Botswana farmers take advantage of VSAT technology
Research from Agrilinks shows that more than 60 percent of Africa’s working population is engaged in agriculture which accounts for a third of the continent’s GDP. However, the sector is plagued by the use of outdated methods and tools, hence the need for rapid modernization.
The lack of modernized and up to date methods of farming have been a setback to the local farming sector which has attributed to the decline in production. Access to markets, new trends, and better tools can be resolved through digitization and high speed information. The recent introduction of the VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) technology by Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) has seen local farmers taking advantage of the development to enhance their operations.
There are signs that the expansion of high-speed Internet coverage into settlements and rural areas has boosted the production of farming locally. Farmers use the internet to access market information, crop production farming implements and vital details that influence farming decisions.
The VSAT technology enables countrywide coverage even in the most remote parts of the country, giving farmers internet connectivity through its vast telecommunications network. Results have already started showing especially in the Kaka region which boasts of cattle ranches.
Farmers can now also access the Botswana Animal Information And Traceability System (BAITS) and Herd Cards, easily. Furthermore, computerized movement permits and new Change of Ownership documents can be printed on the spot.
The BAITS system provides a platform for farmers to provide information on their livestock. This platform is offered online, it is used for animal registration, transfer of ownership, arrival of livestock, veterinary drug treatments and removal of dead/fallen stock.
Prior to its introduction, farmers had expressed interest in using internet and digital technology to enhance farming operations but lack of internet held them back. Five years ago a website developed for livestock farmers failed to gain traction due to poor access for those in remote areas.
“Communication has been bad in this part of the country, which led me to installing a satellite phone which is very expensive to maintain. I settled for this alternative because I am required to be in communication with the commercial world as well as my farm workers. But, since the introduction of the BTC VSAT technology, farm business operations and communication with stakeholders has since improved significantly,” said Gokatweng Coach Tshekiso, a cattle ranch farmer based in Kaka.
Through the contribution of this technology that falls under the auspices of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) it’s a matter of time Drone technology which supports numerous major applications for agriculture gets to be fully utilized by local farmers. The Drone Technology increases efficiency in certain aspects of farming. From crop monitoring to planting, livestock management, crop spraying and irrigation mapping. The VSAT and such technology will definitely work smoothly even in the most remote parts of the country.
Farmers are hopeful that with access to BAITS, they will see reduced likelihood of cattle theft because of secure identification of stolen cattle due to easy identification of stray (Matimela) cattle. In essence, there will be increased security for the Beef Export Market because customers overseas will be assured of origination and traceability of cattle therefore providing a marketing edge for Botswana beef. The network uptime on this technology is approximately 99.5%, exceeding typical terrestrial cable lines. The VSAT is designed mainly for any customer who is remote from the main grids and base stations to access voice and data services.
The people of Botswana and the proponents of such technologies are adamant that the only way to go in agriculture locally is the 4IR way. “These technologies have the potential to have a positive impact on the productivity and profitability of the agricultural sector especially during this COVID- 19 period which has greatly disrupted the global supply chain. Through the help of 41R in agriculture, Botswana has potential to be a self- sustainable farming country,” said one farmer in the Pandamatenga area.