The decline in agricultural production in Botswana has been blamed on climatic conditions and the outbreak of diseases, results from new survey by Statistics Botswana have suggested.

The annual agricultural survey report for 2013 has revealed that livestock population generally has decreased between 2012 and 2013 agricultural seasons. Cattle population dropped from 2.2 million to 2.1 million, goats from 1.6 million to 1.5 million while sheep reduced from 293,966 to 274,357.

It said the crop sector did not perform well either with sorghum production falling steeply from 24,021 metric tons to 10,231 metric tons, maize from 7,677metric tons to 3,844 metric tons while millet dropped from 1,959 metric tons to 1,391 metric tons between 2012 and 2013.

“The declining performance of the sector is largely attributable to the unfavorable climatic conditions and endemic animal diseases, in particular the Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD),” stated the survey.

Likewise, production of groundnuts fell from 200 metric tons to 112 metric tons, sunflower production from 6,000 metric to 2,021 metric tons. Only beans/pulses showed exceptional performance by registering an increase in production from 2,285 metric tons in 2012 to 3,655 metric tons in 2013.

Maize, sorghum, millet and beans/pulses are the major crops in terms of area planted (Table 2.3.2). Even though maize is still the predominant crop in the traditional sector, the total area planted decreased from 141,322 ha in 2012 to 126,091 ha in 2013 while for sorghum the total area planted increased from 63,018 to 67,552 ha during the same period.

Performance of the small stock showed a slight improvement. Goats registered a slight increase in the birth rate from 41.4 percent in 2012 to 42.2 percent in 2013, but mortality rate increased from 21.9 percent to 22.8 percent.

The off-take rate increased from 6.1 to 7.1 percent. Sheep experienced an increase in birth rate from 33.1 percent to 36.0 percent. Mortality rate marginally increased from 14.6 to 15.0 percent and off-take from 4.9 to 5.0 percent between 2012 and 2013.

The survey also found out that in the 2013 agricultural season, the number of active farmers decreased by 2.2 percent from 122,660 in 2012 to 119,936 in 2013 with the decline more pronounced in the traditional sector where the numbers dropped from 121,766 in 2012 to 119,134 in 2013, while the commercial sector experienced a slight contraction from 894 to 802 during the same period.

Strangely, Gaborone region recorded the highest number of active farmers (35,571) in the country in 2013 while the Western region had the lowest (3,359).

“Under the traditional sector, male farmers continue to dominate farming at 53.9 percent compared to their female counterparts with only 46.1 percent participation,” the survey showed.

It was also found out that the participation of the youth in agriculture has increased slightly compared to the previous agricultural season although it is still limited. Out of a total of 119,134 traditional farmers in 2013, about 10.3 percent were aged between 15 and 39 years as compared to 9.6 percent in 2012.

However, the dominant age group in farming is the 65 years and above at 36.4 percent followed by the 50 to 59 years at 24.9 percent.

The survey is part of a series of household surveys carried out by Statistics Botswana through the Agricultural Statistics Unit (ASU) and in collaboration with the Department of Agricultural Research, Statistics and Policy Development (DARSPD) of the Ministry of Agriculture