Mabisi heeds call hits ground running

30 Aug 2022

Simon Mabisi is a man with a zest for farming, particularly small stock.

The Forty-three-year-old is amongst scores of Batswana who used to grind their hustle by taking regular voyages to neighbouring South Africa to procure vegetables and sell them in Botswana.

However, the advent of COVID-19 dealt a blow to this thriving cross-border business owing to curfews put in place to try and contain the disease.

Not all was lost as perhaps like any dark period in human history, the other side of the pandemic had a silver lining thanks to the resolve of the government of Botswana to impose an embargo on the importation of some vegetables.

“Tough as it may, we have an obligation as a nation to rally behind such a noble cause if we are to produce enough vegetables to meet the national demand. I know that some people were not happy about the development but as somebody who has been in this business for some time, the move has long-term benefits and would guarantee the country’s food security,” explained Mr Mabisi.

When announcing the embargo early this year, the Minister of Agriculture, Mr Fidelis Molao stated that the move would help support local farmers and shore up the independence of the agricultural sector.

Recently, a team of BOPA reporters paid Mr Mabisi a visit at a farm he has rented along Shasheriver in Shashe Mooke .

The team found him together with a couple of farm assistants all hands on deck labouring under the sweltering sun; weeding, transplanting, and watering the garden.

“I used to get vegetables as far as Pretoria in South Africa and resell them here in Botswana but the challenges posed by COVID-19 among others, shortage of vegetable supply due to hoarding and movement restrictions opened my eyes to the vulnerable situation we are in as a country. Whenever we got a chance to cross the border we would travel long distances and spend days searching for vegetables on farms in South Africa. It was both strenuous and risky because we carried a lot of cash,” he narrated.

According to Mr Mabisi, the bold steps taken by the government to ban the importation of some vegetables was a wise and timely development that would help Botswana realise food security.

Mr Mabisi pilot project includes ploughing onions, garlic, rape, beetroot, cabbage, and carrot over half a hectare of production land.

Oozing confidence, he relayed in an interview that he would like to focus more on garlic and onion production in the future because the former attracts better revenues while the latter has long shelf life if not sold fresh from the farm.

At the moment, the Nata native sells his produce 29 kilometers away at the market square in the heart of the city of Francistown and business has been remarkable.

His ambition is to scale up production and sell to an even wider market in the future.

The downside of this labour-intensive undertaking, he relayed, was the high-end cost of some farming inputs, particularly solar panels to generate sufficient power to pump water from the river.

Skyrocketing petrol prices according to Mr Mabisi have likewise proven an albatross in the neck for many farmers, especially up-and-coming farmers who do not have the financial muscle.

He is pinning his hopes on government intervention to turn the horticultural sector around and make food security a reality.

To fellow Batswana who harbour similar interests, Mr Mabisi’s nugget of wisdom is simple; knuckle down and you shall enjoy the sweat of your brow at the end.  ENDS

Source : BOPA

Author : Mooketsi Mojalemotho

Location : SHASHEMOOKE

Event : INTERVIEW

Date : 30 Aug 2022