Report on farming systems research and development in Botswana


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Report on farming systems research and development in Botswana
Physical Description:
18 leaves : ; 28 cm.
Gelaye, Seyoum
University of Florida
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Subjects / Keywords:
Agricultural systems -- Research -- Botswana   ( lcsh )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
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Includes bibliographical references (leaf 18).
Statement of Responsibility:
by Seyoum Gelaye.
General Note:
General Note:
"Prepared for the University of Florida Management Entity Farming Systems Support Project."

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Source Institution:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
oclc - 646841058
lcc - S473.B55 G45 1985
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Full Text


Prepared for


Seyoum Gelaye
Department of Agricultural Sciences
Tuskegee Institute
March, 1985



Introduction 1

Visit with the Director of Agricultural Research I

Animal Drawn Equipment Center 1

Cowpea Project 2

Animal Production Research Unit (APRU) 4

The General Purpose Laboratory Sebel 5

Integrated Farming Pilot Project (IFPP) 6

Agricultural Technology Improvement Project (ATIP) 7

Draft Animals 9

Farm Implements 10

Farm Tools 11

Management of Cattle 12

Management of Small Stocks 14

Summary and Conclusion 16

List of References 18


The Republic of Botswana is situated in the southern part of Africa.

The country has a land area of 582,000 km It is bisected by the Tropic

of Capricorn and is bordered by the Republic of South Africa, Namibia,

Zambia and Zimbabwe. The climate of Botswana is semi-arid and the

temperature ranges between 6 C 37 C between May and August and 8 C 44

C between November and March. The total population of Botswana is

estimated at 936,000 and 80 percent of this population lives in the

eastern part of the country. It is in this part of Botswana where the

agricultural development pilot projects are being tested.

The Agricultural Technology Improvement Project (ATIP) is a new pilot

project which was established in 1982 for the sole purpose of helping

limited resource farmers. ATIP has done most of the survey work to assist

with the diagnosis of farm problems. In addition, some technological

interventions have been initiated. A team comprising R. E. McDowell, from

Cornell University and Seyoum Gelaye from Tuskegee Institute spent a total

of three weeks (November 19, 1984 December 12, 1984) visiting some of

the agricultural programs run by the Ministry of Agriculture and ATIP.


The director (Dr. D. Gollifer) reported that Botswana imports more

than 60 percent of the food from outside. He also indicated that there is

a potential for agricultural development in Botswana. He stated that the

present 200 kg/ha yield could be doubled with introduction of new approved

practices and improved technologies.


The animal drawn equipment center is located in Sebele which is about


5 km away from Gaborone. Mr. Horspool gave us a guided tour of the

implements at the Center. The center, Evaluation of Farming Systems and

Agricutural Implements Program (EFSAIP), develops and modifies animal

drawn implements. We observed both the ridgeshaper/planter and

cultivator/planter which are being readied for testing. The hand baler,

developed by the unit requires some modification because of the excessive

human labor required to operate it.

The EFSAIP is headed by a very capable person, Mr. Horspool. With

proper guidance and financial assistance the unit could become a nucleus

for development of implements and equipment which could be used by the

limited resource farmers in the eastern part of Botswana. In addition,

the EFSAIP could be equipped to be a training ground for the local



The Botswana cowpea project is headed by C. J. de Mooy. The project

leader summarized the objectives of the project as follows:

1. Tillage/planting practices to devise a set of tillage/

planting practices whereby plantings of cowpeas can begin

immediately at the start of the rainy season.

2. Tillage and moisture conservation to evaluate merits of

reduced tillage with simple tools especially for sandy,

non-compacting soils.

3. Variety testing to initiate a continuing variety

screening program involving local germplasm as well as

exotic lines.

4. Cultural practices to undertake field research for

improvement of cultural practices under specific sets


of conditions.

5. Harvesting techniques to combine whole plant

harvesting techniques with a search for suitable

varieties and machine threshing for greater returns

on labor.

6. Alectra vogelii to incorporate resistance of A.

vogelii into cowpea varieties once the trait is

found by screening of cultivars.

