Plan to boost commercial agric

Plan to boost commercial agric

MASERU – THE government is working on policy reforms to promote sustainable commercialisation and diversification of the agriculture sector.
The policy will also improve access to finance and quality imports.
This is in addition to the sustained adoption of climate friendly measures, which are critical for building Lesotho’s resilience to climate change.
The idea is to have sustainable food production and improve job security.

Nearly 60 percent of the population lives in rural areas where they rely on the land for a livelihood.
But in recent years yields have plummeted and grazing land has been overwhelmed by the increase in livestock.
This has been blamed on climate change and poor farming methods, two of the main problems the policy seeks to address.
The policy was discussed at a workshop organised by the World Bank in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture.

Minister of Agriculture Mahala Molapo, who officially launched the Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) Profile programme workshop on Monday, said agriculture is considered the most crucial sector in the transformation of developing economies.
Molapo said for agriculture to contribute to economic growth it must be based on sustainable systems.

“Sustainable agricultural systems are able to meet the growing demands for food, nutrition, industry and even jobs,” Molapo said.
He said Africa has about 1.3 billion people and its population is projected to double by 2050.
He said based on those estimates Lesotho will have 4 million people by 2050.

Molapo said this means Lesotho will have more mouths to feed.
The concerns, he said, is whether this will be possible in the light of climate change that has disrupted farming seasons, triggered droughts, floods, heat waves as well as hail and storms.
The minister said there is ample evidence to prove that Lesotho is highly vulnerable to climate change.

“The country experienced a prolonged drought between 1991 and 1996 and El Nino drought of 2015 to 2016 that placed more than 534 000 people at risk of food (in)security,” Molapo said.
“Recent examples include the past season where unpredictable weather patterns made agriculture production difficult.”
The season was marred by late rains that delayed planting. And when the rains finally arrived they were so excessive that they swamped crops that were already frail after being badly withered by long periods of heat.
Molapo said the only way to avoid such problems is to develop climate smart agriculture for Lesotho.
He further said it is encouraging that stakeholders will be deliberating together to come up with a climate smart agricultural investment plan that will take into account all the factors that contribute towards agricultural sectors.

The World Bank Country Representative Janet Entwistle said the CSA concept reflects an ambition to improve the integration of agricultural development and climate responsiveness.
It aims to achieve food security and broader development goals under a changing climate and increasing food demand, Entwistle said.
“The CSA initiatives sustainably increase productivity, enhance resilience, and reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs) and require planning to address trade-offs and synergies between three pillars being productivity, adaptation and mitigation.”

She said the priorities of different countries and stakeholders are reflected to achieve more efficient, effective and equitable food systems that address challenges in the environmental, social, and economic dimensions across productive landscapes.

She said while the concept is still new and evolving, many of the practices that make up CSA already exist worldwide and are used by farmers to cope with various production risks.
Entwistle said the country’s profile will provide a snapshot of a developing baseline created to initiate discussion, both within countries and globally about entry points for investing in CSA at scale.
Agriculture is relatively a small part of Lesotho’s economy, contributing an average of six percent to the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) over the period 2012 to 2016.
Agriculture’s share of GDP has been declining since the 1960s, when the sector contributed over 80 percent, to below 20 percent in recent years.

Despite the low contribution to GDP, agriculture remains a major livelihood for the majority of the rural population while revenue from products such as wool and mohair are important for the economy. “Between 2009 and 2013, wool contributed about 55 percent to total agricultural exports on average, wheat flour 25 percent, and maize flour for crops and livestock on average over the period of 2009 and 2013,” Entwistle said, adding that “wool contributed to 55 percent to total exports for crops and livestock on average over the period of 2009 to 2013.”
Wool’s contribution to the total revenue between 2009 and 2013 was US$6.6 million (M82.1 million).

Lesotho is confronted with chronic poverty, food insecurity and high rates of malnutrition.
Entwistle said erratic weather patterns, land degradation and severe El Nino weather events are the major causes of household food insecurity.
She said other factors contributing to food insecurity include falling production of cereals and increase in food prices.

She said the agricultural sector for Lesotho is challenged with severe land degradation, use of traditional agronomic practices, overgrazing and high climate variability.
The climate conditions in the country favor livestock production, she said.
“However, crop production is a major agricultural activity for the people of Lesotho, where maize and sorghum occupy more than 60 percent and 10 percent of the cultivated land, respectively.”
“Moreover, the vulnerability to climate risks has reduced the productivity of the sector since the farmers have very little capacity to cushion themselves from the climate shocks,” she said.
Time series data for Lesotho shows that drought and floods are the major causes of crop failure in the country.

“Adoption of modern agricultural practices by the farmers is relatively low. Unsustainable agricultural practices such as mono-cropping and overgrazing and unregulated firewood extraction result in land degradation,” Entwistle said.

Tokase Mphutlane

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