WFP urges collaboration among farmers

WFP urges collaboration among farmers

MASERU – FARMERS have been urged to collaborate so as to increase their capacity to satisfy the market.
This was said in a market linkage forum held by the World Food Programme (WFP) in Maseru on Monday.
The WFP Country Director, Aurore Rusiga, said agriculture plays a significant role in Lesotho’s economy.
Rusiga said over 70 percent of the country’s population lives in rural areas and depends, directly or indirectly, on agriculture for employment and livelihood.

“Lesotho’s agricultural sector suffers from low levels of productivity and commercialisation which has made the country heavily dependent on food imports to meet domestic consumption needs,” Rusiga said.
She said productivity challenges in the sector include the unfavorable farm structures with average land holding of about 1.0 hectare per family, outdated farming technologies and farm management practices, and limited technical expertise.

“While the agriculture sector continues to face deficient performance due to many factors including climatic shocks, there are still pockets of high production which need to get to the markets,” she said.
She said the school feeding programme through the National School Feeding Policy (2015), advocates for local procurement of food commodities for use in schools.

She said buying food commodities locally gives the farmers an opportunity to access local markets which helps boost the value chain development and results in increased productivity and production.
“This will in turn increase household incomes and food security,” she said.
She said the WFP through the adaptation funded project entitled Improving Adaptation Capacity of Food Insecure and Vulnerable Populations in Lesotho, will support the government’s efforts to ensure that farmers’ surplus produce access structured markets.

The Director of Marketing in the Ministry of Agriculture, Lekhooe Makhate, said their mandate is to set a platform for products of Basotho to penetrate the market.
They also put in place policies which will set the market linkages from the producers to the consumers.
“Producers need to enhance their collaboration into some specific sectors,” Makhate said.

“Demand for agricultural produce is available for the whole year however it differs seasonally and this most of the time triggers price instability,” he said.
He said he realised that the farmers in South Africa where we mostly import the produce, work together to produce more quantities.
He said this mass production minimizes the production cost hence the prices will always be lower than our prices and makes it difficult for Basotho products to penetrate the market.

Makhate urged farmers to focus on specialising on one product so that they can be able to work on the quantity and the quality.
Thuto Ntšekhe-Mokhehle from the Ministry of Education said their main objective is to ensure that the primary students have access to education and better health and nutrition by providing them with sufficient food.
“This is the opportunity for farmers to farm in large quantities,” Ntšekhe-Mokhehle said.

“This market is open for 180 days in a year,” she said.
She said they want students to eat a variety of foods at school.
Mokhehle said across the country there are about 313 461 students per annum hence the opportunity to supply produce such as pulses which include beans, peas and lentils requires approximately 1 692.7 tons at least four days per week.
She said they need about 501.5 tons of vegetables every week.
They also need 12.5 million egg trays at least once a week.

Refiloe Mpobole

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