7. Demonstration plots to test research findings in

farmers' fields with and without subsidized inputs.

8. Self-evaluation to arrange self-evaluation meetings

for the purpose of soliciting suggestions and opinions

from peers.

The cowpea project leader seems to be interested more in commodity

oriented research; as such, most of the research activities are carried

out in greenhouses. In most cases, most of the approved cultural

practices such as fertilizer application, use of insecticides and raw

planting are practiced. The group has already collected over 700 cowpea

cultivars to be tested for disease and insect resistance and moisture

stress. Unfortunately, in Botswana the average yearly rainfall is only 18

inches (450 mm). Most of the farmers are small farmers and they grow

cowpeas as mixtures with other field crops. In addition, most of the

farmers broadcast seeds rather than planting them in rows. Hence most of

the cowpea research work seems to be geared to satisfy the needs of the

future commercial farmers rather than the present small farmers.

The rainy season starts in October in Botswana and ends sometimes in

April. The months May through September are dry. Most of the small


farmers use draft animals for cultivation. At the time when the rainy

season starts, the draft animals (donkeys, cattle) will be in a very poor

condition mainly because of severe shortage of feeds. The animal will

have to get green forages, and this is usually in October and November.

By the time they are in a better shape, the farmer has lost the most

appropriate time for the cultivation of her/his field.

It appears that if the cowpea project is to be of a major force in

improving the life of the small farmer in Botswana, in addition to its

commodity orientation, it needs to have a farming systems component. This

section could look into selection of varieties or develop cowpea varieties

that could be used by farmers not only for food but also as livestock feed

as green chops or as dry forages.


APRU is one of the components of the department of Agricultural

Research (DAR) in the Ministry of Agriculture. This department is headed

by Mr. B. Addy. APRU is aggressively working on areas of commercial

livestock development. The activities of the unit are summarized in two

reports prepared by the department. Briefly, according to Mr. B. Addy,

the group is involved in evaluating the reproductive efficiencies of

Afrikander, Bonsmara, Brahman, Sahiwal, Simmental and Tswana breeds.

According to APRU report (1980) the average calving percentage for the

years 1979 and 1980 was 78 percent. This value was for groups of cattle

on 18 government ranches managed as follows:

1. A degree of fencing so that breeding herds may be

controlled, young stocks separated and standing

hay retained for dry season feeding

2. Continuous mineral supplementation and prophylactic


disease control

3. The provision of adequate water within a reasonable

distance of the grazing area.

In addition, range management and improvement projects are carried

out on the government livestock farms. These programs look into bush

control (mechanical and chemical methods, use of fire and use of goats)

and grazing system and stocking rates (stocking rate and evaluation of

grazing systems in communal grazing). The beef cattle nutrition research

deals with the effects of supplemental (protein blocks) feedings on

reproductive efficiency of breeding cattle. According to the APRU report

of 1980, calving rate was 83.9% for the supplemented groups of cows while

it was 78.6% for the control groups of cows. APRU is conducting useful

studies dealing with the nutrition and breeding of endogenous, exotic and

cross bred cattle. They have their major effort geared towards helping

large commercial ranches. The large commercial ranch owners account for

about 7% of the rural population and control 54% of the cattle herd. The

rest of the cattle population is controlled mainly by the small livestock

owners. These farmers keep their cattle as security and follow very

little approved practices in feeding, breeding, disease and parasite

control. As a result they contribute to only 50% of the cattle marketed

through Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) while the large ranchers supply 50%

of the cattle slaughtered at BMC. It appears that APRU needs to develop

an additional program geared towards the small livestock owners. A

detailed description of programs of action will be given in the section of

the report dealing with ATIP (Agricultural Technology Improvement




The Department of Agricultual Research (DAR) runs a small but well

equipped laboratory at Sebele. The laboratory is equipped to carry out:

