Huge tracts of Botswana’s agricultural land lying idle

As much as 45% of all the arable land available for agricultural use in Botswana is lying idle due to over-regulation and lack of laws to turn the practice of agriculture into a business enterprise.

Presenting the findings of his portfolio performance report for 2016/’17 recently, Agriculture and Food Security Minister Patrick Ralotsia said 420 000 hectares out of the 920 000 hectares of available agricultural land nationwide was either underutilised or totally unutilised.

“For example, the total size of available agricultural land that belongs to the Department of Agricultural Research (DAR) countrywide is 892.3 hectares. Of this, about 143.3 hectares is undeveloped and not in use,” said Ralotsia.

He said the country has 26.865 hectares of land available for livestock development and research. Out of this, a total of 2.260 hectares that is spread over 11 livestock research ranches is lying idle.

Ralotsia blamed the existence of vast tracts of unused land on loopholes in the legislation around the allocation of tribally-owned land, which seemingly allows the acquisition and use of land for market-speculative and “rent-seeking” behaviours.

“The land allocation process, although intended to generate fairness, is fraught with red tape as (land) leases are provided by the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services at minimal rates, which are unrelated to the market value of the land,” he said.

According to the minister, the current land allocation system was being used to deny access to land to potentially productive farmers. Instead, preference was given to absentee landowners who then sublet the estates at inflated rates to the commercial sector.

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