interventions to the Maun Climate Smart Horticulture Demonstration Project.

Sustainability and Further Support

Financial Institutions are keen to educate to farmers and aspiring farmers on the requirements for accessing finance in response to the national call for Botswana to achieve her aspirations of attaining food security, while reducing country’s food import bill.

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