1. Proximate Analysis

Crude fiber

Crude protein

Ether extract


2. Invitro Dry Matter Determination

3. Mineral Analysis

The laboratory is managed very well and it does analyze both soil and

some feed samples. The animal scientists affiliated with the small farm

research could utilize the laboratory in forage evaluation and

utilization. Since the livestock of Botswana utilize shrubs, bushes and

browses, it will be necessary to look into the nutrient composition of

these materials. It appears that the animals selectively consume the

leaves, branches and bark of some plants but leave the others untouched

until the forage situation becomes very critical. Such shrubs like Maponi

trees and acacia trees seem to flourish in most of the unregulated range

lands. It will be necessary to look into the tannin and the fiber content

of these and the other desirable species of plants. Unfortunately, the

small laboratory at Sebele is not equipped to carry out these analysis.

Hence, it will be useful if tannin and fiber analysis (Van Soest fiber)

are added to the determinations carried out at the laboratory.


The IFPP is located in the southeastern part of Botswana, 120 km away

from Gaborone, at Pelotshetlha. According to Mr. N. D. Hunter, the IFPP

was set up in 1975. The objectives of the project were:


1. To test under on farm conditions new technological systems

of cultivation and livestock management developed by the

Department of Agricultural Research.

2. To pilot an integrated approach to agricultural development,

and also to identify inputs necessary to introduce the new


IFPP covers an area of 23,000 ha of both arable and grazing areas.

According to APRU/IFPP (1980-83) report, most of the recommendation

forwarded by APRU are suitable for commercial beef producers. IFPP

attempted to implement most of these recommendations to a small farm

condition in which 80% of the farmers owned/held 40 cattle or less (IFPP,

1983). Also in this part of Botswana farmers use communal grazing areas,

usually following a mixed farming system with low input management systems

and high stocking rates. As a result, the IFPP activities and

technological interventions during the last nine years have not been very

productive. The IFPP is situated on a nice location and the campus has a

nice school building, farmers training center, workshops and comfortable

living quarters.

We were also shown tractor and draft animal drawn implements. Most

of the implements were useful but were not enthusiastically received by

the farmers. The program has at the present shifted attention to FSR/E

type of program. It appears that if the Department of Agricultural

Research supports the new transition with technical know-how and proper

coordination, programs relevant to the farming community at Pelotshetlha

could be developed by IFPP.


The branch offices of ATIP are headquartered in Mahalapy and


Francistown, which are in the east central and northeastern part of

Botswana, respectively. The small farmers in these regions are not served

by major government or private development organization. The target

groups of farmers for ATIP are groups of farms having 1-10 hectares

available for cultivation and 40 or less cattle. These groups of farmers

represent about 59 percent of the traditional farmers in Botswana (AID

Report, 1981). These groups are not reached by commodity oriented

research and extension organization. The Mid America International

Agricultural Consortium (MIAC) composed of the universities of Nebraska,

Missouri, Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Iowa State is assisting with

the implementation of the FSR/E program in Botswana. The consortium is

represented by a team comprising the following scientists:

Name Discipline Academic Qualification Station

Hobbs, A. Agronomist Ph.D. Gaborone

Norman, D. W. Ag. Econ Ph.D. Sebele

Siebert, J.C. Agronomist Ph.D. Mahalapye

Baker, D. C. Ag. Econ M.S. Mahalapye

Heinrich, G. Agronomist Ph.D. Francistown

Koch, B. Animal Sci Ph.D. Francistown

Miller, W. Ag. Econ Ph.D. Francistown

The teams, both in Mahalapy and Francistown, are comprised of highly

qualified professionals with a wide experience in FSR/E in developing

countries. Both groups have securely intrenched themselves and have

already gained the confidences of the limited resource farmers in the

project areas. During the first phase of the project, both teams have

carried out discriptive/diagnostic surveys (ATIP Annual Report Number 1,


December, 1983). In both areas appropriate technologies are being tested.

These research activities are "researcher managed and researcher

implemented." Most of the research activities deal with depth of plowing

and methods of planting on yield of sorghum, millet and other field crops.

Feeding of supplemental mineral supplement (Bone meal or dicalcium

phosphate) on performance of small stocks and donkeys is being tested both

in Mahalapy and Francistown areas.


A large number of small farmers both in Makwate and Shoshong (67.0

and 98.1, respectively) use draft animals for cultivation. The rainy

season starts in October and ends in April in Botswana. Even though the

season extends for six months the rain fall is very erratic and averages

only 450 mm (18 inches) per year. The rainy season is usually proceeded

by a long period of dry season. The forage situation is very critical

during the dry season and it is not the tradition of small farmers to

reserve forage for draft animals. Hence, the draft animals are so weak

and highly emaciated at the time when the farmer will start cultivating

her/his field. It appears imperative that the ATIP teams will have to

look into forage banks to be utilized by the draft animals during the dry


Even though most farmers use donkeys or cattle for traction, these

animals, it appears, are selected at random. It is common to see a heifer

hitched with a bullock or with a mature cow and uneven sized donkeys

hitched to pull a plow or a cart. This creates a problem because of the

unevenness of the horizontal pull. It is important that farmers will have

to be introduced to selection and training of draft animals. Generally

animals with the following criteria make good draft animals:


a. Well developed hind quarters

b. Short legs and strong joints

c. Good hooves, strong pasterns and fetlocks

d. Well sprang ribs

e. Roomy bellys, etc.

ATIP could prepare brochures and publication on selection, training

and feeding of draft animals. These publications could serve as important

aids to agricultural demonstrators (AD'S) in training farmers.

In addition, it appears that farmers will be receptive to mules as

draft animals. Mules are much more hardier and much more powerful than

either cattle or donkeys. They could be trained to walk between rows of

plants. This could minimize the labor requirement on the farm. The

general practice in Botswana is that the husband or young children lead

the donkeys while the wife does the actual plowing. It is also common to

see a team of four donkeys used to pull a moldboard plow which could be

handled by a team of mules. Hence, it appears that ATIP and APRU could

venture into the development of good draft mules. There are a large

number of draft horses in the world. The most famous breeds are:

Percheron France

Clydesdale England

Belgian horses Belgium

The mares from improved breeds or the local breeds could be crossed

with good indigenous jacks to produce good draft mules.


The farmers in the ATIP project regions (Mahalopy and Francistown

areas) use draft animals for plowing and pulling carts and sledes.

Particularly in Makwate village 81% of the farmers use donkeys for


traction. The farmers use home made harnesses usually made from straps

carved out of old truck tires. It is very common to see big shoulder and

chest bruises on donkeys mainly due to poorly fitting harnesses. Hence,

ATIP along with EFSAIP could develop sample harnesses that could be used

as models by farmers and local craftsmen. It is necessary that the

farmers will have to be introduced to the use of draft animal collars.

They can be constructed from materials locally produced. Since all of the

farmers are not using collars on their draft animals, the donkeys will

usually have big bruises on their shoulders. This undoubtedly reduces the

efficiency of the animal. In addition, the animals pull the farm

implement with the side straps usually attached to the shoulder bands

causing the horizontal power to concentrate on the shoulder. This power

could be distributed to the other parts of the body of the animal if chest

bands are added to the harnesses for all of the local harnesses do not use

chest bands.


A large number of farmers use carts, single moldboard plows and

sleds. The carts are of different shapes and sizes. Farmers convert pick

up truck axles, and in some cases car axles into carts. The carts are

usually poorly built and are too heavy for a team of two donkeys. As

such, they hitch four or six donkeys to pull these very poorly constructed

carts. ATIP could be instrumental in the construction and introduction of

light and durable carts.

Another serious problem is most farmers do not follow the basic

simple rules on maintenance of farm tools. As a result, it is common to

see plows with the coulters missing and the cutting edges badly worn-out.

We have not observed an implement that was properly cleaned and


lubricated. The implements are not usually stored under sheds. As a

result, most of the metal implements are badly rusted and in very poor

condition. Hence, ATIP could be one of the moving forces in introducing

packages of approved practices on acquisition and maintenance of farm



All small farmers keep some heads of cattle (less than 40). The

cattle are kept near bore holes away from villages. These animals are

used as sources of milk, meat and cash for the farm family. Most of these

range lands are overstocked and as a result are overgrazed. The cattle

population will usually include heifers, young and old cows. The tendency

is to increase the cattle size at the expense of quality. Most of the

animals are in poor condition mainly due to lack of adequate forage. It

is very difficult to maximize production under such conditions. Farmers

need to be taught the importance of some proper management practices if

productivity of cattle is to be maximized.

1) Proper nutrition the animal should get maintenance level

dry matter during the dry season and above maintenance level

during the rainy season. This can be done

a. By following rigid culling practices: Culling cows

with nonfunctional teats, cows with reproductive

problems, etc.

b. Following proper range management practices, i.e.,

fencing range lands, regulating animal number,

range improvement, introduction of range blocks, etc.

The tribal grazing lands are very poorly managed and

severely overgrazed. It will be necessary to determine


the carrying capacity of these areas. It is also

necessary to determine the dominant species of grasses,

shrubs, browses and trees in these areas. It will

also be necessary to determine the nutrient composition

(protein, soluble nutrients, digestible energy, trace

and macro minerals) of these different plants. This

kind of information will be useful in proper range

management and improving performance of animals.

c. Proper cattle identification a farmer purchases the

right to use a set of numbers for p$10 for 10 years

from the Ministry of Agriculture. All animals are

branded with this combination of numbers and letters.

Since the same sets of identification numbers are used

with all animals irrespective of classes and individuals,

this numbering system is useless in the identification

of the individual animals. Since all farmers use some

form of group identifications, they should be receptive

to individual animal identification. ATIP and APRU

could develop and introduce a simple identification

system to be used by small farmers in the project regions.

If this becomes a reality, useful performance data that

could be used in livestock improvement projects could be


Data to be collected:

1. Calving rate

2. Estrus period

3. Postpartum period


4. Daily weight gain or loss during different seasons

5. Calving interval

These information will be indispensable in the selection and

breeding programs or upgrading of the cattle population.


All of the farmers we talked to both in Mahalapy and Francistown keep

a large number of goats and sheep. Most of the small stocks are kept

around the villages. The farmer uses these animals mainly as sources of

milk and meat for the farm family. Since there are no very well organized

market structures and marketing outlets for the meat and skin of these

animals, farmers do not derive a substantial amount of cash benefit from

these animals. If BMC and other agencies could establish market outlets

and offer good prices, based per liveweight rather than per head, farmers

could be initiated into proper management of their small stock.

Generally, the small stocks, particularly goats seem to be doing better

than cattle in the ATIP project areas. Goats utilize the browses more

efficiently than cattle. Since they are much more agile than cattle, they

can stand on hind legs and reach twigs and branches of trees. As a

result, it is common to see goats in good condition in areas where cattle

are dying due to poor nutrition. However, farmers follow no approved

practices in the management of the small stocks. They are kept in small

over crowded corrals at night. Lactating does are not given supplementary

feeds. As a result it is common to see very weak and emaciated kids

running behind their mothers. Since there are no data on kidding and

weaning rates, it will be difficult to know the reproductive efficiency of

these does. However, it is clear that kid mortality is very high and

kidding rates are less than 50%. Also, a large number of lactating does


show severe nutritional deficiency problems. Swellings on the necks of a

large number of the lactating does could be symptoms for iodine

deficiencies. It is necessary that ATIP starts collecting reliable data

on performance of the small stocks in the project regions. These values

could be used to assess the situation much better and make the necessary

technological interventions. We observed mineral supplementation

(researcher management and farmer implemented) programs carried out by the

livestock specialist on ATIP Francistown team. Since a single scientist

is assigned to cover two different regions, it has become very difficult

to collect enough and reliable diagnostic data. In addition, the browses,

shrubs, trees and other plants frequently grazed by small stocks have not

been analyzed for their nutrient composition, particularly for protein and

minerals. These are needed in managing grazing areas. If the preferred

species and their nutrient composition is known, it might be possible to

propagate the desired species of plants.


The Agricultural Technology Improvement Project (ATIP) could make a

substantial contribution towards the introduction of farming systems

research and extension in Francistown and Mahalapy. It could even be a

model for farmers in the other parts of Botswana. The scientists

affiliated with the project are highly skilled in FSR/E and most of them

have very wide experience in their field. The team leader, Dr. David

Norman, is giving excellent leadership and the contributions the teams

have made in two years are admirable. They have conducted diagnostic

surveys covering large areas around Mahalapy and Francistown. Their

findings are summarized in two progress reports. From the response of the

farmers, it is apparent that they have gained the confidence and respect

of the farmers. Hence, if ATIP is maintained for a long period of time

(at least 10 years) it could help intrench farming systems research and

extension into the Ministry of Agriculture. Since the ATIP project area

farmers raise livestock and some crops, it will be necessary to give equal

technical support to the livestock sector. It will be practically

impossible for one livestock farming systems specialist to cover all the

project areas while there are three agronomists and equal numbers of

agricultural economists working on agronomic and economic problems. This

would be remedied by either adding another livestock specialist or by

adding three additional Batswana counterparts to the livestock team.

Another consideration is the technical knowledge base of the Batswana

counterparts. Most of the counterparts are very energetic young people

with a great ambition to help the farmers in their project areas. Also,

these young people are fortunate in that the ATIP expatriate members

freely share their expertise and experience with them. However, most of

the counterparts do not have the required level of training to fully

participate in experimental designs and data analysis. Also most of them

do not have the theoretical base in physiology, agronomy, nutrition,

economics principles and statistics to be able to interpret data and make

appropriate recommendations to farmers. Hence, it will be necessary for

the government of Botswana to understand the seriousness of the situation

and give it the highest possible priority. If the counterparts are

allowed to get the necessary training and work with the ATIP expatrite

team members, they could get invaluable experience from the team members

and be able to carry out the FSR/E programs effectively. For their

training, they would be sent to institutions of higher leaning both in

Africa and in the USA. In the USA, we encourage the government of

Botswana to consider, among others, Tuskegee Institute. Tuskegee

Institute is located in the state of Alabama. The Institue has a very

wide experience in small farm research, namely intercropping, feeding plant

residues, industrial wastes and animal wastes to animals. Students receive

excellent training in both applied and basic research. The School of

Agriculture and Home Economics provides an opportunity for training in

agronomy, animal science and food science. Intradisciplinary

communication and cooperation are promoted. We would like to encourage

the representatives to Botswana government in the USA to visit Tuskegee

Institute because Tusegee Institute has a lot to offer toward the

development of agriculture in The Republic of Botswana.


1. APRU. 1980. Beef production and range research in Botswana, MOA

2. APRU. 1983. Annual Report, MOA.

3. ATIP. 1983. Anual Report Number 1.

4. ATIP. 1984. Annual Report Number 2.

5. de Mooy, C. J. Botswana Cowpea Project Technical Summery,
October 1, 1983 to September 30, 1984.

6. Flint, M. E. S., T. Bagwasi and T. J. Rose. A preliminary
report on the APRU/IFPP Cattle Survey, 1980-1983.

7. Integrated Farming Pilot Project (IFPP) Pelotshetla Botswana
Annual Report, 1980.

8. Ministry of Agriculture, Botswana. 1984. Annual Report for the
Division of Arable Crops Research 1982-83.

9. Ministry of Agriculture, Botswana. 1984. Agrinews. V.15. No. 10.

10. Norman, D. W., D. C. Baker and J. D. Siebert. 1983. The challenge
of developing agriculture in the 400-600 mm rainfall zone within
the SADCC countries. Paper presented to the SADCC seminar on
agronomic adjustment to the environment of 400 to 600 mm
rainfall zone, September 14-16, 1983, Harare, Zimbabwe.

11. Oland, K. H. Alverson and R. W. Cummings, Jr., 1980. Targets for
agricultural development in Botswana. Department of
Agricultural Research, Botswana.

12. USAID. 1981. Botswana Agricultural Technology Improvement Project.